Friday, May 29, 2015

Field Trip Part 2: Dews and Pings at Predatory Plants

A couple days ago we checked out the Nepenthes at the San Francisco greenhouse of Josh Brown, owner of Predatory Plants. Today we're gonna look some of his other plants, particularly Drosera and Pinguicula. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the work area of the greenhouse, though, were these Sarracenia benches. I laughed when I saw them, because Josh is vocal in his dislike of Sarracenia (he claims he can't grow them well).

Sarracenia at Predatory Plants.
Babies on the left, monsters on the right!
Those look pretty decent to me! Josh does a lot of sarrs from seed (which you can see on the left), including some in-house crosses. On the right there are specimen-sized plants that he grows for flowers, or for large divisions which can be sold on eBay or what have you.

In his heart though, Josh is a Nepenthes and Drosera man. This is his "sundew ark" – the parent stock of (almost) all of the sundews he has in production, and what is pretty much his personal collection.

Various sundews at Predatory Plants.
It was cute seeing these parent plants all hanging out together.
He apologized that these plants weren't all looking great, since a number of them had flowered and shrunk back a bit. Still, some of them look great, especially (to my mind) the Drosera sp. Floating (which is a form of Drosera admirabilis) on the bottom left.

Next up is the production area, where he grows out all the dews he sells online and in-person.

Drosera aliciae, Drosera natalensis, Drosera coccicaulis (i.e. Drosera venusta), and Drosera "Chimanimani Mountains" at Predatory Plants.
In this tray, from top: Drosera aliciae, Drosera coccicaulis (now usually considered synonymous with Drosera venusta), Drosera natalensis, Drosera "Chimanimani Mountains",

Albino Drosera venusta at Predatory Plants.
Albino-colored Drosera venusta. Super cool!
Drosera tracyi at Predatory plants.
Big old tangle of Drosera tracyi.
Josh has an interesting shipping method. He calls it "bare root," but it's significantly less disruptive than typical barerooting. He pops the plant – including the plug of media – out of its tray, wraps the plug up to keep it in place, and then ships it along with an appropriately-sized pot. The purchaser can then just pop it in the pot and Bob's your uncle. Pretty cool!

I thought this tray of Pinguicula lusitanica was cool, and Josh was pretty casually like, "Yeah, I don't know why I have those really, I never sell any."

Pinguicula lusitanica at Predatory plants.
Look at all those plugs so neat and full of pings.
I fully intend to lighten him of some of these plants. He meant to give me a pot, but I forgot. My own plants bloomed, failed to set seed, and died.

One of the interesting things about the plant trade is which plants get maintained in production, and which do not. These next two are a perfect example. First up is the absolutely unstoppable pygmy sundew hybrid, Drosera omissa × pulchella.

Drosera omissa × pulchella at Predatory Plants.
What a hilarious mound of plants.
Josh actually lost a bunch of his pygmies this year because he never got around to harvesting and re-sowing gemmae, so when the eventual round of die-offs happened there were no contingencies. I didn't get a picture of it, but he had several trays of pygmy skeletons. It was sad. Except for these guys, which will probably never die. Look at those crazy clumps. Hybrids often have extra vigor, and D. omissa × pulchella is crazy. There's a reason that any place that sells pygmies always has loads of this hybrid.

The counter to this fecundity is the rather lovely Pinguicula planifolia.

Pinguicula planifolia at Predatory Plants.
It's a shape these are so hard to propagate, I think they look awesome.
Most of the more familiar pings propagate very easily though leaf pulls (all the Mexican species, like Pinguicula gigantea or Pinguicula moranensis) or by buds at the leaf tips (Pinguicula primuliflora) or in rare cases, by self-pollination (P. lusitanica). This species – according to Josh – can only be propagated by crossing two different clones and sowing seed. He got this one batch of ~100 plants by crossing two plants a couple years ago, which eventually died. He's been growing these out ever since, and they've never bloomed. So while they're really lovely, don't expect to see many for sale any time soon. Alas.

It was great fun checking out the greenhouse. Always cool to see how someone else solves the problems of growing our favorite weirdo plants!

P.S. Maria let me know in the comments of Wednesday's post that there is in fact a Predatory Plants Instagram. Good to know.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Field Trip Part 1: Nepenthes at Predatory Plants

Today I had the pleasure (along with my friend Anne from the Cactus Jungle) of visiting the San Francisco greenhouse of Josh Brown, BACPS President and owner of Predatory Plants. Josh is one of the rare growers that is able to turn an interest in carnivorous plants into a livelihood. He specializes in Nepenthes and Drosera, but he has a decent selection of Sarracenia as well, and is slowly building up his stock of Pinguicula.

Josh and I routinely have good-natured arguments about whether or not Nepenthes suck and are stupid. While I'm not about to rush out and build a highland greenhouse, this visit was a big step in convincing me that maybe they're not as lame as I've always felt (sorry Nep lovers). First though, he wanted to show off some ant plants.

Myrmecodia ant plant species.
Myrmecodia sp., looking rad as hell.
Myrmecodia ant plant flowers.
Those weird white bumps are flowers. Funky.
Hydnophytum ant plant species.
Hydnophytum sp. Josh likes the bulbous ones.
These funny-looking epiphytes grow internal chambers in those big swollen stems, which are then colonized by mutualistic ants. These are pretty uncommon in cultivation in the US, but are apparently pretty quick-growing and often self-fertile. Josh is working with one of his greenhouse-mates to figure out good ways to cultivate/sell these. Pretty exciting for anyone with a decent greenhouse!

Nearby were the first of the day's neps: Nepenthes ×briggsiana (which is lowii × ventricosa), and a variegated Nepenthes alata.

Nepenthes ×briggsiana.
Dig that color gradient!
Variegated Nepenthes alata.
I think I like this plant, even though Josh doesn't.
The N. alata was very striking, but apparently Josh sort of hates it – like most variegated plants it's finicky and not particularly vigorous. Still, people always clamor for variegated neps – which are pretty uncommon – so he keeps on propagating them. He loved the hybrid though, which I can totally understand.

Down at the other side of the greenhouse space was his work area – announced by this profusion of Nepenthes "Lady Luck" (i.e. ampullaria × ventricosa).

Nepenthes "Lady Luck".
That's a lot of plants!
Josh is growing these guys to use with Borneo Exotics' new Bio-Dome system. The thing looks gimmicky at first, but based on what I've heard from several different growers I actually think I'm going to buy one once they're in circulation. Good-looking plants too!

Next up are three big flowering-size plants: a Nepenthes truncata with a 4-foot flower stalk, "Papa ventricosa," and "Mama maxima."

Nepenthes truncata with flower.
The light made getting this shot really hard.
Nepenthes ventricosa.
Great color on this N. ventricosa.
Nepenthes maxima.
Love those speckles.
Josh really likes F1 Nepenthes hybrids, and he's used all of these plants for some nice-looking crosses. Again, seeing his collection started to bring me around to the idea that simple crosses are pretty cool. We agree though that complex hybrids are usually muddy and boring-looking.

Josh has a few great Nepenthes ventricosa hybrids (see the N. ×briggsiana above), and he also has several really nice Nepenthes hamata hybrids, such as this wicked Nepenthes singalana × hamata.

Nepenthes singalana × hamata.
Hairy and shiny.
Great teeth!

Finally, let's leave with some species, since at the end of the day species are what fascinate me.

Nepenthes aristolochioides.
Nepenthes aristolochioides always makes me want to crack my back.
Nepenthes sanguinea.
Totally eye-popping Nepenthes sanguinea.
Nepenthes argentii.
Look at that cute little Nepenthes argentii.
That N. sanguinea is huge, and it's one of the prettiest clones I've ever seen. The N. argentii is the smallest nep in the world. Josh has a hilarious story about how he first imported a couple dozen of them when he was just getting started and sold like 5 of them for $20 since he had no idea what they were worth on the market. He uh, doesn't sell them for $20 any more.

Check out the Predatory Plants Facebook page for more sweet carnivores, and I think Josh is on Instagram too, but I don't know for sure. And check back soon for part 2, when I get to look at plants that I actually want to grow!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Backyard Sarracenia update

I've been spending more time indoors with my pings and sundews lately, so I decided to have a look at what's going on outside. The light was a little funny, so the pictures are a bit funny. At least this Sarracenia minor looks sort of cute with that soft hazy light.

Sarracenia minor.
This is one of the prettiest pictures I've seen of my S. minor.
Really nice color on these pitchers. I love the orange and green with the white fenestrations.

My Sarracenia purpurea has also fleshed out and colored up, so that all the bird damage from last year is gone.

Sarracenia purpurea.
Nice and fat again!
I could probably afford to size up the pot again as well, but I can't imagine that happening before next year, hahahah.

This is a clone I got from the Cactus Jungle that they're calling Sarracenia "Rosy Reptile", since it's apparently the same cross as the famous Sarracenia 'Reptilian Rose', but a different selection.

Sarracenia "Rosy Reptile"
Kind of a flamboyant pitcher. I like that.
S. 'Reptilian Rose' is Sarracenia oreophila "Sand Mountain" × 'Royal Ruby' (which is a natural S. ×moorei selection). I wasn't clear if this means that S. "Rosy Reptile" is a different selection of the actual cross that produced S. 'Reptilian Rose', or if someone reproduced the cross and selected this clone. I'll have to ask Anne for clarification. In any case I dig those red lips and the big pitcher lid.

I'm getting some color on Sarracenia psittacina, but I really need to pot it into something larger, since it's getting a bit cramped as is.

Sarracenia psittacina.
Poor cramped little guy.
I've got at least two divisions in there too. Excited!

I got several Venus flytraps during the NASC auction, and this Dionaea 'Dente' was among them.

Dionaea muscipula 'Dente' Venus flytrap.
Dionaea is a pretty cool genus I guess.
The rest need to recover some more from shipping, but this one's looking good!

I've got a total of 3 pitchers on Sarracenia ×formosa now. That's not a lot, but they're really pretty.

Sarracenia ×formosa.
Not as big as they were at the end of last season. We'll see!
This plant is fairly low-profile and sturdy, so it bears the high winds we've had lately fairly well.

Alas, the same cannot be said for the taller plants, and this Sarracenia flava pitcher has paid the ultimate price.

Sarracenia flava.
The Carnivore Girl and I both have derpy S. flava now. Feels good man.
Poor goofy little pitcher.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Plant Profile: Drosera venusta

This is part of a series of posts describing my experiences with different species, their culture requirements, and photos of their growth in my collection. The full series can be read here, or by species at the Series page

At the end of yesterday's post I shared the following picture of Drosera venusta, which inspired me to do a Plant Profile of this species. It's one of the prettiest plants in my collection.

Drosera venusta.
D. venusta, 5-19-2015.
D. venusta is a South African sundew that is closely related to – some say synonymous with – Drosera natalensis. I'm totally unqualified to take a position on this issue. In any case, I got my D. venusta from California Carnivores back in June 2014.

Drosera venusta.
D. venusta, 7-22-2014.
It was beautiful and lovely and everything for a month or two, but then there was a period of several months where it declined hard and looked very ratty.

Drosera venusta.
D. venusta, 9-2-2014.
I've heard from some people that D. venusta will just occasionally look terrible, or even die back, but then bounce back for no apparent reason. In my case though I think it was high temperatures that sort of fried the plant.

While the main plant was looking terrible I had some good success propagating with leaf cuttings. I started leaf cuttings from several species, including D. venusta, in July. It struck after about 5 weeks, and then developed quite well in the next few months.

Drosera venusta leaf cutting.
D. venusta leaf cutting, 8-15-2014.
Drosera venusta plantlets from leaf cuttings.
D. venusta plantlets from leaf cuttings, 12-22-2014.
I traded the babies away around this time, and luckily my main plant was starting to bounce back.

Drosera venusta.
D. venusta, 11-24-2014.
I really think it was the cooler weather that made the difference. I've since moved my collection into the garage, which stays cooler all year than the house. We'll see if that keeps the plant looking good throughout the summer.

One thing to note with this species: the first time I got it to flower all the way I didn't get any seed. The next time it flowered I basically ignored the blooms, but it looked like it spilled some seed onto my lights. I'll have to keep an eye on it next time to harvest seed properly. In the mean time I can just admire the heck out of this plant.

Drosera venusta.
D. venusta, 2-9-2015.

The Breakdown
  • media: Standard peat:sand carnivore mix.
  • light: As much as you can possibly provide.
  • water: I haven't noticed any particular sensitivity to water levels. My tray goes dry periodically and the plant doesn't care. Keep it wet over all though.
  • temperature: Seems to be sensitive to temperatures much in excess of 80-90 F (25-30 C).
  • feeding: D. venusta really responds well to feeding. It will get somewhat redder without being fed, but not dramatically.
  • propagation: Pretty easy to start from leaf cuttings. No experience from seed or root cuttings or anything.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The fruits of the BACPS spring meeting

Back on the 9th we held the BACPS Spring meeting down in Palo Alto. I was pinch-hitting as secretary and also helping run the thing, so I didn't have much time for photos. However, I did have time to acquire some new plants.

First up is this Pinguicula sp. Tehuacán which was sent down from California Carnivores especially for me, since Daniela knows how I'm always keeping my eyes peeled for new pings.

Pinguicula sp. Tehuacán.
Cute little guy.
It's all succulent right now, so I'm looking forward to seeing some carnivorous leaves.

I also picked up a new pygmy from Damon. He literally just said "Do you have Drosera mannii? It's got nice big flowers," and I just handed him some money immediately.

Drosera mannii, a pygmy sundew.
I'm a total sucker for pygmies.
I'm nothing if not reliable with regards to my pygmy habit. Damon also told me that Drosera lasiantha is a slow and finicky grower for everyone, which made me feel better about how little mine has grown since I got it in January.

An unexpected bonus came from a fellow from San Jose who was selling a few plants, including this Stylidium debile.

Stylidium debile.
Can't wait to see some cool flowers on this guy!
He also had a Drosera regia that almost tempted me, but I'm taking a month or so off work right now so I decided to stay prudent and not buy it. The S. debile is cool though! I think it's been decided that Stylidium is not carnivorous, but it grows in similar conditions to bog carnivores, and has very interesting flowers that snap together to ensure pollination. I'll post about it if I get blooms!

I also got a couple of plants (that I did not need) from the raffle – a young Sarracenia flava var. rubricorpora and a small Nepenthes ventricosa.

Sarracenia flava var. rubricorpora.
Already showing good color.
Nepenthes ventricosa.
I know I won't be able to resist the Nepenthes forever.
Of course, the question of need is a thorny one when it comes to new plants. It looks like the nep is gonna need to adjust a bit to my conditions. That'll be fine though – it should be a pretty easy grower.

The last plant I got on that (a day when I wasn't planning on getting many plants) is this Pinguicula emarginata I bought from Drew Martinez.

Pinguicula emarginata.
I'll post a picture of that flower once it pops.
Drew invited people back to his house to see his collection and buy pieces of it after the meeting, since he's moving to Texas soon. I'll need to do a post about his backyard soon.

Finally, I just want to post my Drosera venusta because damn it's been looking good lately.

Drosera venusta.
This is one of my favorite species, absolutely.
What a beaut!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Improving the sundew pages on Wikipedia

It's been an occasion project of mine to edit and create pages for various sundew species on Wikipedia. Today, in a fit of industriousness, I started new pages for the following species:

Drosera barbigera

Drosera barbigera.
I love the shape of this species.
Drosera paleacea

Drosera paleacea.
Tiny gems!
Drosera sargentii

Drosera sargentii.
This species has a very particular character that I enjoy.
Drosera silvicola

Drosera silvicola.
This one was easier to see when I cropped it for Wikipedia.

We're fortunate that some Germans have put a lot of work into their Australian sundew pages, and have generated distribution maps (such as this one for D. barbigera) for all of the pygmies and many of the tuberous species. Really, the German Wikipedia puts the English Wikipedia to shame when it comes to sundews. While they don't have pages for all the species, they have a lot more than we do (including every pygmy). And while our pages are often little stubs (including those I just made today), theirs are filled out with information. It makes me wish I knew German.

I intend to put more work into these as my pygmies get larger and I'm able to take better photos. Maybe someday I'll get Allan Lowrie's 3-volume Carnivorous Plants of Australia and be able to fill in more information too.

If you've never tried out working with Wikipedia it's not too hard – they've introduced a number of wizards that make it easier to upload files and create pages, which is cool. We've got to catch up to those Germans.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pinguicula leaf pull update

Back at the end of April I yanked a couple leaves from various Mexican Pinguicula. I've had some decent success since then.

Pinguicula laueana is really a hero when it comes to propagation – this picture is from May 4th, just 5 days after I took the pullings.

Pinguicula laueana leaf pull.
P. laueana leaf pull after 5 days.
And here we are now:

Pinguicula laueana leaf pull.
Same leaf pull after 2 weeks.
This guy has been very reliable for me when it comes to leaf pulls. This bodes well for the future.

Next up is Pinguicula 'Pirouette'. If you look very closely at the leaf base (click the picture for higher resolution) you'll notice some little bulges that are definitely strikes.

Pinguicula 'Pirouette' leaf pull.
P. 'Pirouette' leaf pull after 2 weeks.
I donated some plantlets from an earlier leaf pull to the NASC auction. Now I've got to get some started for the next BACPS meeting.

I haven't seen any action on the Pinguicula gigantea or the Pinguicula agnata that I started at the same time, but the Pinguicula rotundiflora that I posted about last night is getting right to it.

Pinguicula rotundiflora leaf pulls.
So many little plantlets.
I'm well on my way to ultimate cuteness.

In other ping news, the Pinguicula gigantea × moctezumae that Anne gave me a couple weeks ago have already put on some nice new growth.

Pinguicula gigantea × moctezumae.
Almost time for a bigger pot.
And the Pinguicula cyclosecta that received back at the beginning of February are showing excellent color, and the largest one is starting to fill out its rosette very nicely.

Pinguicula cyclosecta.
That lavender color is so lovely and unique.
Thank you for visiting Pinguicula Etc.