I wrote about my cuttings of Silver Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus var. sericeus) in my Florida acquisitions post a couple of weeks ago. It has now been about 7 weeks since I prepared my cuttings and put them into the sealed container of vermiculite. I have uncapped the top a couple of times to check and see how they were doing, removing any dead leaves from the stems, but otherwise leaving them alone. The good news is that only a couple of leaves have fallen off the cuttings and they seem to be pretty happy. The cuttings that I put directly in water began to rot within a couple of days and they quickly lost all of their leaves. So I was feeling pretty good about my sealed container of cuttings.
Last night I decided it was time to pluck one of the cuttings and see if there was any root growth started. I was expecting either a bunch of tiny, fibrous roots or nothing. This is based solely on my past experiences with rooting semi-hardwood cuttings. What I found, instead, was one thick little root starting. Not fibrous by any stretch of the imagination.
I’m really happy to see this root emerging and now I have an idea about the rate of growth. 7 weeks = 1/2 cm. Pretty slow. However, it’s possible that the root really just started to emerge recently and will grow much quicker now that it has started. It’s also possible that these cuttings want something different – substrate, light, temperature, water. Who knows. I’m glad I’m getting some results.
I carefully replaced the cutting in the container and left the others alone. I will give them another month or so, before checking again. Hopefully at that time, they will be ready to transplant to individual pots and start life as little saplings.
On the island of Key West, not far from the marker for the “southern most point in the continental US” is the West Martello Tower and gardens, which is maintained by the Key West Garden Club. This beautiful garden is the site of a never-completed fort, which is really just a great setting, with brick walls of various heights and wandering paths through what is not a lush tropical garden.
I have to admit, I enjoyed visiting here much more as it is today than I would have if it had been completed and now stood as a military historical site.
The grounds are filled with nice compositions, including the nice spot above where some chunk of brick wall has collapsed and lays half buried, book-ended with a spreading bromeliad.
Many people are familiar with the Plumeria pictured above. This is sometimes called Frangipani. It has a beautiful flower, which has been bred for different colors. But the tree is more or less the same for each of these different bloom colors. The Martello Tower Gardens had another species of Plumeria (below), which I hadn’t seen before this Florida trip. Plumeria pudica has a different shaped leaf and the flowers are pure white, with the slightest bit of yellow in the center. (It’s hard to see the yellow in my image due to the bright sun.)
I have seen Screwpine trees (Pandanus) in just a couple of places. They are known for their network of stilt roots, which are usually spiny. The first time was in the tropical dome at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. The second time would be in conservatory at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, where there is a large Pandanus whose huge stilt roots reach into the water of the adjacent pond and fragment into a million tiny roots. That was a site to see. There are also quite a few Pandanus growing at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens in Miami.
The tree pictured above is called the Traveller’s Palm, although it is not really a palm. I have seen these trees in just about every tropical, beach front area I have visited and always just assumed they were in the palm family (Arecaceae) or possibly the banana family (Musaceae). But when I saw this tree at the Martello garden I realized it had to be in the same family as the Bird of Paradise (Strelitziaceae). The bloom bracts are unmistakeably similar. Reading the wikipedia page confirmed my conviction and also mentioned that this tree was once upon a time placed in the banana family – just as I would have put it, without seeing a bloom. It belongs to the monotypic genus, Ravenala, and is native to Madagascar.
The plant pictured above is called “rose cactus” because it has nice blooms and some killer thorns. It is actually a cactus, which kind of surprised me, since it does not have the normal succulent look to it. We saw Ixora all over southern Florida and I really liked their profusion of blooms – usually coral in color, like the plant pictured below.
I think the Jatropha (below) was probably my favorite blooming plant at the Martello Tower, with dark leaves of interesting shapes and vibrant and contrasting blooms.
Well, the first half of this post was the colorful half. The rest is shades of green only. These happen to be some of my favorite plants. I was really excited to see that the Key West Garden Club has a nice collection of Dieffenbachias and Aglaonemas inside their tower walls. The plants are exposed to the elements and natural sunlight, but are inside a bricked area, so they are probably a little more sheltered. Also, these plants were all growing in pots, whereas most of the rest of the plants in the gardens are growing in the ground.
But before we get to all of the Dieffenbachias, check out this large Pellionia repens. I thought it was interesting to see how the leaf colors vary on this plant. I have this species myself, growing in a tall glass terrarium. It is sometimes referred to as “Trailing Watermelon Begonia,” but it is not actually from the Begonia genus. Good thing, because I have more luck with this plant, than I do with Begonias, generally speaking. This species is probably the second most common Pellionia, after Pellionia pulchra.
I didn’t know the ID of any of these Dieffenbachias for sure, but I had a pretty good idea about the one that turned out to be Dieffenbachia amoena ‘Tropic Snow’ because my mom has that one. I consulted with my Dieffenbachia enthusiast friends and got help on the other names. It turns out that the speckled plant pictured above is the species Dieffenbachia maculata and the plant below is a cultivar, Dieffenbachia maculata ‘Rudolph Roehrs’. In some cases, the cultivar reverts to the original species, as shown in this picture by my friend, Russ Hammer.
The Martello Gardens also had a small, but happy collection of orchids and a small collection of bonsai trees. The bonsai trees were all mislabeled, which I found to be interesting, but not surprising. I bet they were all repotted at some point and then the labels got put back in the wrong pots. I did notice that one label was in the wrong pot, but some of the labels didn’t match any of the plants I saw. Regardless, I could appreciate their appearance and really enjoyed my time at this garden!
While in Key West last month, we visited “The Audubon House.” You would think with a name like this that the house would have once been under the ownership of someone with the name of Audubon. It turns out the connection is a little less direct. John James Audubon, the well known historical figure for his art depicting American birds, traveled to the Florida Keys in 1831 in order to paint the native birds of Florida. While he was in the Keys, he stayed at the house next door to this house.
The house has been preserved and connected with Audubon because he admired the gardens while he was in the area and supposedly painted some of the trees and plants into his portraits of various Florida birds. The gardens have been kept in great condition as a tribute.
The house is now a shrine to his work and has a very nice garden outside. We toured the house and gardens outside, enjoying the beautiful setting. I think Christie and I could settle into this house just fine. The trees outside are covered in orchids, and many of them were in bloom for our visit.
Other interesting plants filled the flowerbeds, including a couple of large Crinum lilies, some yellow Walking Iris (Neomarica longifolia), and a nice Chenille plant (Acalypha hispida).
There were lots of Calatheas scattered throughout the gardens, and concentrated here and there. I have seen these growing in many botanic gardens, but not very often in an outdoor setting.
The gardens also contain some Florida native plants, which would have been important to Audubon, as he preferred to paint his birds sitting on authentic trees and plants to the area where he would find them in nature. One of the natives I really liked was this cycad, Zamia floridana.
There were also some nice aroids, including this large Philodendron stenolobum (above) and Alocasia portei (below). I loved the pendant Anthurium vittariifolium, with its pink berries showing (two below) and now have a small seedling plant from a recent plant trade. I hope my plant is this attractive some day.
My second favorite palm in the entire family is Chamaedorea metallica, which is called the Miniature Fishtail Palm, or Metallic Palm. It has silver-blue leaves and striking orange flowers and berries. It is small for a palm, with a maximum size of only 5 or 6 feet tall, and it is therefore usually growing as an understory tree.
You probably already know that I like Stapelias. Am I crazy or do the buds of the Stapelia below look just as cool as the open bloom? Yes, I did bend down and stick my nose into the flower to smell the pungency. And yes, I did request Christie do the same. She grudgingly did so – after a third or fourth request.
The Audubon House sits on a lot large enough to have several wandering paths through the gardens and 2 separate set-aside gardens: a water garden and an herb garden. The water garden was very tastefully designed, with some heron statues in the pond. I’m sure JJ Audubon would have liked to sit and stare at these nice statues. The setting of this garden is similar to what I have talked about doing with a portion of our backyard, with the ground paved in either bricks or rock and a shallow pond or other small water feature. Just a relaxing place to sit and enjoy the outdoors.
On our trip to Florida I was introduced to a number of plants that I formerly had not seen before. Some of these made an impression on me and I thought I would talk about those plants a bit.
Lignum Vitae (Guaiacum sanctum)
The common name for this tree sounds more like a Latin genus and species. Mainly that is because it is Latin. The words translate to “wood of life.” The wood of this tree is very strong and has had many uses over the years, including structural and medicinal. I found these trees growing in a couple of planted settings at specific gardens, including Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens and the West Martello tower gardens in Key West (post coming soon).
Apparently the tree has very nice royal blue flowers, but we were there after the trees had bloomed and they all had little yellow fruits with red seed pods bursting out of them. At first I thought the fruits were flowers – yellow with red centers – until I got a closer look. It wasn’t until I came home and looked up photos that I learned the flowers are actually a blue-purple.
Two of the plants on my short three plant list fall in the silver-blue foliage category. What can I say? I’m a sucker for this color foliage. We hadn’t been in Miami for an hour before we pulled over and admired this tree. I did my normal hands-on inspection and found the leaves to be fuzzy and soft like the Lamb’s Ear plant (Stachys). Christie really liked the texture of these leaves. Buttonwoods were growing everywhere in south Florida, in several different habits. Sometimes they were small trees, ranging from 10 to 15 feet tall. Other times, they were grown as little bushes, either natural or trimmed to shape. Other times they were growing in a pruned hedge.
On our last day of the vacation we were driving from Key West up to Miami. We stopped on the side of the road and took cuttings of some Buttonwoods and I am really hoping they root for me. If so, I will try to keep one or two happy in a pot, while transplanting the others in Galveston. However, I am a little worried that it is not quite hardy enough to handle the Galveston winters. Maybe I should keep them all in pots at home!
Since I didn’t get a very good picture, you should look here and here to see what a mature tree looks like in all it’s glory.
Bismarckia is a monotypic genus that is found all over south Florida, the sole species being Bismarckia nobilis. Since I love silver-blue foliage, this is my favorite palm. At one point we drove past a tree farm that was just Bismarckia nobilis planted at regular intervals as far as the eye could see. It was pretty amazing.
I am going to try to find one of these palms to plant at the Galveston house. I wonder what the best size is for starting a palm tree on a budget? Maybe something like the one pictured above.
I’m going to interrupt my spree of Florida trip posts (yes, there are more coming) with a quickie of one of my orchids in bloom.
This is Oeceoclades maculata, which was given to me by my friend Jude after he traveled to Florida for the IAS show last year. He said that he found them growing all over the place. They are not native to Florida, but grow very well in the south Florida climate.
The plant itself looks much like a Sansevieria – dark green leaves with some lighter green mottling. The leaves also have thick sturdiness of a Sansevieria. I know the blooms are small, on top of a tall spike, but I think they are really quite cool looking and have some neat colors to them.