Friday, September 27, 2013

Devil's Coach Horse Beetle

Ocypus olens
This fascinating looking insect was found walking across the road in front of the Peacock Cafe. It is a type of beetle known as a 'Rove' beetle. This particular species (Ocypus olens ), is a European native that was introduced to Los Angeles sometime in the early part of the 20th century. They feed on snails, slugs, earthworms and other invertebrates  If you see one here at the Arboretum please enjoy it from affar, although they don't sting they are rumored to have the ability to use their powerful front pincers to deliver a rather painful bite.

Defensive posture of Ocypus olens, see those pincers! They gonna bite ya. 
Ocypus olens in a more relaxed state. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Pumpkin on a Stick" Is Not

Now that it's Fall you'll probably see this thing in flower shops -it's marketed as 'Pumpkin on a Stick" It's not a pumpkin at all nor is it closely related, it's Solanum aethiopicum, also known as the Ethiopian nightshade. Is it invasive? Is it poisonous? Where did it come from?

It is not on the USDA's invasive plant list, it is not listed as poisonous and is widely eaten in Africa where it is native, but always use caution with anything in the genus Solanum (for some real unnecessary alarm read here about a poisoning involving a different Solanum species). That being said it can be grown from seed and can get 8 feet tall. It takes 70+ days to fruit so you should plant it in the first week of August to get fruit by Halloween.

Solanum aethiopicum

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Brush Cherry Apart

 This has always been intriguing to me -a variegated Syzygium australe. It appeared as a 'sport' on an otherwise green S. australe here and has remained stable (not reverting back to its green appearance) ever since.
Syzygium australe

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Plant Information Class Tour of Nuccio's Nursery

Seven hardy souls braved the 100 degree plus heat to show up at Nuccio's camellia nursery for a tour by owner Tom Nuccio. They weren't disappointed as Tom not only discussed the varieties of camellia they had to offer but  gave us tips on how to propagate them using seeds, cuttings and grafts.
Tom Nuccio shows off some of his species camellias from China and Vietnam.

These two and tree gallon pots are full of newly germinated camellia seedlings. Tom told us the trick was to plant the seeds as soon as the seed capsule ripens.
According to Tom camellias will root almost anywhere on the stem, so you need only one leaf node per cutting.
Tom shows us a newly rooted camellia cutting. 
Camellia cuttings root in Tom's mist house. 
Tom explaining that Dragon fruit cactus like climbing up smooth surfaces, like the bark of the citrus tree that this one particularly robust plant is growing on. 
Greenhouse full of newly grafted camellia plants. 
Tom's grafting secret? Mason jars are kept on the newly grafted plants until callous and new growth is observed. 
Tom points out new callous growth on a camellia cutting as well as a new leaf-bud. 
New growth on a camellia graft -Tom revealed that tipping the mason jar over just a bit the for two to three days before it is removed allows the cutting to acclimate before it is exposed to the drying southern California air. 
Tom also gave us a demonstration on how to do camellia cuttings. 
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