Saturday, March 03, 2007

Japanese Chimeras

We've got something special for the post today! Dale Martens has sent a wonderful article about the newest thing in African violets, the chimeras from Japan! Dale says:

"I've attached 4 photos of the Japanese African violet Chimera 'Yukako'. See the pretty purple and green chimera flowers in the first photo. I decided to hybridize with the plant, so I made some crosses although green flowers are notoriously difficult to breed! A few weeks later I decided I wanted to propagate it, so I removed the center.
Yukako in bloom.

Within a month I got new growth which you can see in the next photo. Well, I went on a 3 week trip to Australia and New Zealand and upon returning we found ourselves being very attentive for the next two months to a relative who was quite sick. So I didn't have a chance to remove the growing center of 'Yukako'.
New suckers emerge where the center was removed.

See the next photo with an abundant amount of sucker growth! Finally I got around to removing all the suckers.

Time to remove the suckers!

The final photo shows how many I got. Some suckers were already blooming true!

An abundance of suckers!

About the seed pods: so far 2 had seeds and 7 did not have a single seed even though the fat pods took 5-1/2 months to ripen. Seeds sown 2 weeks ago haven't sprouted yet. I'm not surprised because this same sort of thing happened when I crossed the green/white chimera 'Emerald City' with 'Louisiana Lagniappe'. Happily with that cross I was able to get a few seeds that gave me my two newly introduced 'Heartland' African violets." - Dale Martens in Illinois.

A special thanks to Dale for taking the time to send this entry. With luck, we may also be able to share one of the earliest photos of a new hybrid streptocarpus that is going to be in bloom for the first time in a few days! (I can't wait!!)
Photos are used with permission and may not be reproduced in any way.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The "Boys in Pink" Experience the Snow!

What are you going to do now that you're probably stuck at home because of the largest snow event in 25 years? The "Boys in Pink" would like to share some suggestions with everyone. First, they say that to keep up your strength you should think about some chocolate.... coco, some Hershey's .... Secondly, remember to stay warm. A flight south is always a good idea... And thirdly, take some time with your violets and gesneriads!!! What a wonderful day to catch up on the grooming and watering. Maybe change those liners to the reservoirs, wash the capillary matting and check everything over for any signs of insects or powdery mildew!!!

A little windy.

Well, not quite what we had in mind.

Ok, this is getting silly.

Freda? Has anyone seen Freda?

Why didn't we migrate?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Propagation with Leaves!

Recently on the gesneriphile list there have been some very, very interesting posts about propagation of various gesneriads using only leaves. Not the stems or part of a tuber or rhizome, but just the leaf portion of things. One of the regular and very knowledgeable contributors to the gesneriphile list at... wrote something that was so excellent it had to be shared! Jon Dixon wrote:
Some gesneriads propagate better from leaves than others. Many of the plants we regularly prop from leaves are old world--such as streps, chiritas, AV's, and petrocosmeas. Even aeschynanthus will propagate from leaves. With the latter, leaves are much more difficult and slower than cuttings, but will work. Some years ago I did a few experiments and concluded that aeschynanthus leaves root and sprout best when grown in a favorable media, enclosed, under lights, and fed. I have used perlite/vermiculite or long fiber sphagnum moss. When leaves are grown under less ideal conditions, such as out in the open, the rooted leaves often sit for a year or more before decaying. Often, in these kinds of nutrient poor media, the leaves will sit if not lightly fertilized. The same rules seem to apply to other gesneriad leaves that are more difficult, such as episcias.

Once I had very good luck getting sprouts when I rooted the small leaves of Aeschynanthus lanceolatus in P/V laid down about an inch thick in a sweater box and under lights. The size of the container provided just the right degree of high humidity without dripping condensation. The same methodology also produced the best sprouting from 2" long strep leaf wedges.

Many of our new world gesneriads will not root from leaves, or only rarely, such as columnea, nematanthus, and codonanthe. But, nautilocalyx propagate readily from leaves. This genus is closely related to episcia, yet episcias sprout poorly from leaves while nautilocalyx sprout fairly quickly. a third related genus, paradrymonia also root well from leaves, but alsobia has been a total failure. Gasteranthus will also grow well from leaves.

Sinningias are a mixed bag. Some propagate from leaves and others do not. Sometimes, on the same species, new young leaves will root, but older leaves taken after the stem has flowered will not. Once I used my above method on a large sinn. leaf from a species that had already flowered--I am not sure; but, I think it was iarae. I enclosed the large leaf in a large ziplock bag over a pot and put it at the back of my light stand. About a year later I decided to open the bag and see how things were going. The leaf was still healthy, but there were no signs of roots. So, I tossed it--a year is long enough to make roots, I think. Previously I had once taken a leaf from a large growing S. reitzii hybrid. It also sat enclosed in its ziplock wonderland for over a year before I ventured a peek. What I found was the healthy leaf connected to a cube shaped tuber that filled the 2" pot. There was no sign of a sprout, but I potted it up, fed it, and was rewarded with growth.

Of all the sinningia species, speciosa is the propagating fool. You can get new plants from just about any part of the plant--stem, tuber, seed, leaf, and pedicel. The latter was demonstrated by someone here on gesneriphiles. I never had luck, but didn't give my cuttings all of the above conditions. It was reported that fresh pedicels from corollas that had just withered but were not pollinated, cut at the base (but with no stem or bud tissue) and with the fleshy calyx lobes, rooted and produced tubers. I think the attached calyx lobes acted like succulent leaves, enabling rooting. Many of us remember the work that Marty Mines did in the 80's, propagating mini sinningias from tissue culture. He demonstrated that this was a preferable method for mass production of named hybrids that did not come true from seed. I can't remember if he used cut sections of pedicels or leaves.

Another friend of mine, a succulent grower, demonstrated that tissue culture can be done without especially sterile conditions. He propagated haworthias using sterile media but did not need a glove box or a flow hood. He did all his prep work at a desk, with an aquarium sitting on its side, using spray bottles of bleach or alcohol to spray down everything. He had the same percentage of contamination as those doing the same work under a hood (less than 25%, mol). His method was written up in an issue of the Cactus and Succulent journal sometime in the mid 90's, mol.

Patrick Worley used to regularly propagate his new rhizomatous hybrids from leaves. He seemed to have great success using just leaves. Sometimes they produced rhizomes and sometimes they sprouted new shoots. A terminal leaf cutting taken when the plant is getting ready to flower and cut with a bit of the stem and bud may produce flowers before anything else. He also mass produced his new hybrids by breaking up rhizomes into individual scales and then sowing them like seeds on sterile media, enclosed and under lights. I believe he used sweater boxes.

With any propagation, the time of year is important. For example, I have been able to root stem cuttings of columneas or episcias in water during summer time, but have had no luck in winter. Both times the cuttings were in vases of water on bright windowsills.

Regarding streptocarpella, which Gene was unsuccessful with--many years ago a late member of the SF Gesneriad society, Chet Nave, brought in sprouted leaves of 'Concord Blue', that were done in a small pot of P/V enclosed in a plastic bag in his greenhouse. I suspect that he did this in the warm season, although living near the ocean in Pacifica, there is really no warm season. Reminded of Chet's success and knowing that aeschynanthus leaves root, I did an experiment with closely related Lysionotis pauciflorus leaves. I had no success but need to try this experiment again, making sure that I give the cuttings ideal conditions, and doing it in summer.

I am sure experimentation will yield some surprising discoveries that while not necessarily productive are nevertheless educational.
Thanks to Jon Dixon for letting us share his thoughts!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Another Fairy "Tail"

Once upon a time, there was a tiny cat that was getting "cabin fever". He was, of course, the master of all he surveyed. He had conquered the fierce beasts that tried to invade his kingdom, he had made his people proud. But now, well... he was bored.

He went to his computer (because he was a techno-savvy cat) and he thought he'd instant message a few of his friends. One was out of town on a trip and another was doing taxes. A couple of his friends were even at Disney World (because they heard about the "mice" that lived there.) So just as he was about to give up on finding a diversion he saw that he had an email.

The tiny cat was excited because his email was from his friend and mentor from the next kingdom over. It was from Miss Tilly. She said that she had urgent business to attend to far away from her kingdom and she wondered if there was anyone that was strong and brave and fearless to come to her kingdom and watch over it while she was gone.

Well.... strong, brave and fearless??? The tiny cat knew exactly who that sounded like and he said that he would journey right over. He came to the massive gates and entered the tidy kingdom. When Miss Tilly greeted him at the castle she said that all he had to do was simply sit. (Miss Tilly really didn't like anything to "move her cheese" and she valued order above most everything else.) She knew the tiny cat had problems with curiosity, but after they talked he had solemnly agreed to simply sit at the castle and take a nap. Just his presence was enough to keep the order which Miss Tilly so valued.

Everything was going along well until the tiny cat heard a noise. He knew he wasn't supposed to do anything about it, but curiosity got the best of him. He went to the gardens and walked amongst (and on) the plants there.

He saw something hanging down from the ceiling that looked like giant striped spiders and he got worried that they were about to sneak up on someone in the kingdom. He taught it a good lesson and it was never to rise off the floor again.

He heard a mechanical whir and the tiny cat went to the computers and stuck stuff down into the whirring machine to silence it! It was finally quiet.

He then saw a menacing foe on the ground and flung himself onto it. He kicked and bit and finally it was still..... he chewed on it's whiteness for a while till he fell asleep. "Whew," said the tiny cat. "That was a close call".

When Miss Tilly came back she gazed about her now less than tidy kingdom. She just sighed. Finding the gardens stepped on, the floors an unrecognizable jumble and the computers jammed she knew that the old saying was only too true.... When the mice are away, the cat WILL play!