Monday, March 31, 2014

NASC Benefit Auction 2014 is live!

The North American Sarracenia Conservancy is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the preservation of Sarracenia and other carnivorous plants and their habitat. They do all sorts of cool stuff, like ex situ conservation and habitat re-population, as well as helping various nature preserves maintain their habitat and diversity. Great group!

Right now they're doing their annual benefit auction over at Terra Forums, and it's a great opportunity to support a good cause and get some rare plants. You don't need to register to bid – just make sure to leave contact information in your guest post. There are some 'dews and some Utricularia I'm eying, as well as some assorted other plants.

Of course I'll post about any auctions I end up winning, but until then – good luck!

Friday, March 28, 2014

One week plant trade update

Last Friday I posted about plants I had received in a trade – Drosera binata var. multifida f. extrema, Drosera binata var. dichotoma T-form, and Drosera filiformis Florida All-Red. The plants looked a bit stressed out by shipping, but I potted them up and stuck them under the lights.

A week later though, they're all obviously getting settled in nicely. All have dew on at least one leaf, and all are putting out new growth.

Drosera filiformis Florida All-Red
Drosera filiformis Florida All-Red. Both plants have new growth!
Drosera binata var. multifida f. extrema
Drosera binata var. multifida f. extrema. Lots of new leaves coming out.
Drosera binata var. dichotoma T-form
Drosera binata var. dichotoma T-Form. There are also some leaves up above that are unfurling, but I couldn't get the shot.
Feeding will follow shortly, and hopefully we'll get some robust new growth in the next few weeks. I'm especially excited about that D. filiformis – well-established, mature plants look great, and are somewhat uncommon in cultivation. Exciting!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Outdoor things

I unexpectedly had the day off yesterday, so I decided to dedicate myself to tidying up my outdoor plants. That's mostly my cactus and succulent collection, but I also rearranged some carnivores (including moving my VFT and a small D. capensis outside, making a bit of room under my lights). It was great! I love spending a day out with my plants.

The best part of my day was putting together a display shelf for my cacti and succulents. Too many of them had been sitting the ground, too low to be appreciated and all cluttered. But now things are looking a lot nicer!

My cactus and succulent collection displayed on a new outdoor shelf.
The cinderblocks and 2x4 shelf was pretty inexpensive for how much of a difference it made in my backyard.
Cacti and agaves really look nice with some backlighting. Here are a few highlights from my collection.

Agave tequilana 'Sunrise', Agave parryi var. huachucensis, Cleistocactus tupizensis
Agave tequilana 'Sunrise' (along with – from left – Cleistocactus tupizensis, Agave parryi var. huachucensis, Opuntia subulata monstrose), and a mixed African succulent planting..
Unidentified Mammillaria with magenta blossoms
Unidentified Mammillaria – the first blooms since I've had it.
Stenocactus crispatus in bloom.
Stenocactus crispatus, looking even more fabulous than usual.
An assortment of succulents in my collection.
Clockwise from back left: Euphorbia trigona, Kalanchoe eriophylla, Agave americana, Agave 'Joe Hoak', Crassula 'Moonglow', mixed Haworthia/Gasteria planter, Agave schidigera 'Shira Ito no Ohi'
I also tidied up the old display stand that my roommates made for me back in November. No more plants just abandoned on the ground!

My old plant stand still full of plants.
Much like my lights, I remember when this plant stand seemed to have a lot of extra space.
In the background are my outdoor carnivores. Their digs aren't quite as fancy, but hopefully I'll be able to address that lack soon enough.

My outdoor carnivore collection.
My outdoor carnivore collection is a bit slim!
These round trays are pretty inefficient in terms of water loss, but they'll have to do until I can purpose-build some more ideal trays. The green pots contain Sarracenia rhizomes I received as part of a trade a month or so ago. They haven't put out any new growth, but I'm willing to chalk that up to shipping stress. I've heard that Sarracenia can be a bit touchy after having been divided and shipped and then potted. Just gotta keep 'em wet. The other plants look pretty decent though.

Sarracenia purpurea outdoors.
S. purpurea, with new growth coloring up much more quickly in full sunlight. I took the occasion to give it a slightly bigger pot as well.
Drosera capensis outside.
The pioneering D. capensis.
Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap) outside.
Hopefully my VFT will also color up nicely. I feel like it could also afford a repotting.
Pretty fun use of a day off, I think.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Leaf cuttings – D. capensis and D. 'Marston Dragon'

Today I decided to start some leaf cuttings. I've got several people curious about growing carnivores, and I've made vague promises to all of them. I'd also like to start growing some sundews outside, to see how they fare in the elements. Also I have all this extra space under my lights that I might as well fill. Heh.

I went with D. capensis and D. 'Marston Dragon' because they're easy-growing, handsome plants that anyone could enjoy. Also I have plenty of material to work with. Next time I do any repotting of my plants I'll make sure to take some root cuttings, which are supposed to develop into mature plants much more quickly, but for now leaves will do. I'm still learning anyway.

Tools used for the leaf cutting process.
A ragtag assortment of tools.
I'm using the water float method to get the cuttings to strike, which is pretty straightforward: place the cuttings in a container with pure water, cover/seal it somehow, and stick it under the lights. Once you get some nice little plantlets, transfer them to the pots of your choice. I'm using some plastic punch cups and sealing them with plastic wrap. The chunks of wood will be used to get the pots up under the lights.

First I filled the cups with a bit of water. Since they're going to be right near the lights, I didn't fill too high.

Distilled water in cups for leaf cuttings.
Lots of growers recommend using test tubes, but I don't have those. I have punch cups.
Then I took the cuttings. I used two whole leaves (lamina and petiole) from my D. capensis, and about half a lamina from my D. 'Marston Dragon.

Drosera capensis leaf cutting.
I picked the 2 nicest fully open leaves.
Drosera 'Marston Dragon' leaf cutting.
Luckily I had no lack of parent stock.
The D. capensis leaves I cut in half, and the D. 'Marston Dragon' lamina was cut into 6 sections. They were divided between 4 cups, so 2 cups got 2 D. capensis cuttings each, and 2 cups got 3 D. 'Marston Dragon' cuttings. Hopefully that means that in a month or two I'll be swimming in plantlets! We'll see.

Drosera 'Marston Dragon' cuttings floating on water.
These are D. 'Marston Dragon', but the D. capensis look pretty much the same.
My cuttings in place under the lights.
Things are looking precarious in my grow space.
I really should stop trying to fit more plants under these lights.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Amazing video of Drosera glanduligera snap tentacles

Drosera glanduligera is often considered to be one of the more remarkable sundew species, since it demonstrates rapid plant movement on par with Dionaea (Venus fly-traps) and Aldrovanda (the waterwheel plant), making it one of the fastest-moving plants in the world.

Unfortunately, D. glanduligera is also pretty finicky to grow, requiring fairly specific temperature control and regimented feeding, so I'm unlikely to add it to my collection soon. However, on the ICPS page about the species I found an excellent video that includes some awesome real time and also 5x speed footage of the plant feasting on wingless fruit flies. It's in German with English subtitles.

I know a 23 minute video seems daunting, but it's pretty neat. For the impatient, the action starts around 5:08.

They've got a whole channel of carnivorous plant videos (and a pretty adorable intro video too). Not every video on the channel is translated, but there's a lot of cool footage, and the ones with translations are great. Guess I've found a new YouTube subscription!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tools, and couple other things

There isn't a whole lot you need to grow sundews. Really, the only 3 crucial elements are nutrient poor soil (peat moss and sand is the most common), very pure water, and lots and lots of light. However, as in every hobby, there are ample opportunities for you to spend your money to make things nicer and nicer.

Some of the best investments are in artificial lighting, a timer, and a tray. Having a nice little setup like this takes a lot of the guesswork out of keeping your plants well-watered and well-lit, and is 100% worth the upfront cost.

Some tools I use for cultivating sundews.
A few of my tools lined up on the table, which is deceptively clean for the blog.
Here are a few of the other things I use in my cultivation. The distilled water, of course, is for the plants. The spray bottle helps keep the tops of some pots moist (especially my D. scorpioides, which were sown on a layer of pure sand), and the trimmers are good for keeping things neat by cutting back old dead growth. The magnifying glasses are both fairly cheap (I need to get myself a decent loupe), but they're nice for looking at the plants more closely. The mortar and pestle is a recent acquisition that I use for grinding up beta fish pellets and things to feed to my plants. The toothpick is my food applicator, which I really need to upgrade.

Another note today: my D. capensis typical seedlings, in the pot that I'm planning on using for a window box, have colored up nicely since I last posted about them. Check it out.

Red-colored Drosera capensis seedlings.
A whole little field of baby Drosera capensis. How cute.
Looks like their carnivorous leaves are out! Of course, there's also a decent amount of moss growth in that pot. I'm still experimenting with how much washing of my media I really need to do, and this was definitely one batch that I didn't wash like crazy. Still, I'm sure the sundews will be fine – D. capensis is nothing if not a vigorous grower. I'm going to give it another week or two and then I'll start cutting holes in the humidity tent to start acclimating them to the regular tray conditions, and then I'll be able to start feeding.

Finally, I'm going to submit one of my D. burmannii seedlings for Plant of the Month over at Terra Forums. I doubt it'll win, but I've been so proud of them lately I wanted to share. Here's the little guy in question:

Drosera burmannii Plant of the Month photo
Break a leg, champ!
I love Drosera burmannii.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Plant Trading, part two

Yesterday I got home around 12:30 a.m. (I had been visiting my dad for his birthday) and found that my plants had arrived. All the way from Florida!

Drosera binata T-Form and Multifida Extreme, along with Drosera filiformis Florida All-Red in bags.
A charming sack of plants.
Yeah they don't look like much. I'm still getting used to receiving plants in the mail. In any case, I decided not to wait until morning, and potted them up right away. It was cold and I had to scavenge some pots leftover from other plants I had repotted, but eventually the deed was done.

Three Drosera varieties potted up outside at night.
You make do with what you have, but eventually I'll want to transfer my whole collection to square pots.
Back left is Drosera binata Multifida Extrema, back right is Drosera binata T-Form, front left is Drosera filiformis Florida All-Red, and front right is an extra pot I ended up with that I stuck a D. filiformis leaf cutting on, in the vain hope it will strike (the leaf had fallen off in transit).

Getting everything arranged under the lights was a real challenge. I finally moved the Sarracenia purpurea out to join the rest of the sarrs outside, and moved a couple other pots around, but I am pretty sure that this is it. I cannot acquire any more plants until I get more lights. Probably.

This morning I took some close ups of the individual plants. They're all a bit droopy and sad looking from a lack of light and air and water in transit, but hopefully they'll perk up quickly.

Drosera binata T-Form in the tray
D. binata T-Form drooping over the D. scorpioides tray (which now also houses the VFT).
Drosera filiformis Florida All-Red in the tray
D. filiformis Florida All-Red, with D. capillaris Alabama and D. capensis in the foreground.
Drosera binata Multifida Extrema in the tray
D. binata Multifida Extrema. Mature plants fork like crazy – sometimes with 40-50 points per lamina!
Drosera filiformis Florida All-Red cutting attempt in the tray
The Hail Mary leaf cutting attempt for D. filiformis Florida All-Red
I strongly doubt the D. filiformis leaf cutting will strike, but if it doesn't I can just remove it and use the same pot to start either some D. capensis or D. 'Marston Dragon' plants for a few friends who I'm trying to lure into the hobby. I'll make sure to post some updates once these plants get situated and start looking nice. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Plant trading, part one

Trading plants is one of the best ways to develop your collection. I remember when I first started really collecting plants I was sure it would be a long time before I would have enough material for trades, but it's amazing how one can accumulate plants.

This last week I set up a trade with a grower from Florida. He's looking for D. capensis and its cultivars, as well as D. binata 'Marston Dragon', among others. Excitingly, he had D. filiformis 'Florida All-Red' to offer. As you may remember, that's the plant I thought I ordered with my other seeds, when I actually got D. capensis 'Albino' instead. I also got some D. capensis 'Albino' hitchhikers along with my D. 'Marston Dragon'. So it's trading time!

First up, I needed to unpot my D. 'Marston Dragon' to get at the little D. 'Albino' plants hiding in there. This was no mean task. I had hoped to get more pictures, but there's only this one from the beginning of the process.

Drosera binata 'Marston Dragon' and two forms of Drosera capensis
An intimidating bundle of plants.
After that my hands were just covered in peat and mucilage, so I didn't want to handle my phone. It was sort of stressful, and I was glad when I was done. I got the plant into a bigger pot, and managed to get out that little D. 'Albino'. Luckily there were just bunches of roots, so I got several cuttings to share.

I also separated off a D. capensis typical form to send. It's one of the plants in the background in this photo, from Feb. 15th (it's bigger now). In the end, this is what the shipment looked like.

Drosera 'Marston Dragon' root cuttings and D. capensis 'Albino' and typical plants ready to trade.
I'm still learning the best way to pack these. Guess that comes with experience.
I actually wrapped the cuttings and the roots of the plants with a damp paper towel as well before packing it into a small flat-rate priority mail box and sending it off to Florida. They should get there on Thursday at the latest, and should still be in decent shape, though they'll take a bit to get acclimated to their new conditions. Hopefully he's happy with the shipment! I'm looking forward to getting my new plants.

As a brief side note, I noticed a bloom stalk on one of my plants for the first time today. This is a mystery hitchhiker that came in the pot with my Drosera aliciae – in the thread where people identified the D. aliciae guesses for this one included D. venusta and D. collinsiae and D. tokaiensis, so basically I don't know what it is. Maybe the flower will help in the ID. I have a completely unfounded suspicion it might be D. spatulata. Who knows.

Drosera allantostigma and a blooming mystery Drosera.
This is my mystery pot. I feel like any collection will end up with one.
There's that D. allantostigma in the foreground, looking great.

I'll make sure to make another post on Thursday or Friday when my plants get here. Happy growing!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Drosera scorpioides gemmae, 2 week's progress

Two weeks ago I received some pink-flowering Drosera scorpioides gemmae from Drosera Gemmae and set them to start growing. Gemmae are modified leaf buds produced by the pygmy sundew species of Western Australia. They form at the beginning of the wet growing season, and are packed together really tightly on the plant, so that when a raindrop hits they can be flung sometimes meters away and propagate new plants. Most sundews can be propagated vegetatively through leaf and root (and sometimes flower stalk) cuttings, but gemmae have a really high success rate, considering that vegetative propagation is their sole purpose.

Pygmy sundews are pretty cool, and are often insanely tiny. D. scorpioides is on the large end, forming a stalk and getting almost an inch and a half across. Many pygmy species don't much exceed the size a dime at maturity. This tininess means they can sometimes be overwhelmed by moss growing on the surface of the pot. To prevent this, I borrowed a tip from some growers and topped my pot with about a centimeter of pure sand, then a usual 1:1 peat:sand mix. The bottom has a layer of LFS to keep the media from leaking out and provide wicking action.

Here's a shot from when I first got them sitting on the pots.

Drosera scorpioides planted atop large-grain sand.
The green grains of sand are the gemmae. They're there, I promise.
You're probably going to want to click on this one to see it full size, since the gemmae are essentially exactly the same size as the sand, only green. Pygmy sundews apparently form surprisingly long root systems in spite of their size, so they'll be fine once the roots reach the wet media. To start with though, I've been misting the sand on the top of the pot with distilled water at least once a day to make sure the gemmae don't dry out.

Now here's a shot from today, exactly 2 weeks later.

Drosera scorpioides plantlets.
Now you can see 'em!
Pretty good growth! It's a bit hard to see in the photo, but several of the gemmae/plantlets have sent out narrow red roots, and are digging for that moisture. Good luck little plants.

I also took a shot of each of the two tallest plantlets from the two pots.

Carnivorous leaves on Drosera scorpioides plantlet.
So cute and tiny!
Slightly larger Drosera scorpioides with carnivorous leaves.
You go little guy!
 There are 7 plants in one pot, and 8 in the other. I'm looking forward to having a nice little colony of D. scorpioides to admire in a few week's time. And then come fall we should get some nice gemmae production.

I have one other pygmy sundew, a D. allantostigma that came hitchhiking with the D. aliciae I won in a raffle at the January BACPS meeting. I didn't know what it was until after I repotted it, along with the other 'dews in that pot. Apparently pygmies don't like to be repotted, since it can damage their fine root systems. Guess I got lucky though, cause this handsome little guy seems to be doing just fine.

Drosera allantostigma in mixed pot.
This D. allantostigma is about the size of a penny.
Unfortunately, the season for acquiring new pygmies is over – gemmae don't have long shelf lives, and since they mostly form in the autumn all of this season's crop has been used up. No matter! Come September or so I'll be expanding my collection of pygmies, and maybe sharing some D. scorpioides "pink" with other growers. Hopefully I'll have a bunch more grow space by then!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Things are growing!

It feels like Spring here in Pinkhouse, even though it will be winter for another week still. Things are budding everywhere, the wood sorrel is blooming like mad along the driveway, and the air is warm and breezy.

It also feels like spring among my carnivores, even though I know that I'm maintaining pretty constant subtropical conditions. I think since the setup is near a window, the plants are sensing a change in sunlight color and responding. Or maybe I'm just projecting. But still, it seems like everything is growing and happy.

Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) with new traps
New spring traps everywhere on the VFT.
New growth on Utricularia livida
First new growth I've seen on the Utricularia livida.

Drosera aliciae with flower scape
This D. aliciae is blooming so daintily.
Drosera capensis typical blooming
D. capensis, on the other hand, is just going for broke.
Drosera capillaris "Alabama" bloom stalks
I have yet to see a Drosera capillaris "Alabama" flower open. They must open early in the morning.
Drosera binata 'Marston Dragon' laminae uncurling
Yeah, the Drosera 'Marston Dragon' isn't really big enough yet. It needs to fill up more space.
Drosera binata 'Marston Dragon' new growth
I love how the laminae are doubly-curled like this. They seem so exciting.

Happy growing everyone! :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Drosera adelae and various seedlings

Last week I received a few plants from Natch Greyes' little store: Drosera adelae, Utricularia livida, and Utricularia sandersonii "blue". I'll talk about the utrics more later (once they start to spread in their new homes), but it looks like the D. adelae is starting to get acclimated. The lower leaves look a bit ratty, but there's one on top that's nice and green, and putting out some decent dew.

Newly-arrived Drosera adelae
This plant is about 3/4 inch tall.
Drosera adelae getting acclimated
There's a lot of room to fill in that pot!
Hopefully as it continues to adjust to my conditions and recover from being shipped I'll be able to start feeding it and getting it to beef up a bit. It's planted on mostly long-fiber sphagnum moss, but there's a bit of 1:1 peat:sand mix down lower, since I didn't have enough LFS prepared to fill the pot on the day the plant arrived.

It's time to check up on my seedlings! I bought the seeds from Crystal's Carnivores, which is unfortunately closed for the winter now. These were all sown in the week between Christmas and New Year's, so this is almost 3.5 months of growth. First up is Drosera burmannii from Humpty Doo, Australia.

Drosera burmannii seedlings
I'm delighted every time I look at these guys.
D. burmannii was one of the first plants I really wanted once I started collecting. Reading/watching videos about them at Grow Sundews, I was excited by tales of its voracious appetite and quick growth when well-fed, as well at that brilliant red color and gem-like shape. Also "Humpty Doo" is a totally hilarious place name.

These guys have lived up to my expectations! The first month or so after germination (which was on January 12th) they were quite slow, since I still had them covered in plastic wrap for boosted humidity. Once I transitioned them into the regular tray and started feeding they really took off! I'm going to need to move some of those around (and maybe into a new pot) to make sure they have enough growing space. How cute though, right?

The second group of seeds in that set was Drosera intermedia 'Cuba'. They were the first to germinate, and have had far and away the highest success rate.

Drosera intermedia 'Cuba'
I always seem to find a new plant when I look closely in here.
The second Drosera intermedia 'Cuba' pot.
This is a 1:1 mix of sand and peat, rather than LFS. Guess we can see which they prefer.
As you can see, I've already split them into 2 pots, and a 3rd will probably have to be added soon. This is a lot of plants! The biggest ones are bigger than the D. burmannii, though with the longer petioles and milder colors they don't have as much visual pop. I'm looking forward to having some big mature specimens though.

The final set of seeds were Drosera capensis 'Albino'. I'm 99% positive I ordered D. filiformis 'Flordia All-Red' instead, but who knows. At this point in my collection I'm not quite so picky.

Drosera capensis 'Albino' seedlings
They still basically look like specks. Get a move on guys!
They're lagging a bit behind my other two species. They germinated last, and were still just barely putting out the tiniest carnivorous leaves when I took them and put them in the general tray. I'd transitioned the other two pots to lower humidity more slowly, so the shock may have set these guys back. They also might have been somewhat less fresh, or from a less robust mother plant. Who knows. They're finally getting growing at a nice pace again, after a month of very little action, so I'm hoping they'll start to take off in time.

Finally, here's a new pot that I sowed with some of the seed from my last D. capensis scape.

Tiny Drosera capensis seedlings.
I tented up the plastic wrap with cocktail straws. I initially used wooden toothpicks, which got gross and moldy. Bad move.
The pot is 9x5 inches, and I sowed it really heavily with seed – in part because I had more seed than I could do anything with, and in part because I want this pot to form a dense, bush-like clump of plants. I'm planning on giving it to my mom to use as a windowbox plant in her kitchen – there's a super bright window behind the sink that would be perfect for something like this. It's gonna take a while to get to impressive size, but I think it should be looking good by Christmas at least.

Will the plants suffer being so crowded? I don't know, but this picture over at Grow Sundews looks promising! In any case, I only need like 8 plants to get to maturity for the thing to fill out. And I seriously needed to use up some seeds – I ended up tossing about half of the harvest from that plant. Not like there's going to be any dearth of D. capensis seeds in my future.