Pink Shell Prunus aka Ornamental Cherry

Last year I cleared out a lot of the overhead branches and it must’ve received enough sun to bloom, or the cold tripped it? Many fruit trees, even ornamentals, need several nights below freezing to flower and fruit.

It’s not an impressive bloom, perhaps now that it has bloomed it’ll improve each year? I have seen many of these putting on impressive shows around town. I’m hoping with the added sun this one will too next spring.

Blooming occurs late Feb. early March

It has survived droughts, floods, frosts, and bright, hot Houston afternoon sun before the oak shaded it out. Honestly I forgot it was here it was so buried in deep shade in a very dry section of the garden. Despite this it’s about 12′ tall and about 6′ across. I picked it up at an Arbor Day Give a Way as a 12″ tall twig.

I highly recommend it. I’ll try taking a few cuttings in the fall and see how easy it is to propagate. I’d love to have a few more of these around.

Heliamphora ( Sun Pitchers )

These grow on the mountains in Venezuela where they receive lots of sun, humidity, water and cool temperatures, which drop significantly at night. All of which makes them a challenging plant to grow. I’ve slaughtered many.

First discovered in 1839 by explorers there are many species. The mountains are flat topped and widely separated leading to many similar, but different plants.

These are carnivores, but use a bacteria in the pitcher fluid to break down the insects instead of producing their own enzymes. There was and is an ongoing debate as to how carnivorous they are.

Outside through the Houston fall-winter-spring they do very well. It’s too warm in the summer for Heliamphoras to be outside. I have two growing quite well in terrariums, one on a windowsill that gets lots of morning light, one in a niche that has a light directly over the terrarium.

Humidity seems to override all other things when growing Sun Pitchers. Bright light is next and like all carnivorous plants distilled water is best. I’ve not found a daily temperature change to be important for growing, it might be for flowering? Every time I’ve removed it from the terrarium it’s begun to die back, starting by browning at the top edge of the pitchers.

Antarctic fungi found to be effective against citrus canker

Citrus canker is a disease that affects all citrus species and varieties. It is caused by Xanthomonas citri, a bacterium originally from Asia, where it is endemic in all citrus-producing countries. Although the bacterium can be combated in several ways, none is sufficient to eradicate the disease. Therefore, new chemical or biological methods of protecting citrus groves have to be pursued.

In an article published in Letters in Applied Microbiology, a team led by Daiane Cristina Sass, Lara Durães Sette and Henrique Ferreira, professors in São Paulo State University’s Bioscience Institute (IB-UNESP) in Rio Claro, Brazil, identify 29 fungi with proven action against X. citri. The origin of the fungi is surprising. They were isolated from samples of soil and marine sediment collected in Antarctica. read more…

Terrestrial and marine Antarctic fungi extracts active against Xanthomonas citri subsp. citri
Biotechnological potential of secondary metabolites from Antarctica fungi with activity against plant pathogenic bacteria

An orchid matches its scent rhythm to the locals

Interesting, white flowers are white to attract pollinators at night, several orchids I’ve owned have a scent that is very strong after dark but barely there during the day.

We find that the floral scent of the orchid Gymnadenia conopsea differs between day and night, and the increase in scent from day to night is stronger in populations with nocturnal pollination. This is the first study to report genetic variation in floral scent emission rhythms within the same species, and this is an important first step to understand the evolution of floral scent.

read more…

Diel pattern of floral scent emission matches the relative importance of diurnal and nocturnal pollinators in populations of Gymnadenia conopsea

Echinacea purpurea aka Purple Coneflower

Perennial, loves sun, doesn’t mind occasional dry spells, benefits from dead heading and dividing clumps every 3 years or so.

Native to North America, there are about 9 species in this genus. It’s been a garden favorite as far back as the early 1900s where it is often referred to as the ‘dull pink coneflower’

It is a strongly recommended addition to bee and butterfly gardens and said to be deer resistant

Yes, some plants do use camouflage


…. But a review by scientists from the University of Exeter and the Kunming Institute of Botany (Chinese Academy of Sciences) found plants use a host of techniques long known to be used by animals.

These include blending with the background, “disruptive colouration” (using high-contrast markings to break up the perceived shape of an object) and “masquerade” (looking like an unimportant object predators might ignore, such as a stone).

“It is clear that plants do more than entice pollinators and photosynthesise with their colours—they hide in plain sight from enemies too,” said Professor Martin Stevens, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“From ‘decoration’, where they accumulate things like dust or sand on their surface, to disruptive coloration, they use many of the same methods as animals to camouflage themselves.

“We now need to discover just how important a role camouflage has in the ecology and evolution of plants.”

read more….

Exeter Press Release

Plants gain and ditch the ability to fix nitrogen

Plants, like all living things, need nitrogen to build amino acids and other essential biomolecules. Although nitrogen is the most abundant element in air, the molecular form of nitrogen found there is largely unreactive. To become useful to plants, that nitrogen must first be “fixed,” or busted out of its molecular form and linked with hydrogen to make ammonia. The plants can then get at it by catalyzing reactions with ammonia.

But plants can’t fix nitrogen. Bacteria can.

Some legumes and a few other plants have a symbiotic relationship with certain bacterial species. The plants build specialized structures on their roots called nodules to house and feed the bacteria, which in turn fix nitrogen for the plants and assure them a steady supply of ammonia. Only 10 families of plants have the ability to do this, and even within these families, most genera opt out. Ever since the symbiosis was discovered in 1888, plant geneticists have wondered: why? If you could ensure a steady supply of nitrogen for use, why wouldn’t you? Plants repeatedly got rid of their ability to obtain their own nitrogen

Phylogenomics reveals multiple losses of nitrogen-fixing root nodule symbiosis $$$