Six on Saturday #51 (January 25, 2020)

There still isn’t a lot going on in either the garden or the greenhouse, but by carefully hoarding interesting sights, I have managed to scrape together the first Six on Saturday of the year.  1-3 are in the greenhouse, 4-6 outside.

1. Paphiopedilum liemianum (mottled leaf form).


Although I have four or five slipper orchids in bud, this is one of only two that are currently flowering.  It’s hardly surprising that  P. liemianum, from northern Sumatra, is flowering now, because it flowers almost constantly.  It’s one of the sequential flowering species of section Cochlopetalum, and it is a great choice if you have only a small orchid collection.  The inflorescences produce one flower after another, each one opening around the time that the old one drops.  By the time an inflorescence is exhausted, a new growth has usually matured and is ready to flower.

Typically, P. liemianum has plain green leaves, but this clone has an attractive mottled pattern.  Its flower is fairly small and poorly shaped compared to some of the line-bred forms that are available, making me suspect that the parent plant was selected for breeding primarily on the basis of its unusual foliage.


The other slipper currently in bloom is Paphiopedilum villosum, which I featured in November.  Paph flowers last a looooong time.

2.  Monolena primuliflora



This unusual plant grows as an epiphyte or terrestrial in rainforest from Costa Rica to southern Peru and adjacent Brazil.  The flowers, while pretty, last less than a day, but the seed capsules are almost as attractive as the flowers and are significantly longer lived.  The thickened rhizome suggests a plant that can tolerate some drought, but looks can be deceiving.  The plants wilt and shrivel rapidly if the soil dries out.


I have lost track of how old this plant is.  Maybe ten or twelve years? In theory, I grow M. primuliflora in pure sphagnum moss kept constantly moist, but I think the sphagnum has all rotted away and new rhizome is just rooting into old decayed rhizome.

3. Lachenalia sp. (L. aloides?)


I received these unlabeled bulbs as part of a trade about seven years ago.  They have been growing in a 3-inch pot for about the last five years, blooming reliably in midwinter and going dormant by late February or early March.  I think they are the South African Lachenalia aloides var aloides (cape cowslip).

4. Lentinula edodes (shiitake)


We have harvested and eaten the first few shiitake mushrooms from the log garden that I inoculated with mycelium fourteen months ago.  No sign of the lion’s mane mushrooms yet.

5.  Phoradendron leucarpum (oak mistletoe) growing on Carya sp. (hickory)


Although it looks a lot like European mistletoe (Viscum album), our native oak mistletoe is in a completely different genus.  I’m not sure if P. leucarpum can be substituted for European mistletoe in magic potion, but it seems to work just as well at Christmas time.  The only difficulty lies in harvesting it. This mistletoe is about 40 or 50 feet up in one of our taller hickory trees.


6. Fuligo septica (dog vomit slime mold)


Fuligo septica is the most common, or at least the most conspicuous, slime mold in our garden.  Its aethelia (fruiting bodies) commonly appear on the hardwood mulch that I spread on the flowerbeds.  Often they are an extremely lurid, almost fluorescent yellow color.  This aethelium is somewhat pale but quite large–63 cm diameter.

The propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Operculicarya decaryi

Operculicarya decaryi, the Jabily or Madagascar elephant tree.  It is semi-dormant in winter and has lost most of its leaves.

In a comment on my recent post about the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Show, I mentioned that I have a few small trees that I have been crudely attempting to shape, despite my lack of training in bonsai techniques.  This is one of them, a 21-year-old Operculicarya decaryi that I grew from seed.  I’m not fully satisfied with its current shape, particularly the crown, but I ‘m having fun with it.

Operculicarya is a genus of perhaps half a dozen species, all from Madagascar, of which O. decaryi is the most common in cultivation.  It isn’t traditional bonsai material, and from the point of view of a proper bonsai artist it has several natural flaws.  Most notably, it tends to form a swollen, barrel-shaped trunk that is narrowest at the base–the dreaded reverse taper.  Here, I have hidden the worst of the reverse taper with chunks of quartz in an attempt to recreate an arid, rocky environment.  The roots are also a problem.  They are massive, like huge brown sausages, and resist cramming into a shallow pot.  On the other hand, the leaves are small, the trunk naturally has a knobbly appearance, and the branches become gnarled and twisted.  For someone attracted to weird and unusual plants, there’s a lot to like.


O. decaryi is not frost hardy, so my tree spends summers outside and winters in the greenhouse.  New twigs are whip-like and have long internodes, but with repeated clipping they eventually thicken up and branch.  Getting a nice, fat barrel trunk is just a matter of waiting for the tree to mature.   Old trees, wider than they are tall, are sometimes available from online nurseries, but they are almost certainly collected from the wild.  It is more sustainable–and probably more fun–to start with a seedling or rooted cutting.  Even young plants have a lot of character.

The same tree at about five years old

A botanical immigrant


Zeuxine strateumatica, the lawn orchid, is native to a wide swath of Asia from Iran to New Guinea, and it was accidentally introduced into North America in the late 1920s, when it arrived as a contaminant in grass seed.  It is now widespread in central and southern Florida and has extended its range along the gulf coast to Texas.  The picture above comes from my parents’ garden in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, indicating that the species has spread beyond the two Houston area counties–Harris County and Montgomery County–for which the USDA Natural Resources Conservation service has records.

The plants in my parents’ garden seem to have arrived as seed in a load of mulch, and despite the common name, they grow as weeds in my mother’s flowerbeds, not in the lawn.  While visiting over the Christmas holiday, I collected a few specimens that were slated to be ignominiously yanked out next time the bed was weeded.  I thought they might be interesting to display on the show table at the next Triangle Orchid Society meeting, but by no stretch of the imagination can this be considered a horticulturally desirable species.  The flowers are barely visible without magnification, and the plants are reported to be short-lived.

I’ll keep them around, just to see if I can grow them, but I’m not worried about them becoming invasive here.  The species doesn’t seem to have established itself any further north than southern Georgia, and outside Florida all records are from coastal counties.  Piedmont winters are surely too cold (for now).