Sunday, October 23, 2016

Pretty picture: Cymbidium Atalanta (?)

[NOTE: today's post is not safe for work due to a 372-year-old painting and some language; proceed accordingly]

The only Cymbidium from the 2016 show was pretty, but kind of a nightmare to research.

The tag said "Atlanta," like the city in Georgia.

That's a perfectly sensible thing to name a Cymbidium, but the International Orchid Register didn't have it in their database. And it's ogooglebar, because any search for (Cymbidium + Atlanta) mostly gets you lists of places you can buy Cymbidiums in Atlanta, or photos of Cymbidium flowers that were taken in Atlanta.

If the IOR doesn't have an "Atlanta," that doesn't necessarily mean that no such plant exists: they're thorough, but I wouldn't expect them to have every single grex listed the moment it's official. So it's possible that this is, in fact, Cymbidium Atlanta, but I doubt it. In the seven months between first looking it up and writing this post, the IOR didn't add an "Atlanta," and they seem to be pretty on top of the names, in general, so there probably still isn't a "Cymbidium Atlanta."

There is, however, an AtAlanta, named after the mythological figure instead of the city in Georgia, and my guess is that that's probably what we're looking at here.

Atalanta is interesting.

She was a huntress and virgin, sworn to the goddess Artemis (the goddess of hunting and virgins, among other things,1 so kind of a natural fit, there), but her father wanted her to get married. This, obviously, would have fucked with the whole virgin thing, plus there may have been a warning from an oracle that marrying would prove disastrous for her, so she declared that she would only marry a man who could beat her in a footrace, and that any man who failed to defeat her would be put to death. And everybody, apparently, nodded and was like, yup, that seems reasonable.2 So. Many races and a pile of corpses later, eligible bachelor Hippomenes gets the idea to seek some outside assistance, so he goes to the goddess Aphrodite3 and says, hey, I want to get with this chick but she's not into me and I know I can't outrun her so what can I do?

Aphrodite says here, take these three irresistible golden apples, and when you run against her, just throw one of the apples in front of her whenever she gets ahead of you, and she'll stop and pick them up, giving you time to get back ahead of her. (And if you're wondering how he's supposed to be able to resist picking up these irresistible apples himself, I refer you back to footnote 2.) So that's what Hippomenes does, and he manages to win the race by a hair,

The Race Between Atalanta and Hippomenes, 1644, Nicolas Colombel, Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna. From Wikipedia.

and Atalanta's like, well, a deal's a deal. So long, Artemis, see you when I give birth. And eventually Atalanta and Hippomenes have a son, who I'm guessing they didn't like very much because they named him Parthenopeus.

And then some time after that, Atalanta and Hippomenes both get changed into lions, because of course they did, though the details and reasons vary.4

Atalanta is, according to the IOR, a very old grex, dating to 1918, and a primary hybrid of Cymbidium erythrostylum (pink to white sepals, with red and white-striped petals) and Cymbidium lowianum (yellow to greenish-yellow, with some orange striping on the labellum). (Ref.) If the plant at the show was in fact Atalanta, then she mostly takes after Cymbidium erythrostylum.

I found a possible picture of Cymbidium Atalanta on an eBay-like site in Australia when I was researching all this in March, showing a pinkish-purple bloom with a white and dark red labellum. The tepals were longer and narrower than this plant, but the red spotting was in more or less the same location, so this is plausibly a different clone of the same cross. On the other hand, one never wants to put too much faith in photos posted by people selling stuff on-line, especially not at sites like eBay, so I'm not willing to treat that photo as confirmation of this plant's identity. But that photo was at least not wildly different from the plant I've got here, and Atalanta seems like a reasonable guess.


1 (Confusingly, the goddess of virgins was also the goddess of childbirth and midwifery.)
2 It may help to think of ancient Greek myths as comic book / superhero movies: meant to entertain, so there are certain premises you just have to accept, and certain plot holes you just have to ignore, if you want to enjoy the story at all.
3 (the goddess of sexual love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation, who as you can imagine had some issues with the goddess of hunting and virginity)
4 Mostly the stories agree that being turned into lions was punishment for boinking in a god's temple, though their motivation, and whose temple, vary from story to story. The most complicated of the stories has Aphrodite mad at Hippomenes because he failed to give her the proper respect after she helped him out with the apples and everything. So, as Atalanta and Hippomenes traveled somewhere together, they wound up stopping at one of the goddess Cybele's temples. Aphrodite, being the goddess of sex, made them super-horny, knowing that Cybele wouldn't like this. A. and H. boinked in the temple, and then Cybele was like HOW DARE YOU and turned them into lions.
Why lions? Well, apparently the thinking at the time was that lions couldn't reproduce by having sex with one another; you only got more lions if a lion got it on with a leopard. So changing a couple of people into a pair of lions because they had sex as humans was a way of ensuring that they would never be able to have sex with one another again. Which makes the whole thing sadder than it sounds at first. Though Cybele also appears to have just been really, really into lions, so maybe she changed everybody into lions, I don't know, I didn't look into it.
Why did the ancient Greeks believe that lions didn't / couldn't mate with other lions? Fuck if I know. My go-to theory for this kind of thing is that ancient people were drunk a lot and also not good noticers.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Random plant event: Aechmea 'Del Mar'

Here's something considerably more cheerful than the last post. About once a year, it seems like, some plant takes it upon itself to bloom when I'm not expecting it. The Hatiora salicornioides in 2009, Eucharis in 2010, Clivia and Epiphyllum in 2012, Phalaenopsis in 2014. In most of those cases, that's also the only time they've ever bloomed for me, as well.1

The 2016 surprise bloom is Aechmea 'Del Mar,' a plant I have had since 2008. The original plant died, but it offset, and the offset survived years of frankly-not-great conditions and then decided to grow a flower spike.

This year's bloom looks different from 2008's (specifically: the colors seem a bit less intense), which I attribute to the lower light it's been getting here. It was already in bloom in 2008 when I bought it, so that inflorescence had formed in some tropical Floridian shadehouse, under basically ideal conditions; this one had to work with what light it could get from an east window.2 And not even the full exposure of an east window: it's so big that the only place I can keep it is up near the ceiling. Basically no overhead light at all.

Also shown: Neoregelia 'Ardie' (left), Philodendron 'Golden Emerald' (lower left), Anthurium 'Pandola' (right).

I'm honestly not sure why I was even keeping 'Del Mar' around. The leaves are plain green and of basically no ornamental value. The leaves are edged with marginal spines that are sharp enough to leave marks on me (which then usually itch for a couple hours3), and more often than not, after I move the plant for any reason, I wind up with a few of those spines broken off somewhere in my hands or arms and have to dig them out with tweezers. It was top-heavy and off-balance (at least partly from the side-lighting), and from time to time when I was putting it back on its shelf, it would fall over and dump water out on me. I had no expectation that a rebloom was possible, especially given how long I'd been waiting. In the final tally, I suppose it was just doing too well to throw out. I could justify discarding a plant that was obviously miserable, but aside from dropping the occasional leaf, which I expect all plants to do from time to time, 'Del Mar' never complained. Never really occurred to me that throwing it out was an option, even as I cursed the marginal spines.

It's almost like it knew that in October, we would all be sick of Anthuriums and desperate for anything else to look at.

Other sites allege that the inflorescence can hang around for 5 to 7 months; this seems about right. The 2008 bloom hung around for what seemed like a really, really long time; it could plausibly have been 5 months.

I don't always have the best luck getting bromeliad offsets to root for me, but I expect I'll try doing it again.

Final note: Aechmea 'Del Mar' is, according to its patent, a hybrid of Aechmea fendleri and Aechmea dichlamydea var. trinitensis. The general shape and coloration seems to be from A. dichlamydea, with A. fendleri contributing a smaller size, though 1) genetics doesn't really work like that exactly, and 2) this is speculation based on less than 10 minutes of online searches, so don't hang your hat on it.


1 The sole exception from those examples is the Eucharis, which has bloomed several times since 2009, though it doesn't do so on any kind of predictable schedule.
2 I'm not positive that the 2008 bloom received ideal conditions before I bought it; some on-line sites show much darker inflorescences than mine had then, with considerably less white, and a much darker pink. The patent-holder's website shows a 'Del Mar' that looks a lot more like my plant than those, and you'd think the patent holder could keep them straight if anybody could, so it's possible that the other sites have mistaken 'Blue Tango' for 'Del Mar.' Or maybe the cultivar is just that variable.
My plant's inflorescence has developed a heavier pink coloration as it's developed, with the photos from 16 October (last two in this post) showing a much lighter, yellower color than the photos from the 19th. I have no idea what colors it might bear when it fully matures, nor when this might happen. I'm keeping an eye out for the true flowers (the whole colorful show I've photographed so far are just the bracts, the brightly-colored bits meant to attract pollinators to the actual flowers), though I may or may not get pictures of them.
3 Also a problem with plants having similar defenses, like Neoregelia, Yucca, Dyckia, Agave, Pereskia, and Pandanus. I itch a lot on alternate Sundays, which are both Aechmea- and Pandanus-watering days. I've thought about long sleeves, but I think they'd cause more problems than they solve.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Anthurium no. 0446 "Venus Xtravaganza"

If you've seen the documentary Paris is Burning, you're familiar with the real-life Venus Xtravaganza. It's been a long time for me, so I don't remember much in the way of details, but I can at least recall that she seemed sweet. Not innocent, but . . . I don't know. Quiet. Vulnerable. Like someone you'd want to be friends with, maybe. See for yourself (*may not be safe for work*):

It's easy to forget, looking at Paris is Burning from the perspective of 2016, how terrifying it was to be gay back then sometimes.1, 2 How lonely. I'm approximately Venus' age, and in 1990 I couldn't have imagined there even being a place I could have gone where people could know I was gay and like me anyway. Where people would look out for me like family. So, when I watch that video, I'm slightly jealous, on the one hand, and on the other, I just ache to protect Venus. So tiny, so fragile, so sweet.

Which means that the ending, where you find out that she died shortly after her part had been filmed, and in a particularly ugly and horrible way,3 it hits you like a truck.

I didn't actually know her. Documentaries are shaped and framed to make people look one way or another way. I might not actually have liked her; she might not have liked me either. Who knows. But her story is tragic all the same, and while acceptance of gays is a lot further along in 2016 than it was in 1988, when Venus died, acceptance of transgendered men and women has barely begun to shift, in the last 10 years or so. And while it's appalling how comfortable Americans are with seeing one another killed, period, it's especially appalling that the justifications are so often explicitly bigoted.

After saying all that, I realize there's some mood whiplash in switching to talking about an Anthurium seedling, and even more whiplash involved when it's not even a particularly good seedling.4 But the seedling's the reason we're here, so let's just do the pictures:

Boring color, thrips damage, no reason to keep. A pretty typical seedling from the BF group.

I hope the next Venus Xtravaganza seedling will be more worthy of the name.


1 Though Venus was transgendered, not gay, some of the others in the documentary identified as gay. They're very different things, but in 1990, when Paris is Burning was made, not many people bothered to make the distinction.
2 One of the startling things about watching Six Feet Under for the first time, in 2014, was recognizing myself in David's whole first-season dilemma about where to be out and where not to, the constant worry about what would happen if someone found out, and so on. Living where and when I do, I don't really worry about being out of the closet, even with people I don't know very well: there just aren't that many dangers anymore. But Six Feet Under started in 2001, and watching those first few episodes brought it all roaring back -- I started a new job in the middle of 2001, and spent a tremendous amount of time trying to decide who I could trust and who I couldn't, worrying about whether it would be a big deal or not, talking to friends in other states on the phone about whether to do it or not. It was intensely preoccupying, not to mention that it distorted my relationships with co-workers and casual acquaintances in ways which were probably not helpful.
3 I won't describe it here, but it's not hard to find out. Pretty much anything you read about her mentions it at some point or another. And violence against transgendered people is still appallingly common, as Wikipedia attests.
4 Just a reminder: the names are assigned well before I have any idea what the blooms will look like. Having one's name associated with a good or bad seedling is entirely the luck of the draw, and unless there's some compelling reason to keep a bad seedling around (e.g. unusual spathe color), I recycle the names.
The least lucky name so far is "Dawn Kekong," who's died five times -- 0102, 0315, 0664, 1054, and 1696. The name will come up again somewhere around seedling 2500, if I keep going that long.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum Magical Contrasts

I'm bothered by this photo because of the odd-shaped brown thing just below and to the right of the flower. What is it? Why is it there? Why didn't I notice it at the time?

Magical Contrasts is another Lehua orchid, though they appear to have taken the page down from their website at some point between March and October. It used to read:
Classic sukhakulii shape and many with very dark petals. We used the Magic Pulsar to try to enlarge the sukhakulii pouch. It did not work, most have the classic pointed pouch. Not the greatest form on the one we photographed, but what color. This one has already been bred with!
I think this was the darkest Paphiopedilum from the 2016 show, though not the darkest one I've ever seen -- that would be Paphiopedilum sukhakulii x (Black Cherry x sukhakulii) from 2015. They're pretty similar to one another, save for the top ("dorsal") sepal, which is tan and black striped there and purple/purple here.

Paphiopedilum Magical Contrasts = Paphiopedilum Love Song x Paphiopedilum Magic Pulsar (Ref; the Lehua page had it more specifically as Paphiopedilum Love Song 'Contrasts' x Paphiopedilum Magic Pulsar "The Schnoz.")

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Anthurium no. 0045 "Lineysha Sparx"

Not that much to talk about, with Lineysha. She's a bit larger than the recent new flowers have been, I guess, and although red/white isn't a new color combination, she does it reasonably well.

The leaves are better than average, too.

The only notable thing I can think of about Lineysha is that she's the only blooming seedling to have 'Pandola' as her seed parent. There are a few seedlings I suspect have 'Pandola' as a pollen parent (particularly 0276 Zach Religious), but I can only be sure about Lineysha.

So. Lineysha's probably a keeper, but she's not likely to move up to a 6-inch pot anytime soon.

Not really any other news to share at the moment, though the Schlumbergera seedlings are still budding up just like they're supposed to, including three seedlings of the NOID magenta (180, 182, and 193) and two of the NOID white (119 and 281).

Friday, October 14, 2016

Anthurium no. 0791 "Joslyn Fox"

As I write this (11 October), the only new Anthurium blooms to write about are Joslyn (the subject of this post) and 0045 Lineysha Sparx, who I'll post about on Sunday. I still have some first-time buds in progress,1 but if the past is any guide, some of them will abort their blooms, or need to be discarded, before a bloom actually happens, and only two of them appear at all close to opening at the moment, so it'll be a while before they can get posts.2

So the post frequency is about to slow down again. I have a few non-Anthurium things I can write about, including an update on the Polyscias seedlings (spoiler: of the original 11 seedlings, only 9 remain alive, and only 4 or 5 of those are still looking good and doing well), but until the Schlumbergeras start doing their Schlumbergery thing, things are likely to be a bit quieter here than they have been.

So let's take a look at Joslyn.

Top left: 9 September 2016.
Top right: 11 September 2016.
Bottom left: 17 September 2016.
Bottom right: 22 September 2016.

Deciding how to record Joslyn's bloom color has been tough; depending on the lighting, and the age of the inflorescence, the spathe reads as pink, light coral, or peach. And the spadix substantially shifts in color with age, from a light orange-pink initially, to orange and then pink. Sometimes it looks really interesting and like a distinctly new color combination, and other times it's just another in a long line of pink/pinks.

Joslyn's one of 0200 Mario Speedwagon's kids; I was hoping for purple blooms. So she might or might not be interesting, but either way she's a little disappointing.3

Nothing especially remarkable about the leaves.

The plant as a whole is more or less average, given her age. One sucker, maybe two.

Probably a keeper overall, because even if Joslyn isn't that impressive, she's still a little bit different, and there are probably some useful genes in there somewhere. But if she happens to come down with a terrible case of scale or something and I have to discard her, I'm not going to feel terrible about it.


1 0407 Maria D'Millionaire; 0434 Irene Staldwindos (maybe; I think Irene aborted her bud already); 0446 Venus Xtravaganza; 0758 Miles Long, Esquire; 0765 Hope Leeze; 0789 Marsha P. Johnson; 0802 Dana International; 0811 Alma Children; 0892 Eddie Izzard; 0929 Asia Persuasia; 1095 Carolina Pineforest; 1145 Jimmy James; and 1211 Gina Marie Rittale.
0802 Dana International is of particular interest: she's a seedling of 0200 Mario Speedwagon, one of my few purple-blooming seedlings, and looks like she's (maybe) going to produce a purple bloom as well.
2 0446 Venus Xtravaganza is open just enough that I can see the spadix, but it's not clear whether she's going to open the spathe further. So I'm holding off on scheduling a post until I can be sure that the photos are as good as they're going to get.
0765 Hope Leeze is also really close right now, but has been really close for what feels like months already. I don't know whether it's actually been months, or just feels like it, because the election has completely ruined my sense of time.
I swear it feels like the election started 700 years ago. And I'm literally counting the seconds until it's over,

though it's not like things will be normal again after the election is done. I'm afraid we're going to be feeling this one for years.
3 Purple genes appear to be at least somewhat recessive. Only 3 in 10 seedlings of the NOID purple have been purple, and only 1 of the 7 known grand-seedlings have been purple (and that one's questionable, since it's based on a bud which hasn't opened yet).

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Pretty picture: Vandachostylis Lou Sneary 'Bluebird'

We've seen Lou Sneary once before, in 2015, and it photographed so poorly that I didn't want to give it a blog post to itself. Bad as that photo was, I think the 2016 is even worse.

I mean, it's enough to get the idea. And the plant in 2015 was unusually yellow, so at least the 2016 foliage is an improvement. But my camera is just not able to figure out where to focus with such a three-dimensional bloom spike.

I also have an issue with calling it 'Bluebird,' but you could probably have guessed that without me telling you.

Vandachostylis Lou Sneary = Vanda falcata x Rhynchostylis coelestis (Ref.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Anthurium no. 0426 "Zelda Zizzle"

Zelda's a frustrating one. It must be something with the (fluorescent) lighting in the basement,1 because I swear she's much more interesting down there than she is upstairs. In the harsh light of day, though, her blooms are merely pink / yellow, with a lot of thrips damage. Hard to get excited about.

On the other hand, Zelda's got more interestingly-shaped leaves than most; the normal heart shape is still present, but the lobes of the heart are so small that they're barely there at all, making the overall leaf shape all but triangular. I mean, I'm not going to go so far as to say that it's necessarily attractive, but it's certainly different.

The leaves don't have a lot of scarring,2 which I guess is a plus. I don't know. If foliage were the only consideration, I'd keep Zelda; as it is, though, I'm not sure.

So I'm going to punt, and delay the decision about what to do with Zelda until later. The smart money is probably on her getting dumped, though. I mean, it'd have to be a hell of a second bloom.


1 In the process of switching to some LEDs. The LEDs are brighter, and supposedly use less energy than the fluorescents I'm phasing out do, but I've recently discovered that both LEDs and fluorescents cause heat problems.
The fluorescent bulbs will actually leave scorch marks on Anthurium leaves that happen to flop into direct contact with them, which is bad, and was part of the reason I wanted to switch to something else. However, the top of the fluorescent fixtures stays slightly above room temperature, close enough that I don't have to worry about placing plants on a shelf directly above them.
The LEDs are the opposite: the bottom surface, that's potentially in direct contact with the leaves, is room temperature, not warm at all, but the tops are actually kind of hot, enough that plants directly above them dry out a lot faster than they used to. I'm also a little concerned about what this means for the energy efficiency, because I find it hard to believe that the LEDs can be converting that much electricity to heat and still somehow be more energy-efficient than the fluorescents were. Plus, there's the possibility that I may have to keep some fans going in the basement all the time, to keep the heat from building up too much above the LEDs, and running fans 24/7 could well negate whatever energy savings I'm getting from the LEDs. Though I'm also getting more light per fixture, which I like. So it's all very complicated.
2 I'm often kind of confused when this happens, when the spathe is all chewed-up but the leaves are fine or vice versa. I think often it's a matter of when the thrips happened to find the specific plant in question: if they arrived late, then the leaves will be fine and the spathes will be a mess. But sometimes it might also be a matter of the thrips finding one easier to attack than the other.