Yesterday afternoon I was invited into the apartment of a fellow Parkdale resident to check out her collection of fascinating and unusual plants. The visit brought the plant junky in me out in full force. I went home conspiring to get my hands on a few of those amazing plants myself and then spent the remainder of the afternoon rearranging and caring for the gazillions of houseplants I do have. Visits to other peoples’ gardens never fail to motivate me to do better by my own plants.
Mesembs in the front window.
Erika collects alpines, Mesembs (conophytum & lithops aka living stones are examples), Gesneriads (not African violets), orchids, and euphorbias. Looking back on our conversation, I’m not completely certain that she is exclusive to those plant families. Most of her collection just seems to fall within those categories. When I asked her what inspired her collection, she replied that she has always loved diminutive plants. The perfect-sized plants for an apartment dweller.
Conophytums are a South African plant that consist of two fused leaves. That’s pretty much it. They’re some of the most simplified and reduced plants I have ever seen.
They kind of look like doughy buns. Or really cute anatomical models of the cervix. Apologies for putting that image into your head, but frankly, that’s what I see when I look at one.
Conophytum bergerii (red) and Conophytum ratum (green).
Say what? These freakish things remind me of jelly candies or those stinky jelly air fresheners everyone had in their bathrooms in the late 70s. When I was a kid, I could never help opening up the plastic cover and poking them. I REALLY wanted to poke these too but that would have been very rude. The flower (yes they do flower) comes up between the two “leaves.” I can barely distinguish where that is on the red one.
Can you believe the size of this thing? Me neither. I have not seen a euphorbia of this size before or since.
This photo was taken at the Andromeda Botanic Gardens in Bathsheba, Barbados.
Euphorbia make up a very large and diverse genus of plants, but because of the size I believe this plant may be one of the tree euphorbia (e. abyssinica, etc) that we North Americans commonly grow as houseplants. We have two in our bedroom; ailing plants that Davin bought from a corner store years ago, repotted, and nursed back to health. Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, they will never grow to be more than a tiny fraction of the size of this tree.
One of the many things I brought back from this trip (or the Barbados portion of it anyways) was a new respect and appreciation for euphorbias. Now to find myself a nice Euphorbia lactea for my collection.
Here’s an encore minus the cheesy tourist.
Here’s a plant I would love to grow at home. It’s fairly common here in Barbados. I have seen it in the ground and in white pots. I never thought I’d say this, but it really works in a white pot.
About a month ago, my friend Barry gave me a small pup-filled pot identified as Agave chrysantha; however, online searches have not brought up any descriptions that match the rust-coloured spines that my little plants feature. I’ve also checked my trusty identification book, Succulents: The Illustrated Dictionary with no luck.
The trouble is that many pup-sized agaves just don’t look like their mature counterpart. I’m going to have to separate my little pups into their own containers and let them grow up a bit before coming to any real conclusions about their parentage. I’ll get back to you on that in 2-5 years. Housebound agaves are not particularly fast growers.
In the meantime I can’t help but speculate and am beginning to think that they might in fact be younger, misidentified agave potatorum because they look a lot like my slightly older plant but with less wave in the leaves and spines. At least that’s what I hope they are — it’s a fabulous plant.
Playing plant detective is fun. I’m ready for my nerd badge.
Meanwhile, the agave bug really has come back to infect me recently. I just can’t get enough of them.
At least that is what I believe it is, but I reserve the right to be mistaken. There are so many Echeveria out there in the world… it can get a little dizzying. If you think you know what it is, please tell us in the comments.