Six on Saturday #62 (January 2, 2021)

flowers of Macleania sp. aff. smithiana
Macleania sp. aff smithiana

2021 has started cloudy and damp, and since we have already had several hard freezes this winter, there isn’t much that’s growing outside apart from a some cold-weather greens in the vegetable garden. This Six on Saturday is, therefore, a grab bag of tropical plants from my greenhouse.

1. Paphiopedilum purpuratum

Paphiopedilum purpuratum flower

Paphiopedilum purpuratum is a small slipper orchid native to Hong Kong and adjacent mainland China. According to the IUCN Red List, it is critically endangered, with fewer than 250 individual plants surviving in the wild. Despite its rarity in the wild, it is well established in cultivation, and artificially propagated seedlings like this one are relatively inexpensive, making it even sadder that the wild plants are still collected for unscrupulous horticulturalists.

2. Hippeastrum puniceum ‘Ibitipoca’

flower of Hippeastrum puniceum

Ibitipoca is a locality in Minas Gerais state, presumably where this clone of H. puniceum was originally collected.

3. Burbidgea schizocheila (golden brush ginger)

flowering plant of Burbidgea schizocheila

This very attractive dwarf ginger, endemic to Borneo, was once difficult to find in cultivation, but it is now being mass produced and shows up at local garden centers. I keep it outside in the summer, and it seems to flower mostly in winter without a prolonged dormant period.

4. Cavendishia capitulata (Huntington Botanical Gardens #92102)

flowering branches of Cavendishia capitulata

Flowering for the first time after growing for five years in my greenhouse, this pretty little shrub is an epiphytic member of the blueberry family (Ericaceae) from Costa Rica, Panama, and northern Colombia. Like the Macleania species that I have previously discussed, its flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds. I really love the fantastic shapes and colors of the neotropical Ericaceae, and I hope that the Cavendishia will prove to be as floriferous as the Macleania, which flowers almost nonstop now that it has reached a decent size (see photo at top of this page).

5. Nepenthes tobaica

Nepenthes tobaica pitcher

See Six on Saturday #12 for more information about Nepenthes pitcher plants. N. tobaica is a smallish species endemic to the region around Lake Toba on the island of Sumatra. My plant is still fairly young and only recently started producing fully mature pitchers.

6. Nepenthes rafflesiana

Nepenthes rafflesiana lower pitcher

N. rafflesiana is a much larger species with a wider native range encompassing Borneo, Sumatra, Singapore, and penisular Malaysia. Compared to the clone that I previously photographed (see picture 5), this seed-grown plant has more squat lower pitchers, and I prefer its more evenly distributed red speckling and dark red petioles.

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

More frogs

Despite there being no standing water on our property, apart from a couple of trays holding bog plants, a surprising variety of amphibians call the garden home.  Here are a couple of recent sightings that add to my list of resident amphibians.

Pickerel frog–Lithobates (Rana) palustris

Pickerel frogs are found throughout North Carolina, with the exception of the Outer Banks and some tidal regions of the coastal plain. This one was out late one evening on our concrete driveway, usually the hunting territory of more terrestrial-adapted toads.  The night was dry, so I was surprised to see any amphibian, let alone a frog.

Green frog–Lithobates (Rana) clamitans rescued from a posthole.

I have been digging postholes for a new fence, and an inch or two of rainwater accumulated in the two-foot deep holes.  I’m glad I decided to fish around in the muddy water before dropping posts and concrete in the holes.  The extensive webbing on the feet of this species indicates that its preferred habitat is aquatic, so I’m not sure what inspired this one to leave the creek and cross an acre or two of dry oak-pine woodland to find a muddy little hole.

Scaphiophus 1
Eastern spadefoot (Scaphiophus holbrookii)

In another of the postholes, I found an eastern spadefoot, a terrestrial species that I have shown before but which is uncommon enough and interesting enough to warrant showing again.

Scaphiophus 2
Scaphiophus holbrookii wearing a jaunty hat of mud

Two tropical slipper orchids

Here are two spring/summer-blooming slipper orchid species–one with somewhat grotesque flowers and the other more attractive–that are part of a group of species and hybrids often recommended to novice orchid growers.  As understory plants from low to moderate altitude in southeast Asia, they grow well as houseplants on the windowsills of warm, centrally heated homes.

Paphiopedilum superbiens var. curtisii


This species from Sumatra is noted for its large, dark pouch and relatively short petals liberally sprinkled with small warts.  Although the flower of P. superbiens is rather ungainly, the tessellated leaves are particularly striking, with rectangular dark sectors on a pale, almost white background.


Paphiopedilum cf. callosum


I purchased this plant as Paphiopedilum sukhakulii, but when it bloomed it was clear that it had been mislabeled.  In a genus that has been as intensively hybridized as Paphiopedilum, it can be very difficult to identify mislabeled plants, but this flower bears all the hallmarks of P. callosum, a well-known species from Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.  P. callosum is a parent of P. Maudiae (P. callosum x P. lawrenceanum), one of the best known and widely grown of all orchid hybrids.  The Maudiae-type hybrids, as the offspring of P. callosum and its close relatives are collectively known, were once exotic plants for orchid hobbyists to treasure but are now widely sold as disposable houseplants in garden centers and supermarkets.  They come in a variety of shapes and colors, but I think the original P. callosum, with its downswept petals and large dorsal sepal, has a grace and elegance that is often lacking in its mass-produced offspring.

Six on Saturday #41 (April 6, 2019)

A brief return to winter this week kept me busy covering the tender new growth of terrestrial orchids every evening to protect them from frost.  Then, of course, I had to uncover them before going to work in the morning.  It looks as though we may have seen the last freeze, though, and the temperature is forecast to be 80 F (26.6 C) on Monday.

Here are six plants whose flowers didn’t mind the cold (or were protected in the greenhouse)

1. Ficaria verna ‘Brazen Hussy’ (lesser celandine)


Purchasing this plant a year ago may have been a mistake.  It was labeled Ranunculus ficaria at the nursery, and I didn’t realize that the little spring ephemeral with dark purple foliage was actually a cultivar of Ficaria verna,  the invasive pest with green leaves that I have seen covering river banks in Pennsylvania.  However, ‘Brazen Hussy’ has thus far shown no inclination to self-pollinate, and the flowerbed in my garden lacks the moving water that helps F. verna spread so aggressively on floodplains.  If it manifests any invasive inclinations, it will go straight to the landfill (won’t risk the compost heap), but until them I’m reluctant to do away with it.  The shiny, almost metallic flowers go so well with the dark foliage of this cultivar.

2. Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss)


I most commonly see the variegated clone ‘Jack Frost’ for sale around here, but this seed grown plant has plain green leaves.  My wife loves blue flowers, so plain leaves or not, this is an obvious plant to include in the garden.

3. Tulipa whittallii


For the last couple of years, I have been experimenting with species tulips that may prove to be more heat tolerant than most of the hybrids.  Tulipa clusiana var chrysantha was recommended for our climate, and it looks as though it will do well–the bulbs I planted in 2017 have multiplied and will be flowering in a week or two.  It’s still too early to know how Tulipa whittallii will do. On the strength of one bulb catalog that said this is one of the most heat tolerant species, I planted a dozen bulbs last autumn.  The flowers are certainly eye catching. They close up tight each evening and only open up for a few hours in the afternoon (which doesn’t seem a very good way to attract pollinators), but the intense orange color makes the wait worthwhile.  I hope they stick around for a good many years.

4.  Narcissus Quail (and an enormous pile of mulch)


Narcissus ‘Quail’ is a jonquilla hybrid that produces two or three flowers per inflorescence.  I’m not sure if I like it.  The flowers are a somewhat squashed together, so their shape is lost in a large blob of yellow.

The mulch is 16 cubic yards of ground hardwood (with a generous proportion of eastern red cedar, judging by the smell).  A couple of inches of mulch spread on the flowerbeds every other year suppresses weeds, adds organic material, and most importantly, reduces the need to water.  Although I irrigate new plants until their roots are established, my goal is to have the garden survive on rain alone.

5. Euphorbia horombensis


In the greenhouse, this is the season for Euphorbia horombensis to produce its brick red cyathophylls, but its spiny armament is impressive all year round.  E. horombensis is listed as endangered on the IUCN red list, primarily due to habitat degradation and over-collection, but artificially propagated seedlings are reasonably common (and reasonably priced) from a few nurseries that specialize in propagating succulent plants.


The inflorescences of E. horombensis are covered with sticky sap which traps small insects (in this case, a flying ant).  I’m not sure what purpose the sap serves, but it seems odd that a plant would trap potential pollinators.


6. Paphiopedilum delenatii var. vinicolor

delenatii-vinicolorAnd finally, a first-bloom seedling of Paphiopedilum delenatii var vinicolor, a recent addition to my slipper orchid collection.

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.