Wordless Wednesday: Succulents at Sugar Mill Gardens, 3/12/14

The Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens are located among the ruins of the Dunlawton Sugar Plantation in Volusia County.

Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens Entrance, 3/8/14

Various nature trails wind beneath ancient oaks, passing collections of ferns, orchids and succulents along the way :)    Note: Click the next 2 images for a bigger, better look!

Succulent Collection, Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens, 3/8/14

Succulent Collection at Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens, 3/8/14

For other Wordless Wednesday submissions, click on the Zemanta related links below. Curious about this meme in general?  Read about its founder at The Jenny Evolution.

Until next time….

:) :) :)

(all photos, Maggie Mulhern, 3/8/14)

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Spineless Yucca, aka Yucca gigantea

In January 2010, I rescued two discarded Spineless Yucca cuttings from the floor of my local Target Garden Center. When I got home, I planted one directly into the newly prepared  Ranchero, and placed the other in a container. Four years later, the in-ground specimen has totally taken off!

Yucca gigantea , 4yrs old and 7' tall, 1/22/14

When planted outdoors, Spineless Yucca (aka Y. gigantea) becomes a very large 30′ tree with stiff, blade-like leaves growing from a central axis.  The trunk is thick and woody, and at maturity shows marked base swelling, similar to it’s relative, the Pony-tail palm.

Yucca gigantea trunk, 1/22/14Yucca gigantea makes an excellent atrium or houseplant when placed within 3-5′ of windows with a southern exposure.  Keep in mind :arrow: the size of the container determines the size of your plant.

Yucca gigantea, container grown, 4yrs old and 30" tall, 1/22/14

Yuccas placed in 10-17″ pots will top out between 4-8′ tall. The 4 yr old plant above–in its original 12″ container–is currently 30″ tall, less than half the size of its 7′ Ranchero counterpart!

A word about flowers :arrow: during spring/summer, a 2-3′ inflorescence of white flowers appears above the foliage but only AFTER the plant is 8′ tall…Obviously, mine have a way to go yet! The edible blooms are high in calcium and potassium and considered quite tasty if used in salads. (will let you know, if this ever happens! ;) )

Like many other plants, Spineless Yucca has recently undergone a scientific name change.   As of 3/23/12, the accepted name became Yucca gigantea with Y. guatemalensis and Y. elephantipes considered synonyms.  If you go looking for it in garden stores or nurseries, you may find it listed as all three!

Until next time….

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Kalanchoe (Bryophyllum?) Pinnata

Kalanchoe pinnata is a succulent perennial that grows 4-6 feet tall on hollow stems. It has bright green leaves comprised of 3-5 leaflets with distinctively scalloped dark maroon margins.Bryophyllum pinnata, 12/2/13

The number of leaflets present varies from one (simple) near the base of the stem to two or more (compound) as the plant grows.

Bryophyllum pinnata compound leaflets, 11/05/13

When more than one leaflet is present, the one at the tip is significantly larger than the others, as seen in the next image:

Bryophyllum pinnata, 11/05/13

Although I’ve been calling this succulent a Kalanchoe,  Bryophyllum appears to be the current taxonomy based on several characteristics: (1) formation of plantlets in the leaf notches AFTER the leaf falls from the stem (2) the presence of pendulous flowers, (3) origins in Madagascar.

In contrast, species classified in the Kalanchoe group originate from a larger geographic range, have upright-facing flowers and produce plantlets along the margins of leaves still attached to the mother plant.  Of course all of this could change because numerous species don’t fit neatly in either category, and taxonomy has a way of updating with each new DNA analysis. :eek:

But for now, let’s take a look at the traits that made K. pinnata the Bryophyllum she is today :arrow: pendent flowers opening from short, lateral branches on tall, chandelier-like stalks.

Bryophyllum pinnata blooming, 12/02/13

The individual blooms are 1″ long and tubular shaped, emerging pinkish-green and deepening to red before drying on the stalk as a pale, papery brown. .

Bryophyllum pinnata flower, 12/02/13

When pinnata drops a leaflet, it goes into survival mode: bulbils (plantlets) begin growing along the leaf notches.

Bryophyllum pinnata leaf with bulbil, 12/02/13

As you might imagine, this form of propagation can be mighty invasive!  Good thing I like these burgeoning renamed kalanchoes! :) I’m surrounded! ;)

Bryophyllum pinnata flower close up, 12/02/13

Until next time…….. :) :) :)


When succulents see red!

Chlorophyll is responsible for the green we see in plants, but what causes the red?  In times of seasonal change, plants reveal pigments that are otherwise hidden, and anthocyanin is one of these. In Florida, as the days get shorter and overnight temperatures drop, sugars accumulate in the plants’ leaf tissue.  This kicks off a storm of anthocyanin production and many of my tropicals are seeing red! ;)


The Kalanchoe luciae (above) is particularly vibrant. The offset (in the pot’s foreground) illustrates this succulent’s typical chalky green-ness, visible 9 months of the year.

The Euphorbia Tirucalli (below) has been slower to brighten due to living on the back patio under partial shade. Placed in full sun during the change of seasons, these succulents are known to turn a deep, bright orange.


Bromeliads produce anthocyanin as a natural sunblocking response.  The deep pink splotches on the neoregelia below, protect the plant’s DNA from damaging UV radiation.


The presence of red leaf margins is a good indication a succulent will undergo color changes.  The Agave guiengola is a great example of this trait!

Agave Guiengola, 12/01/12

In the Ranchero garden live some of my best loved species, acquired in crazy ways. One day, I admired a plant in a garden adjacent to a yardsale..the homeowner overheard me and gave me a little teeny (variegated green) cutting of Pedilanthus tithymaloides. Fast forward two years and this euphorbia is MUCH bigger…and seeing red…well…ok… pink, really ;)

Pedilanthus Tithymaloides Variegatus (zigzgag plant) 12/02/12

Now we’ve come full circle: this post started with a Kalanchoe and so too, ends with one :!:


K. Gastonis Bonnieri may be one of the most stunning kalanchoes, ever!  Right now, my yard has several in full bloom AND coloration.  Note how the plants along the perimeter experience the full anthocyanin response, while the more protected ones behind them do not.

For a well written, layman’s term explanation of the science behind this post, I recommend this link.

Until next time…….

:) :) :)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

I initially read this week’s challenge incorrectly: I thought the topic was URBAN renewal :roll: which would have been a problem.  Regular (garden variety? ha!) renewal….not so much!  THAT I’ve got on “lockdown”–to coin a phase from today’s young ‘uns!!

Take a look. :)

In the case of this Crimson Rambler morning glory

….renewal happened overnight:

Next, a Madagascar Palm transplanted last winter

Madagascar Palm, 11/16/12

…has color changes showing renewal of at least 1/3 of its body.

And then there’s the Dracaena Deremensis Warneckii I accidentally damaged….

Dracaena Deremensis Warneckei, 11/11/12

I needn’t have worried; it practices self renewal, the same way an Aloe Ciliaris does:

Aloe Ciliaris 11/11/12

This last photo illustrates my all-time-favorite renewal process, common to all kalanchoes.

Kalanchoe Daigremontiana 11/15/12The Mother of Thousands plant ( aka Kalanchoe Daigremontiana) renews along the leaf margins, dropping hundreds of tiny clones to sow and grow beneath her!

So there you have it, renewal in spades!  Please forgive the garden puns, I just can’t resist! They make me :) and break into dance…Happy Dance!

And THAT renews my soul!

Until next time….

:) :)

Wild Poinsettia amid Mothers of Thousands

Beachside Succulents

Sunday is typically my “beach” day:

Jaycee Beach, Vero Beach, Oct. 7, 2012

On days when it’s only partly sunny, I walk the beach in search of conch shells (rarely find any!!) and interesting flora (always do! :) )  Today I ran across a colorful swatch of sea purslane at the base of a boardwalk staircase:
Sea Purslane aka Sesuvium portulacastrum

Also known as Sesuvium portulacastrum, this beachside succulent has edible leaves high in Vitamin C.  The reddish stems grow from 8 to 18″ and they too can be eaten.    In Asia, sea purslane is grown as a vegetable and sold in markets…For the record, I nibbled one VERY briefly today :arrow: it gives new meaning to the phrase “too much salt!”

This “acquired taste” ;) spreads along (and under) the sand by roots that grow from joints along its 6′ length.  In this way, it acts as a sand stabilizer for our erosion-prone Florida beaches.  Interesting fact: an hour south of here, sea purslane is a year round bloomer. Here, we see the plant’s solitary, pink, star-shaped flower from July thrrough October, although this clump had none in evidence.

Between the boardwalk and parking area, a stand of Kalanchoe Daigremontiana was hiding an interesting wildflower:

Wild poinsettia aka Poinsettia cyathophora

This native plant is Poinsettia cyathophora, a relative of the commercial Mexican Poinsettias, and member of the Euphorbia family; interesting bloodline! :)  Like its Christmas cousins, this succulent is considered poisonous and bleeds the same milky sap if broken along the stemline.

P. cyathophora germinates over a wide range of temperatures, soil conditions and ph-levels, and emerges year-round throughout the state. Cotton and peanut farmers find this plant a weedy nuisance, as it impinges their fields and crowds their crops.  Ironically the opposite seems to be true in my pictures, especially the one in the header which you can see fullsize here!  If not for the bright orange upper bracts, I’d have missed this specimen entirely!

While researching the wild poinsettia, I found a wonderful nature art journal by a blogger whose Wild Poinsettia illustration blows my pictures out of the water (so to speak!)  If you haven’t already clicked her hyperlinks, I highly recommend you do it now!

Until next time……


Orchids and Succulents in the September Garden.

September is an odd month in So. Florida gardens. By late summer, most hardy perennials are calling “Time-Out” from brutal sun and tropical downpours, yet the jungle species are gearing up and raring to go :arrow: Intense heat and convective rains make VERY happy orchids :)

Brassia Maculata, Sept. 6, 2012

Brassia Maculata, Fully Opened on Sept. 6, 2012

Remember Lila Mystique, the Winn-Dixie orchid with the strange blue dye-job?  Her second spike has produced pure white flowers:

White Phalaenopsis flower buds, Sept 2012

Lila lost her “mystique” and turned ghostly pale! ;)

Like the orchids, my garden succulents are in peak form now, too!

The Portulacaria Afra (aka Elephant Bush/Dwarf Jade) seen on the diagonal in the above picture, has totally taken off!!  In July, I removed it from its original 3″ pot and planted it in the Ranchero: what began as a slightly wizened, T-shaped, 4 inch branch is now plump, multi-stalked and spreading. If this South African native reaches full height, perhaps I’ll try my hand at Bonsai sculpting. :roll: or maybe I’ll just make zillions of cuttings!

Aloe Juvenna is another African plant that’s doubled in size and spread via offsets since mid summer:

Aloe Juvenna with offsets

This profusely “pupping” aloe is used as groundcover in Kenya

I was really impressed with A. juvenna’s bright green leaves, and the lighter green spots that appear both inside and out.  Lowes sold these two-per-6″pot, which i split immediately and planted at seperate ends of the Ranchero. The one in the picture receives better sun exposure and has produced 7 pups.  When mature, it should send up a tall spike bearing bright coral-to-red flowers.

Aloe Ciliaris was one of the first plants I purchased when starting my gardens in 2010. Like the Cannas, they’ve done TOO well! ;). I’ve been digging them up and giving them away, like so:

Aloe Ciliaris. Sept 2012

Can I come live at your house? :)

I didn’t realize I’d bought the fastest climbing aloe in the world….or that it might reach a height of 32ft. (though I doubt it will get that tall here!) The mistakes you make when you’re new, yeah?

Aloe Ciliaris, Sept 2012

Little white teeth are arranged like eyelashes (cilia) on leaf bases sheathing the stems.

In its South African habitat, the serrated leaf edges and slender, pliable stalks help anchor A. Ciliaris on its climb toward the forest canopy and sunshine.  Don’t have a rainforest in your yard? ;)  No problem….propping against trellises (or a fenceline) works just fine!

I have one more succulent to share today: Brasiliopuntia Brasiliensis, the strangest “volunteer” plant in my garden, thus far:

Brazilian Prickly Pear

This cactus has a most unusual growth pattern!

Brasiliopuntias begin life as thin cylindrical “stems” resembling pencil cacti. I discovered this plant’s original “cylinder” in Dec. 2009, growing from leaf matter within the boot of a felled palm tree in our new backyard.  With zero knowledge of tropical plants, I carefully removed it and saw tiny roots…yaaaaayyyyyy!  I potted it up and was very excited by my first Florida whatever-it-was!  :)

By spring, the stem appeared to be flattening out, and a few delicate, thin, bright green pads emerged.  It was beginning to look like a cactus!

Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis stem with pads, Sept 2012

Current Cylindrical Stem and Pad Growth, Sept, 2012

In the middle of summer, little yellow dots cover the oldest pads: some fall away but others morph into little leaves that drop just shy of flowering….maybe this will change as the plant matures.

The spines are sharp, and appear almost overnight, typically on stems, but randomly along the pad edges, too. As seen in the next picture, the original stem gains mass as pads are added and the plant’s overall height increases:

Stems flatten and turn woody as Brasilopuntia matures.

The obovate segment on the bottom is this plant’s original stem.

While waiting for the bottom stem to grow strong and woody, it’s a good idea to stake this most unusual conversation piece!

Until next time!

:) :)

Sunflowers and Updates!

Remember when cultivated sunflowers were upwards of 10′ tall with only one head?  Those days are long gone!  Over the past two decades, hybridizers have altered this proud native icon in ways that make it barely recognizable!  From pollen-less plants, to shades of white or red (red!?!) today’s sunflower is anything but an average garden variety :arrow: Even if you do adequate research before buying seeds, you can still end up with unexpected results. Take a look:

American Giant Sunflower

Editted on Sept 19, 2012: While cleaning out an old email folder, I ran across the reply:

“From:Thomas Heaton ( Sent: Thu 4/05/12 11:27 PMTo: karen mulhern (

HI Karen, American Giant is single head.  Kong is branching. Tom”   So what to make of this mystery?  Perhaps Kong got mistakenly placed in the Packet?  End edit of Sept.19

Now for some happier updates!

Artichoke Leaves with Lizard

Opuntia the Greek is under here somewhere!

Madagascar Palm

“I’m very happy in my new home!”

Amaryllis Rebloom!

Yaayyy! More flowers on the way!

And now to the last picture,  because it’s been a long time since I’ve shown you the pepper plants:

Green Bell Pepper Blossom

After resting for a month, with no signs of production, the Ranchero pepper plants are once again covered in little white blooms!  This one was particularly worthy of a close-up!

Until next time…..

Enjoy Spring!   :)

Certified and Mildly Infectious!

On Tuesday,  after completing a Plant Identification Test and Overall Practicum, our class joined the ranks of  Florida’s Certified Master Gardeners!  Yaaayyyyy!

Studying for the final, in the midst of all the notes, books, charts, websites, labwork, handouts, etc., I realized they’d crammed 2 semesters of material into 12 short weeks! I’m glad this part is over :razz:  VERY intense training!

So that was Tuesday’s main event and on Wednesday, I got a HUGE surprise when I went online! had uploaded my papilio picture as their 3/28 “Good Morning”  Facebook “status” update!!  I’m still so excited by this!  Take a look :arrow: click right here!  As of right now, 625 people “Liked” it with 147 “Shares”; but what thrills me most is Hometalk putting my blog’s url in one of their comments!!!  Whoa!!

I feel so…so….mildly infectious!!!  ;)    If anyone from the Hometalk staff is reading this: {{{{{{{!Thank you!}}}}}}}

BTW, If you’ve never accessed, I recommend giving it a go: I can’t think of any other site where consumers get immediate, detailed advice from licensed tradespeople.  I’ve been part of their social media based community just shy of a year and enjoy it immensely.

In other news around the Ranchero, yesterday I re-potted a few succulents.

Yucca,  Agave, Ponytail Palm

Joining a previously transplanted soft leaf yucca (left) are an agave guiengula (middle) and a ponytail palm (right rear.)  After flowering for the past 2 months, the agave’s spike is now spent. Although some agaves die after flowering, this one is showing new growth in the rosette center, and no offsets emerging from the base, making it a perfect time to re-pot. If it starts to die/produce pups, the new offsets will have fresh, new soil.  If it remains status quo, there’s plenty of room for the roots to expand.   Win-win!

The ponytail palm’s story involves a snapdragon “volunteer” in the same container. After several gentle tugs, it was clear the interloper wasn’t coming out alive :roll: so the original pot was upended and both plants got new homes!  I can never let a dang “underdog” die!

Before I close, I’d like to share my newest flower blooms:

Amaryllis in the Ranchero

I just adore Amaryllis!  The picture above was taken last night within 30 minutes of sundown.  To give you a better view of the amaryllis at the top of the shot, I zeroed in on it this morning.  Gardens can look completely different from one time of day to the next!


Welcome to the garish Florida midday sun!  I’m sure I didn’t need to tell you this photo was taken at noon?   :)    The next one is far easier on the eyes:

I'm sure I don't need to tell you this was a noontime photo?

The golden light of sunset is by far my favorite time in the yard.  There’s something magical about the glint of sun through the trees and the outline of clouds as the sky moves toward twilight.

Until next time….

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The rain, the yard, and other things!

Although this isn’t the rainy season, it’s been intermittently gray and showery since Gardenfest.  Of course, there’s an upside to all this extra moisture: take a look at some happy vegetables:

ArtichokesThese are the artichokes we planted in mid November, which seem to be doing quite well.  Experienced Florida gardeners tried to warn me off artichokes, but I’m stubborn and wanted to give them a shot!  I opted for a Sicilian Violetta variety figuring our hot climate has enough similarity to Southern Italy’s.  Time will tell, but for today, all looks great with no diseases or pests in evidence. (I just did the Sign of the Cross for THAT’s Italian!)

Next up is Zucchini Round 2:

Zucchini Round 2

This second round of leaves (and blossoms) is faring better than the first which developed two major problems: mildew on half the foliage, and blossom end rot on half the fruit.  I increased the calcium, and am being more cognizant of how I water. Last week I ripped out the damaged section and fertilized the remainder. I’m so happy to see their appearance and vigor improving!

The rain also brought a visitor to our door….literally!

Florida Box Turtle

When I went out front yesterday I almost stepped on a Florida Box Turtle!  I’ve run across armadillos in the evenings but never a turtle in daytime!  Poor thing must’ve had a confrontation with something!  Look at this close-up of the carapace:

Damaged Carapace

"You should have seen the other guy!"

He hung around the house for most of the day, even wandering into the garage at one point!   What a random event!

After lunch today, the weather improved for an hour so I went out to check on things.   Remember the barely visible Agave spike from late January?

Agave Guiengula

Look at me now!

Not only has the spike grown wicked tall, the flowers at the terminal end are opening nicely and worthy of a close-up:

Agave Guiengula Flower Spike

While this spike is nearing it’s end, there’s another just beginning in an air plant on the other side of the yard.  Meet Tillandsia Utriculata:

Tillandsia UtriculataLast fall, this paleolithic looking epiphyte fell from an oak tree in my mother’s front yard.  This is how it looked when she gave it to me on October 13:

t. utriculata in Octoer, 2011

C'mon, lady!!! Put me back in a tree!!!

 In general, epiphytes need shade or dappled sun at the most—if left in the tropical sun, the leaves actually dehydrate and burn.  I placed it in a citrus tree and it seems to like it there, as evidenced by its continued growth and developing spike.  The spike will elongate to 15′ or more with multiple side branchlets extending 4-8″ in numerous directions!   All of this will take place over the next 3 months!  Many pictures to follow!

So there you have it….the rain, the yard, and other things…(not quite a Cowsill’s reference, but close!)

Until next time,  enjoy this sweet tune circa 1968!   :)