First bloom: Crinum bulbispermum

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Crinum bulbispermum ‘Jumbo’

The largest of a batch of seed-grown Crinum bulbispermum ‘Jumbo’ is finally blooming, five years after the seed germinated.  I suspect it would have bloomed earlier if it were growing in more fertile soil, but it was worth the wait.  According to the Pacific Bulb Society Wiki, ‘Jumbo’ is a seed strain developed by the late L.S. Hannibal, who selectively bred C. bulbispermum to obtain plants with larger flowers, better color, and inflorescences that don’t flop.  My seedling has flowers that open with a deep pink flush at the base of the petals and darken as they age until they are almost red.  The 20-inch tall (51 cm) inflorescence remained upright without staking, unlike some of the other crinums I grow.

C. bulbispermum is reputed to be the most cold hardy of the South African crinums, with numerous reports of it surviving in Zones 5/6.  In my garden, most crinum foliage turns to mush at a couple of degrees below freezing, but the 3-foot long (90 cm) leaves of C. bulbispermum survive down to near 20 F (or possibly colder) and start growing again early in spring, long before the other crinums poke their noses above the mulch.

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First bloom: Eucrosia aurantiaca

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Inflorescence of Eucrosia aurantiaca

Currently blooming for the first time in my greenhouse is an unusual South American bulb that I purchased in 2015.  Eucrosia aurantiaca is an amaryllid from south central Ecuador, where it grows in semi-desert hills and canyons dominated by Acacia scrub [1].  With its extemely elongated stamens and style, it resembles the related species Eucrosia mirabilis (see previous blog post), but the slightly flared yellow tepals of E. aurantiaca are altogether more attractive.  E. mirabilis looks more like a mop or strange jellyfish.

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I grow my E. aurantiaca rather like a succulent or cactus.  It is planted in a terra cotta pot with a fast draining mix of sand, permatill, and a little potting mix.  It spends the summer outside in full sun and has a long, dry dormancy in the greenhouse during the winter.  Because the greenhouse is heated for lowland tropical plants, the temperature never dips below 60 F (~15 C), and I don’t know how E. aurantiaca would react to cooler temperatures when dormant.  Under these conditions, I find Eucrosia species easy to grow and bloom, certainly more so than many Hippeastrum which do not seem to appreciate the hot summer and warm winter.

My E. aurantiaca bulb has not offset, so hopefully it will prove to be self-fertile like E. mirabilis.

Reference

Meerow, A. W. (1987).  A monograph of Eucrosia (Amaryllidaceae). Systematic Botany 12: 460-492.

Six on Saturday #20, February 3, 2018

It’s already Sunday across the Atlantic where the host of “Six on Saturday” lives, but it’s still Saturday evening here.   I guess it isn’t too late to participate.  And regardless of whether it’s Saturday or Sunday where you live, you can still head over to The Propagator’s blog to see his Six and links to those of other participants.

It’s still well below freezing most nights, but there are tentative signs of life in the garden…

1. Cyclamen coum

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Cyclamen coum isn’t as vigorous and well adapted to our climate as C. hederifolium, but a couple of tiny plants are hanging on under the pines.  Every year, they bloom in the dead of winter, and every year I almost step on them.

2.  Helleborus niger (Christmas rose)

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The foliage of Helleborus niger has been flattened by the snow and cold, but at least it isn’t hiding the flowers on their very short stems.  Some people trim off the old leaves of hellebores just before they bloom.  That would certainly make the flowers of this species more visible, but I worry that removing leaves from a slow-growing evergreen species would be detrimental.

3. Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter honeysuckle)

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The flowers of Lonicera fragrantissima certainly aren’t spectacular, but the fragrance is absolutely wonderful.  I planted a row of the shrubs at the top of our driveway, at the northwestern edge of our property, so the prevailing west winds of winter spread the perfume down towards our front door.  I’d be quite proud of myself if it wasn’t completely fortuitous.  The direction of winter breezes was the furthest thing from my mind when I was deciding where to plant them.

L. fragrantissima is frequently found on lists of invasive plants, but luckily I very rarely see any fruit and have never found a volunteer seedling.  All of my plants are a single clone, and I wonder if they are not very self-compatible.

4.  Epidendrum stamfordianum

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In my greenhouse, this pretty little central American orchid is blooming for the first time.  It is still a fairly small seedling, so I expect to see longer inflorescence with more flowers in subsequent years.

5. Rauhia decora

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This is the first year that my Rauhia decora bulb has produced two leaves instead of just one, so I am cautiously optimistic that it may be approaching blooming size.  If it doesn’t bloom this year, then maybe in 2019.

6.  Pachypodium brevicaule

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I can see inflorescences starting on several of the spring-blooming Pachypodiums, but P. brevicaule is always the first to flower.

A neotropical blueberry

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Macleania species aff. smithiana (H.B.G. 89922)

No bonus points for guessing the pollinator of this plant.  It has hot pink tubular flowers of heavy, waxy substance.  It has to be pollinated by birds, right?  If I tell you that it’s from South America, then it’s obviously hummingbird-pollinated.

Macleania–a genus in the Ericaceae, the blueberry/rhododendron/heather family–is a plant geek’s delight.   Macleania species are found in central and South America, generally in high altitude cloud forest. Many are epiphytes that produce lignotubers, swollen roots or stem bases that store moisture and nutrients.  Their tubular flowers come in shades of bright orange, red, and pink, highlighted with green and yellow, and their berries are often sweet and edible.

The label of the plant illustrated above, Macleania sp. aff. smithiana, indicates that it may or may not be the species M. smithiana.  It generally fits the description of M. smithiana, except that its flowers are pink/yellow instead of orange-red/green.  Since plant descriptions are generally based on a limited range of specimens, it may turn out to be a color variant of M. smithiana.  Alternatively, it might be a closely related species.  The “aff.” (affinis) in the label reflects that uncertainty.  It came with an accession number from the Huntington Botanical Garden (HBG 89922), so there’s a chance I may be able to find out more someday.

I purchased this rooted cutting in autumn, 2016, because it was advertised as originating from lowland forest near Esmereldas, Ecuador.  Most Macleania species in cultivation are from higher elevation and are therefore less likely to tolerate our long hot summers.  So far, the plant has performed well, producing clean new growth and blooming for the first time this month.  I am growing it in a mix of permatill and long-fiber sphagnum moss, outside under shade-cloth in summer and in a cool corner of the greenhouse in winter.