Thursday, February 25, 2016

Solving a Big Stink in Ohio

I received a call today about a flower that blooms in the winter and whose foliage grows in the summer. The caller was from Ohio and kept the bulb of the plant inside  (not for the bloom, she stored the bulb inside to protect it from Ohio's cold winters). The problem with the plant is that it blooms when it's being stored inside the caller's house. For most flowers this wouldn't be a problem but her bulb was actually the tuber of flower closely related to the Huntington Gardens' much celebrated corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum

Amorphophallus konjac is closely related to the Huntington's stinky corpse flower, and although the flower size is smaller, the smell is the same. The caller related to how she had had the plant (it was given to her by her aunt) for years with rarely any blooms and how now it's blooming almost every year.

Amorphophallus are in the same family as peace lilies and Anthurium. They are mostly tropical plants whose flowers arise from bulbs. Here in Southern California a related plant, Dracunculus vulgaris, is an occasional volunteer weed being spread by birds (especially parrots) that eat the plants berry-like fruit. Both the Amorphophallus konjac and the Dracunculus vulgaris have been sold by nurseries in the 70's and 80's as the 'Voodoo Lily', a novelty bulb.

So what do you do if you are storing your Amorphophallus konjac inside your house and it starts to produce its stinky bloom? Well, just cut the bloom off a few inches from the base and throw it away. It shouldn't hurt the plant and it will definitely give your nostrils a breather.

Here is the caller's Konjac flower in full bloom inside of their house. 

Videos that follow an Amorphophallus konjac from bulb to bloom (video plays in a series, just allow the next video to queue after the first is finished and repeat).

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Some Pix from the Collections

Today was a good one for picture taking out in the garden; the colors really stand out the morning after a rain. 
Aloes in the South African section. 

South African Restios, their stems be-jeweled with water droplets from the previous night's rain.  

Birds conversing on an Aloe marlothii. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Drought Has Culver City Resident Singing the Redwood Blues

Q. I live in the Culver City 90230.  We have a small grove of coastal redwoods, three trees about 50' tall and two saplings about 10' tall.  They evidenced considerable twig die-back, I assume in response to prolonged drought and reduced irrigation in the name of water conservation. However now all but one seem to be recovering with the help of winter rainstorms, with new foliage appearing on most branches and some stump sprouts.  Last summer we received an arborist's opinion that the trees were a lost cause and should be replaced, but now we see signs of new growth that inspire a certain optimism.  Can you give a prognosis?  If we are more generous with water, will these trees continue to recover or is this a lost cause so that we should have them removed and replaced with less thirsty trees?

A. It is normal for Redwoods to die back under drought stress and then re-foliate later once the drought is over in their native habitat, however Southern California is not their native habitat. When they recover from drought here they may not recover completely and you might have some top die-back -keep an eye out for it. Also their reaction to drought, which is to die back until conditions are better, becomes more amplified the larger the trees get. Several things can help your redwoods deal with not only drought stress, but the stress they receive being trees that are growing in an area that rarely provides their ideal conditions (foggy mornings, cool nights).

1.       Restrict traffic underneath the trees. Redwoods have shallow, sensitive roots that are damaged by human activity underneath them.
2.       Do not trim their 'skirts'. The apron of branches that occurs if you do not prune them acts as a buffer to the dry, sunny conditions that cause the soil harboring the trees' roots to dry out to rapidly and place great stress on the tree.
3.       Place a 6" layer of bark mulch under the canopy of the trees. This helps keep weeds out, and, most importantly, helps the buffer the drying out of the soil. The decomposition of the bark provides nutrients essential to the health of the redwoods.
4.       Water regularly. Although actions #2 and #3 will help keep your tree hydrated, they do need regular watering. About once a week for 20-40 minutes should be more than enough for most systems.

Also you might want to consider starting over again with the 'Aptos Blue' variety of Redwood. 'Aptos Blue' is more drought tolerant, having been collected from a grove of redwoods far inland from the central California coast. Staring over would allow you to keep the skirts on and restrict traffic underneath the trees.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Links for February 3rd Plant Information Class

Flowering Trees

Trees | Moon Valley Nurseries
Plant Details | Arizona Municipal Water Users Association
Plant Details | Arizona Municipal Water Users Association
Chilopsis linearis 'Desert Amethyst'Arid Zone Trees
Desert-Willow on the Tree Guide at
Tabebuia caraiba, Tabebuia argentea, Silver Trumpet Tree -
Tabebuia | Mariposa Nursery
Acacia sphaerocephala, Bulls-Horn Acacia, Bee Wattle -
Abutilon chiappardi, Abutilon chittendenii, Abutilon chitenendii, Bakeridesia integerrima, Sida integerrima, Velvetleaf, Canary Tree, Indian Mallow -
Acacia glaucoptera, Clay Wattle, Queen Wattle - - rare plants for home and garden
Bolusanthus speciosus, Tree Wisteria, Vanwykshout, Mogaba -
Acacia farnesiana, Mimosa farnesiana, Yellow Mimosa, Sweet Wattle -
Pachira aquatica, Bombax glabrum, French Peanut, Malabar Chesnut, Guiana Chestnut, Provision Tree, Money Tree -
Bougainvillea arborea, Bougainvillea - - rare plants for home and garden
Brya ebenus, Breya ebenus, Jamaican Rain Tree, Ebony Coccuswood, Grenadilla, Granadilla, Jamaican Ebony, West Indian Ebony -
Bulnesia arborea, Vera, Verawood, Vera Wood, Maracaibo Lignum Vitae -
Bucida buceras, Florida Black Olive Tree, Oxhorn Bucida, Gregory Wood -
Caesalpinia lutea, Yellow Peacock flower, Barbados pride, dwarf poinciana, Barbados flower-fence -
Cassia fistula, Golden Shower Tree, Indian Laburnum, Ratchaphruek -
Chorisia speciosa, Ceiba speciosa, Silk Floss Tree, Bombax - - rare plants for home and garden
Ceiba insignis, Chorisia insignis, White Floss Silk Tree, Drunken Tree -
Clusia lanceolata, Porcelain Flower, Copey, Balsam Apple, Pitch Apple, Cerra cipapao apple -
Cordia boissieri, Texas Olive, Anacahuita -
Coccoloba uvifera, Sea grape -
Cordia superba, Brazilian Cordia, Geiger Tree White -
Couroupita guianensis, Couroupita guanensis, Cannonball Tree -
Delonix elata, Poinciana elata, Delonix decaryi, Mseele, White Poinciana, White Gul Mohur, Vaadhanaaraayanan -
Delonix floribunda, Delonix adansonioides, Baobab Poinciana -
Erblichia odorata , Flor de Fuego, Butterfly Tree -
Gustavia augusta, Membrillo, Paco, Pacora, Choco, Sachamango, Heaven Lotus -
Jacaranda cuspidifolia , Jacaranda -
Jacaranda jasminoides, Jacaranda curialis, Bignonia curialis, Maroon jacaranda -
Markhamia stipulata, Spathodea stipulata, Khae -
Melia azedarach, Chinaberry Tree, Indian Lilac, Pride of India, White Cedar -
Moringa oleifera, Moringa pterygosperma, Horseradish tree, Ben Oil Tree, Coatli, Drumstick tree, Bridal veil -
Phymosia umbellata, Malva umbellata, Mexican Bush Mallow, Malva Aparasolada -
Pseudobombax ellipticum, Bombax ellipticum, Shaving Brush Tree -
Xanthostemon chrysanthus, Golden Penda, Expo gold, Junjum -
Tecoma stans, Bignonia stans, Yellow Elder, Yellow Bells -
Tabebuia caraiba, Tabebuia argentea, Silver Trumpet Tree -
Tabebuia bahamensis, Tabebuia turquinensis, Tabebuia affinis, Tabebuia leonis, Dwarf Bahamian Trumpet Tree, Five Fingers -
Sophora tomentosa, Yellow Necklace Pod, Silverbush -
Sophora secundiflora, Texas Mountain-Laurel -
Senna surattensis, Cassia glauca, Cassia surattensis , Glaucous Cassia, Scrambled Egg Bush -
Quararibea funebris, Rosita de Cacao, Molinillo, Funeral Tree -


Armillaria Remedies

Wisteria Pruning

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Today (2-2-2016) at the Arboretum

It was a beautiful day at the Arboretum today, Groundhog day,  and there are some interesting plants and things to talk about. 

Sinkhole in the Bauer Lawn. 

A fairly impressive sinkhole has opened up on the Bauer lawn, just about where the band-shell stands during the summer concert series. It's about six to eight feet deep and at the bottom is an opening that leads to who-knows-where. One of my hobbies is cave exploring so I find this quite interesting. It is thought that this sinkhole formed when an old abandoned water well collapsed -however there is another explanation that is a bit more Indiana Jones'ish; that somewhere under the Arboretum is an old tunnel that used to lead from the racetrack, under the arboretum to who-knows-where. It's rumored that it existed to serve as a bomb shelter during World War II, and went from about where the Baldwin service entrance to the track is to the far side of the Bauer lawn. Is this a sinkhole resulting from the partial collapse of the rumored tunnel? Would it be possible to explore the tunnel if safe entry could be made into it, and if so, what kind of surprises might there be inside of it? Somebody call the History Channel, I feel a series coming on. 
Sinkhole in Bauer lawn; what caused it?

Looking into the sinkhole a small passage  trends westward. 

Meadow-brook Section Surprises

Taking a stroll through the Meadowbrook was interesting today. For the most part it was a symphony of naked branches waiting for spring to make them decent. There were some interesting items however. First, right in the middle of the Meadowbrook's southern lawn (the Meadowbrook section has  southern, northern, and western lawn areas), was what looked like a display of Liquidambar balls. They were probably collected there by Arboretum gardener Bryan Burks who was working nearby. The pile struck me as interesting so I took a picture of it at ground level. 
Pile of Liquidambar seed balls on the South Meadowbrook lawn. 

Magnolias Starting to Bloom -Are My Worries Valid?

Just adjacent to the Meadowbrook section is our Magnolia collection. This year is a big question mark for it. Several of the trees have bloomed out of season this early fall and the big question is; how will this (and the drought, and a moderate infestation of shot hole borers) influence this years bloom? Every year, despite all threats from the drought, insects, strange fall weather, our collection of some 40+ types of  Magnolia never fail to put on a show. However this year they seem oddly late - is this perception valid? Is there a problem with them that could stymie the annual spectacular of bloom I'm so used to?

So to check out this hunch I went back into our recent photo archives and looked for pix of Magnolias blooming here from several years back. Here's what I found:
January 22, 2011

January 21, 2012

The image on the left was taken in late January 2011; It along with others from the same time show that the Magnolia collection was in full bloom by now in 2011. The image on the right is also from late January, but in 2012. So in these two years the collection was in pretty good bloom by now. However:  The below images were taken February 11th, 2010 -so it's probably not time to panic just yet. 

February 11th, 2010
February 11th, 2010

Keep Your Handroanthus off of my Tabebuia -Sometimes Botanists Have a Hard Time Getting it Right

This beautiful little blooming tree pictured below can be seen in full glory in the east shore of Baldwin lake. It's name here is Tabebuia impetiginosa 'Paulensis'. It is a natural variety of its origin plant that occurs in South America on grassy plains between 500 and 800 feet above sea level. The genus Tabebuia is now the genus Handroanthus. This plant is now Handroanthus avellanedae (Lorentz ex Griseb. ) Mattos var. paullensis (Toledo) Looking this particular plant up it's apparent that this is one of the most confusing genus of plants out there. For some reason taxonomists haven't done very well categorizing it. Here's a list of most of the names that his plant has had over the years:

Tabebuia avellanedae var. paulensis 
Bignonia heptaphylla Vell.
Handroanthus eximius (Miq.) Mattos
Handroanthus impetiginosus var. lepidotus (Bureau) Mattos
Tabebuia avellanedae var. paulensis Toledo
Tabebuia eximia (Miq.) Sandwith
Tabebuia heptaphylla (Vell.) Toledo
Tabebuia impetiginosa var. lepidota (Bureau) Toledo
Tabebuia ipe (Mart. ex K.Schum.) Standl.
Tecoma curialis Saldanha
Tecoma eximia Miq.
Tecoma impetiginosa var. lepidota Bureau
Tecoma ipe Mart. ex K.Schum.

 Handroanthus avellanedae (Lorentz ex Griseb. ) Mattos var. paullensis (Toledo)  -but for how long?

Other Interesting Things Out in the Garden:

Armillaria mellea, the 'honey mushroom' growing on the infested roots of an African Acacia tree in the African section. 

Beautiful gum oozing out of a Red river gum tree -if you look close you can see flecks that look like golden glitter suspended in the dark amber-colored gum.