Monday, January 13, 2020

Developments in Dave's garden

As you may or may not know, I like to grow plants, mostly succulent plants like cactus and so on.  I recently visited the Huntington Botanic Garden in Pasadena and was impressed by the White Silk Floss Tree (Ceiba insignis, aka Chorisia insignis), which has a large bottle-shaped trunk.  Ever since then I've been looking for seeds or plants of this tree to grow myself, as it doesn't seem to be common.  Typically when I find a rare plant, especially one I can't afford to buy, I'll look for seeds of it.  However I was not able to find seeds of the White Silk Floss Tree anywhere, so I gave up on it.

Then I was heading over to my father-in-law's house and happened to notice an odd flowering tree just a few blocks from his place.

Eureka, I've found it!!  Now for those seeds!

From my book on Ornamental Trees of San Diego, I knew the location of one other White Silk Floss Tree.  However it was in Escondido, 30 miles (48 km) away. 

Google Maps street view showed me that the tree was still there after 16 years since this book was published.  Even more interesting is that street view images seem to be taken at different times of the year, so I was able to see if flowers and fruits are formed on both these White Silk Floss Trees.  It turned out there were sometimes fruits on the one I'd just discovered.

Did this mean there is another White Silk Floss Tree nearby that could pollinate this one?  It's quite possible.  However I also read that this tree can hybridize with Ceiba speciosa, which is a much more common garden tree in San Diego.  If these fruits were the result of hybridizing, then they did not contain the seeds I wanted.  So how could I be sure to get purebred seeds?  Well, I'd have to hand pollinate these trees myself.  So I drove 30+ miles to the other tree.  Sure enough it had flowers on it.

The only problem now was, there were no flowers within reach.  After some effort to try to knock a flower off with a stick, I simply backed my truck up to the tree and stood on top.
Success!!  I managed to remove a few flowers, and one was particularly dusty with pollen.

I then returned to the tree I'd discovered and began pollinating.  

There's no guarantee of success, but this is a good start.  If I don't get any seeds then at least I can probably take some cuttings from the tree to propagate it. Now I just need to wait some months for the seed pods to form.  The seeds are covered with a thick cotton-like fluff, which is what gives them their name "Silk Floss Tree". The tree is closely related to Kapok (Ceiba pentandra), and the fluff from Kapok seeds was used to stuff pillows and furniture back in the mid 20th century.


Aside from the White Silk Floss Tree, I've been planting some seeds lately, all winter growing plants.  I had seeds arrive of Albuca unifoliata, Tylecodon singularis, and Pleiospilos compactus.  I also received tubers of Caladium Strawberry Star I'd ordered online, and I planted some seeds of Cyphostemma juttae that I'd had for a while.

Here's Albuca unifoliata in picture from the internet. This plant is from the Northern Cape province region of South Africa.  It's a member of the lily family and has an underground bulb, but it produces only one single small succulent leaf, making it something of an oddity.

Albuca unifoliata, these are the seeds I received, and they match the description of the seeds of this plant, so I think they're authentic.

Here are the Tylecodon singularis seeds I received. They're some of the tiniest seeds I've ever seen. These may be challenging to plant and germinate.

Pleisospilos compactus, picture from internet. The seeds I planted came from a plant I found in a garden.

Here are the seed trays I planted up.  I know, it's a primitive setup, but works fine.  Rather than cover the seeds to maintain humidity, I just keep them bottom watered using trays underneath.


In other parts of my garden, my Dioscorea elephantipes seedlings are doing ok and are a few months old now.  They generally only produce a single leaf for their first year, but they put all their energy into making a small caudex to store water for the next dry season.

At the same time, the recent rain and cold weather was not good for my Euphorbia lactea White Ghost grafted crest.  It melted and died. I should have paid more attention and learned that this is a tropical plant, not one for outdoors in winter, even in San Diego's mild climate.

This is what it should look like. Picture from the internet.

I also ordered some tubers of Caladium Strawberry Star. This is not a succulent or desert plant but I found it so interesting that I figured I'd give it a try.

These are the tubers I received.

This is how the plants will look when grown.  Very pretty.

I also recently acquired a plant of Pelargonium klinghardtense, and another of Kalanchoe humilis.

Pelargonium klinghardtense

Kalanchoe humilis

That's all for now.  This year is the first time I've expanded my plant collection significantly in several years, and it's grown rapidly.  I've also got all those seedlings coming along, and it will be interesting to see them germinate and grow.  The next planting will be in the springs, with numerous batches of seeds I've been collecting over this winter.

Cheers and happy plant growing,
Dave Bad Person


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