April 30, 2011

Gesneriads in unexpected places (stamps!)

by Aarti

I just bought some new stamps from the Post Office the other day. As I usually do, I bought ones in the “pane” format, where the stamps grouped together create a larger picture and the text on the back contains educational material about the picture. (My feeling is that if you have the choice, why not go for the more interesting option?)  In this case, the “Hawaiian Rain Forest” pane, the front depicts a beautiful Hawaiian rainforest with birds and other wildlife roaming in it - apparently 24 separate species in all. The text on the back discusses Hawaiian rain forests and identifies each of the species depicted. Number 16 is identified as “ ‘Ilihia (African Violet Family) Cyrtandra platyphylla”! Indeed, one of the stamps depicts a Cyrtandra with a butterfly nearby.

According to the Post Office, the stamp pane is part of an educational series focusing on the beauty and complexity of major plant and animal communities in the United States. The Post Office also explains that though the scene depicted is imaginary, “every species depicted could be encountered in a Hawaiian rain forest, and all of the species and their interactions are appropriate and were recommended by scientists.” Each pane contains 10 44 cent stamps. The artwork is also available on stamped postcards ($8.95 for a pack of 10) and if you don’t have a Post Office near you, both the panes and the postcards can be purchased online at www.usps.com.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History has a section of their website dedicated to the Flora of the Hawaiian Islands, including a checklist with this page on Cyrtandra platyphylla.

April 29, 2011

Chirita 'Kitaguni'

After trying quite unsuccessfully at shooting a nice picture of blooms on this Chirita 'Kitaguni' at a local greenhouse on 5 March 2011, I decided to photograph an emerging bud. The curve of the peduncle, which attaches the flowers to the plant, and the somewhat heart-shaped bud really appeal to me!

Actually, what you can see of the bud is the calyx. Chirita 'Kitaguni' is a silver-veined selection of Chirita 'Nakako' (lutea x sinensis 'Latifolia Dwarf'), grown out by Carolyn Conlin-Lane. C. 'Nakako' is a Toshijiro Okuto hybrid, and more information is available in the online Register.

April 27, 2011

Paraboea sp. in flower

by Jim Roberts

[Editor's note: Jim Roberts recently visited southeastern Yunnan Province in China, and will be speaking about his trip at our meeting on May 14, 2011, at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.; doors open at 10:30 am; program starts at 11:00.]

The first of the Paraboea I collected in China is starting to bloom. These plants were dried up clusters of leaves two months ago. The Gesneriaceae of South China lists several species of Paraboea that flower in March/April. I'm leaning towards P. dictyoneura. It is used in Chinese medicine to increase blood flow, acesodyne (applied as a pain relieving patch) and detumescence (applied to reduce swelling).

Even though the plant hasn't fully recovered from its dormant state (still has last year's leaves), it is putting up a lot of flowers.  Another of this same species in a pot next to this one is sending up as many flower stalks, and is also sending out a new crown of leaves from the base of the plant.  Of course I'll have to set seed and check out the seed capsules to confirm identity.  Some of the Paraboea have twisted pods; others are untwisted.  I may also have to supply a few flowers to a botanist who knows what all the parts are that are described in the plant's description.

One of the reasons I'm leaning towards the plant ID that I am is the calyx. The other species that flower at this time of year have wider calyx lobes. Of course it doesn't help that the first flower that opened has twice the sepals and petals that any flower in the genus is supposed to have....

Jim Roberts

April 26, 2011

Sinningia iarae over in the Twin Cities

The Twin Cities Gesneriads blog had a piece on Sinningia iarae last week.   If you missed it, head on over.

April 24, 2011

growing gesneriads outdoors this year?

It's almost/just past our last frost date here in the Washington, DC, area (the date varies by about a month depending on who you ask) - how is your spring gardening coming along?  Any gesneriads slated for the garden this year?

There are several good candidates for growing as perennials, as well as many warmer-growing gesneriads that like being outside during the summer. Looking for some reading?  Check out the June 2010 issue (PDF) of the Delaware African Violet and Gesneriad Society.

One of my new additions this year is Sinningia 'Butter and Cream'*, just arrived from Plant Delights Nursery**. I have an irrational soft spot for tubers breaking out of their pots***, so was delighted with this one:

Sinningia 'Butter and Cream'

* Sinningia 'Butter and Cream' is (Sinningia aggregata x Sinningia tubiflora), a David Zaitlin hybrid.
** I love them for offering a selection of Arisaema and Asarum too.
*** Just for the record, not all of the Sinningia in this order were potbreakers, but all have nice sized tubers.

April 22, 2011

April 9, 2011 at the U.S. National Arboretum

A short walk outside on the day of our April meeting came with rewards in the form of may apples (Podophyllum - very underrated, imo) and Acer palmatum flowers.


Acer palmatum

Acer palmatum

From the meeting itself, some people went home with some rhizomes of a brand new (and I mean very very new) Seemannia hybrid - you never know what will show up on the raffle table.

The next meeting is Saturday, May 14, 2011.  Jim Roberts will talk about his recent trip to China (and gesneriads, of course).

April 20, 2011

Gesneriad Society Student Convention Grants

We are pleased to announce the Gesneriad Society Student Convention Grants to be awarded to students interested in or actively studying the plant family Gesneriaceae. The grants will provide registration and accommodation costs for students to attend this year's convention to be held July 5-9 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The grants have been established to promote participation among students and tomorrow's researchers and to foster scholarship in students of Gesneriaceae. Grants will be issued on a competitive basis. It is expected that each award recipient will present a poster or 15-minute presentation at the convention.

The application for 2011 awards is due by May 1, 2011. To apply, send the following materials (with the subject line: Student Convention Grant Application) in a single PDF document to studentsconventiongrants@gesneriadsociety.org and include:

  • Your name, institutional affiliation, and all contact information including address, telephone, and email.
  • A 500-word or less description of why you should attend the convention including comments about your education and research goals and how attending convention will help advance these goals (sign and scan it to PDF).
  • Your curriculum vitae, not to exceed two US letter-sized pages (scan and include in the single PDF).
  • A letter of recommendation signed by your major advisor or faculty representative (scan and include in the single PDF).
  • The title and brief description of your poster or talk (please specify) to be presented at convention.
Label the file as in the following example: Jane Q Doe would label her file Doe_JQ_Convention_Student_Award_2011.PDF. Applications exceeding the specified length for description and CV will not be accepted.

Grant recipients will be notified by email of their award status by May 15, 2011. Awards will cover registration, all convention meals and activities costs as well as shared room accommodations for up to five nights during the convention. Travel to and from convention, other meals not included in the convention program, and incidentals will be at the expense of each student.

The Gesneriad Society's annual conventions offer enthusiasts and researchers alike the opportunity to come together to see a diverse array of living gesneriads, to hear programs and workshops about recent research, field work, specific genera, and culture of gesneriads.

If you have any questions about the application or this year's convention, please email studentsconventiongrants@gesneriadsociety.org

A related comment: It's always good to see The Gesneriad Society encourage and support researchers in the field.  One of the lectures I enjoyed very much at the 2009 Convention in Washington, D.C., was by Dr. Silvana Martén-Rodríguez on "Pollinators and Floral Evolution in Caribbean Gesneriads." I never posted about it here, but I just found a couple of photographs:

April 19, 2011

Growing pink-leaved Episcias in Terrariums

One of our members, Johanna Zinn, brought in a beautifully grown pink-leaved Episcia to our meeting.  The photograph doesn't do it justice - you can't even see how big the container is!

I asked her how she grows it, and it turns out that she grew it like some begonias:

Since I don’t know much about growing gesneriads in terrariums, I grow the pink-leaved Episcia the way I grow begonias in terrariums.  I start by putting a ring of lightly moistened chopped long-fibered sphagnum moss around the perimeter of the base of the terrarium.  The ring hides/holds in a layer of perlite and one of horticultural charcoal; each layer is about ¼ inch thick.  The perlite provides drainage, and the charcoal may help absorb excess salts as well as provide an additional layer of drainage.  I use lightly moistened sphagnum moss cut into ½ to 1 inch pieces as the planting medium.  The terrarium is always covered.

I started growing the Episcia on a light stand shelf, but the leaves became a bit pale and the terrarium took up a large amount of space on the shelf, so I moved it to a free-standing plant stand located between two light stands.  I have to turn it frequently to keep the growth from stretching toward the light, but the color of the leaves has improved. To encourage symmetrical growth, I moved the stolons so that they were approximately the same distance apart, and pinned them to the moss with hair pins. The hair pins weren’t heavy enough, but pins used to attach plants to tree fern bark work well.

When the moss feels dry, the leaves are looking slightly less turgid than they should, or there is little or no moisture on the sides or lid of the terrarium, I add an ounce or two or warm water to the terrarium. If the moss/leaves/terrarium sides still look like they need moisture the next day, I add another ounce or two of warm water. I rarely fertilize since I don’t want the plant to outgrow the container.  When I do fertilize, I use a liquid fertilizer at ¼ strength dissolved in warm water, and apply lightly a day after watering.  The textured leaves can trap small amounts of water and could decay if they remain wet, so water should be applied to the moss, not the leaves when watering or fertilizing. The moss, perlite, and charcoal should be replaced every 9 to 12 months.

Here are a couple of begonias that are grown similarly.

Begonia iridescens:

Begonia sp. U476

April 15, 2011

just a few notes

The Delaware African Violet and Gesneriad Society's show and sale is this Saturday, April 16, 2011, from 10 am - 4 pm, in Christiana, DE (near Wilmington). Location: Auditorium of Boscov’s Department Store located in the Christiana Town Center, just off I-95. Address: 361 W Main St, Christiana, DE, 19702-1534. (For more info, click the link above.)

You probably know (because you are probably subscribed) that the April issue of The Gesneriad Society's free online newsletter, Gleanings, is out.  Look for it here

And if you're a member of The Gesneriad Society, you may be reading about Shuaria ecuadorica about now in the 2011 second quarter issue of Gesneriads, the journal of The Gesneriad Society. Membership includes access to back issues of the journal, as well as the seed fund. There is a green membership option, which means you receive the journal by email instead of in paper form.

And now... since there are no pretty pictures here, I shall send you off to see Jon Lindstrom's Flickr stream. It's a very educational photostream, as you would expect from him.  (There's also an article by Jon Lindstrom in the recent issue of Gesneriads.)

April 13, 2011

do dormant Sinningias need watering?

Some need a little moisture, while others can survive months without.  Probably all would be happy with a little moisture, but some would rot if too wet.  I'd be surprised if any need to be completely dry as a rock, although being able to survive with almost no moisture in the air and pot is a good survival skill if living with me:


The speck of green is a desperate scream for some water. 

That's a 2 1/2" square pot's worth of peat mix. Rock solid.  Rehydrating peat that's so dry takes some effort: pouring water over it won't work; a wick won't work; warm water poured/sprayed/drizzled onto it won't work; warm water in a saucer will only moisten part of it; and sitting it in a deep bowl of warm water doesn't guarantee that it will moisten throughout.  I once put a 4" pot of similarly dry peat mix in warm water for a day: although half was soaking wet, the other half of it was 100% dry.  (And anecdotally: that was a Saintpaulia that had been without water for months - those are some succulent leaves....)

Back to the topic: some Sinningia tubers will shrivel and disappear if left without water for too long.  The dryness/humidity of the air makes a difference too: a tuber that would be fine without watering in a greenhouse may not survive in a dry heated room. A good rule of thumb is to not let any tuber get this dry: even if they say to withhold water while dormant.

April 11, 2011

Sinningia bullata

formerly known as sp. "Florianopolis" after the location it was found, is off the scale on the fuzziness factor. It does pretty well on the "pebbly leaves" side of things too.

These photos are from the unofficial mini photowalk we had in February at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Photowalk photos are always interesting - we see different things and see them differently.  It's not about the gear: it's vision. As botanical enthusiasts, there is also the more objective aspect of noticing and capturing features of the plants.

Three photos by two people:

Back to the plant: where would you go to read more about Sinningia bullata?  How about starting at the wonderful Sinningia & Friends website?

April 6, 2011

Petrocosmea forrestii

Part of a series highlighting some plants shown at The Gesneriad Society's 2009 Convention in Washington, D.C.

Entry No. 216, Petrocosmea forrestii, exhibited by LaDonna Hopson.
Commentary by Aarti Shah.

Entry No. 216, Petrocosmea forrestii

Look at that symmetry! It's like a perfect fibbonacci sequence. For me, that perfect spiral is what it's all about. This was the plant that got me hooked. One year I went to the National Capitol Area Chapter of the Generiad Society's show at the Arboretum on a bit of a whim. I was going through the exhibits and came across a beautifully formed Petrocosmea forrestii just like this one. I think my jaw literally dropped. To me, the perfect geometric spiral of the leaves seemed (and still seems) almost too perfect to be true. So, I was hooked and joined the chapter.

Over the years, I've tried a number of times to grow a plant this lovely, but haven't yet succeeded. I tell people that I think it has to do with my tendency to keep my home at a toasty 76 degrees or so (which is warmer than Petrocosmeas like, I think) though I suspect the real cause is my tendency to overwater. Oddly, my most successful try was also my first one. The first P. forrestii plant I ever had grew quite well for months, forming a gorgeous flat rosette about 2.5 inches wide. Then it put on the most stunning flush of bloom--at one point I counted over 70 flowers open on the plant at the same time. After that amazing flush the plant went into a slow decline and never recovered. Ah well, I'll keep trying.


[Editor's note: for more on Petrocosmea, check out this post, as well as Tim's blog, A Passion for Petrocosmea.]

April 5, 2011

from the Flickr pool

Do you know what Streptocarpus brachynema looks like? It's a species found in Mozambique, and Bart Wursten just posted a photo.

On a completely different continent... did you go to the orchid show at Longwood Gardens last month? If you did, you might have seen this Kohleria.

April 4, 2011

April Petal Tones Issue

The April 2011 issue of Petal Tones (PDF) is now available on the National Capital Area Chapter of the Gesneriad Society's website!

This issue includes tips on growing Saintpaulia for show, information on common plant pests, Ask Mr. Gesneriad, and the famous sesame noodle recipe of our very own late Nell Hennessey.

To sign up to receive the e-newsletter by e-mail, email the editors. Back issues are also on our website. If you're in the Washington, DC, area, be sure to come to the next chapter meeting at the National Arboretum on 9 April!

Thanks again to Diane Richardson for the excellent March program on growing Saintpaulia.