Tillandsia duratii

The more exotic the plant, the better I like it, so it’s no surprise I’m fascinated by Tillandsias. Thus far I’ve only grown native varieties, but when I saw this alien-looking, Bolivian relative at Gardenfest, I knew it was time to branch out. 😉

Tillandsia duratii, 3/14/14T. duratii grows wild on the Chaco Plain in South America, an area of xerophytic deciduous forests for which it is well suited.  Unlike most Tillandsias, T. duratii has an obvious leafy stem, better seen in this next picture:

Tillandsia duratii stem 3/14/14T. duratii has very distinctive, recurved lower leaves that form curlicues around convenient branches, while new leaves “climb up” from the tip to maintain sun exposure. In this way, a single specimen can sometimes blanket an entire tree!

In the next photo you’ll notice the thin, wiry roots typical of all bromeliads.  Over time, they grow into the surrounding tree bark, firmly binding epiphyte and host.

Adventitious, wiry roots, Tillandsia duratii, 3/14/14

There are two forms of T. duratii, identical except for the shape of the inflorescence. The spikes of T. duratii (my plant) are erect and tight against the rachis, while the spikes of T. duratii saxatilis are curved and spreading as seen in the picture below:

T. duratii saxitalis in bloom, 12/23/13While other Tillandsias have a tubular arrangement of petals, the flowers of both duratiis are more reminiscent of neoregelias: three open lilac flowers with white throats. It’s been said the scent of a single duratii in bloom is SO fragrant it overpowers everything else in the greenhouse!

Predicting when T. duratii will spike is akin to betting on the lottery–the odds aren’t good! I’ve read accounts of spiking anywhere between 5 and 30 years, with sometime between 12-18 being most likely!  Hopefully mine is on the lower end of the scale!  I’d like to experience it before I’m too old to care—or recognize it!! 🙂 

Until next time….

🙂 🙂 🙂


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In the Mangroves (and my 2nd Blogiversary!)

In tidal regions along the Indian River, mangrove trees form forests of varying height and density. There are 4 local species, but Rhizophora mangle (aka Red Mangrove) is the most recognizable with its long “stilt” roots arcing downward from the trunk and branches:

Rhizophora mangle, Lagoon Greenway, 11/17/13Maintaining the health of mangrove communities ensures the overall health of the surrounding ecosystem. Airborne roots from one Red Mangrove intertwine with the next to stabilize the coastline and create habitats for estuarine life.

On my latest visit, I noticed several species I’d never seen before.  The first was the Mangrove Skipper, aka Phocides pigmalion okeechobee

Phocides pigmalion okeechobee, Lagoon Greenway, 11/17/13Mangrove Skippers emerge from November to April ➡ which explains why this one looks so perfect…it just finished pupating! 🙂 Seen from above, their wingspan is approximately 2.5″ and brownish-black with iridescent blue scaling; the hindwing tapers into a small, stubby tail with a submarginal row of faint light blue spots.

If I hadn’t looked down exactly when I did, I might have missed the next species:  Southern Needleleaf Airplant aka Tillandsia setacea:

Tillandsia setacea, Lagoon Greenway, 11/17/13

T. setacea, one of our 16 native bromeliads, is commonly found in the crooks of trees. In Springtime, they send up several inflorescences with tiny violet blooms at each tip. Look toward the lefthand side of the photo and note the dry remains of one such flower.

I’m not entirely sure about the grasses in the next picture….

Possible Bushy Bluestem grass, Lagoon Greenway, 11/17/13

….but I’m leaning toward Bushy Bluestem aka Andropogon glomeratus.  Perhaps a more knowledgable reader will point me in the right direction? 🙂

And on that note, I must say a HUGE “thank you!!” to everyone who followed, commented or liked any of the 264 posts I’ve written in the past two years!!  Today marks my second blogiversary and I am so, SO appreciative!

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂

Garden Housekeeping and Summer Poinsettia Care

Lately, I’ve been digging up and re-homing my ailing in-ground plants, and pruning and repotting anything that looked “squished” in its current container.  In particular, the bromeliads were so totally potbound, “pupping” was out of the question. Look what happened within 8 days of placing this huge fingernail brom in a proper-sized pot:


See the tubular looking “baby” sprouting to the right of the bottom-most leaf?  Ample space now to go forth and multiply. 🙂

Usually by May, my Christmas Poinsettias look two months beyond proper burial. 😉  But not this year!   This one looks so good, it’s worth the effort of maintaining, yeah?


If you want your poinsettias to color up for next winter, bring them outside NOW to take advantage of the higher light levels. (They need 6-8 hrs of direct sun each day)  Fertilize  once a week ( I use 10-10-10)  At the end of July remove the growing tip and upper few leaves of each stem to induce stocky branching.  In the fall, when night temperatures fall to the 50s,  bring the plants back indoors to the sunniest window you have.  Easy right?  Yes and no…on October 1, things start to get tricky!

From the beginning of October through Thanksgiving, poinsettias need total darkness  between 5 p.m.- 8 a.m. and nighttime temps between 65-70degrees. At 8am, put them back in bright light for the entire day.  Continue your established fertilizing and watering practices until the bracts show signs of coloring up.

When the bracts show a hint of color, it’s time to stop fertilizing and go back to providing  6-8 hours of full sun (or the equivalent from high intensity lighting)  Assuming all this works, think of the money we’ll save from not buying new poinsettias! 😉

In other “housekeeping” news, Jack was here for Mother’s Day, and dug me a new garden area:


This far end of the yard is a real MESS!  The philodendron in the back corner recently fell over, (and is slowly dying) the fence is gross, and the two narrow beds on either side of the newly dug spot need some serious beautification!!!!

The goal is to replace the mitchy-matchy pavers and turn the whole area into one undulating, cohesive spot that doesn’t turn my stomach! 🙂

Obviously a work in progress, but for now it features two plumerias, one already showing signs of flowers!!


These plants were stick cuttings with NO roots when Ivana gave them to me in January. In four month’s time, they grew thick roots that dangled from the holes of a 2 gallon container when I planted them on Sunday!

Anyway, that’s how I’ve been spending my time!  Jack’s gone back to Boston, so I’ll be coming ’round your blogs again with my usual frequency!

I hope you all had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Until next time…..


🙂 🙂 🙂

Neoregelia Flowers, 4/09/13

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

This week, WordPress asks us to share pictures in which color takes center stage. No problem!  My Neoregelias are coming into bloom, and more than happy to comply!

Neoregelia, 4/6/13

Neoregelias form a group of over 50 species and hybrid varieties within the larger family of bromeliads. Their rosette shaped, strappy leaves are usually green, maroon, or red with contrasting splotches/spots/stripes. When a plant comes into bloom, it assumes a flatter shape and the colors intensify, particularly inside the center “tank”


Regardless of leaf color, neoregelia flowers are typically white or purplish-blue, opening a few at a time from a pad-like inflorescence within the center cup. Look closely at the next photo and you’ll see both structures:

Neoregelia in Bloom, 4/06/13

Two more flowers arrived this morning: 🙂   This is some serious color

Neoregelia in Bloom, 4/09/13

I’ve written a few other posts about Broms/Neos. If you’d like to learn more about dividing/repotting, read Harvesting Bromeliads.  Curious about the science behind the bloom-time color flush of the hybrid Neos below? Click this one: When Succulents See Red.

Neoregelia, 4/07/13

until next time……

🙂 🙂 🙂

The Weekly View: Tillandsia Utriculata 2/23/13

Last November,  Claire of Promenade Plantings published the first in a series of “Weekly View” posts about her allotment.  She encouraged others to join her, and I (finally!) have a suitable subject in this Tillandsia Utriculata.


Tillandsias are airplants (epiphytes) that produce whitish scales (trichomes ) on their leaves, giving them a chalky/silvery appearance.  These trichomes function as roots do in other plants, controlling the tilly’s uptake of water and nutrients.

Right now this tillandsia is wedged between branches of my orange tree but that’s not where her life begin.  I kidnapped her from some hedges along a public canal easement across the street from a house that inspired a different post!  (What a productive night that was, eh?!).  😮

Anyway….:Moving the camera a bit, you’ll notice an emerging flower spike:


Tilly infloresceneces (flower spikes) can grow 2-4″ each week, reaching 10-15′ tall at maturity.  As the inflorescence elongates, multiple side branchlets appear, growing 4-8″ in numerous directions; eventually small greenish yellow flowers bloom along the stems as seen in this photo of last year’s plant.


Sadly, the emergence of a bloom spike signals the beginning of the end for T. utriculata, who declines and dies after seeds are discharged from the flowers..

To see where this “Weekly” series is headed, here is Tilly 2012’s final photo, taken on December 22, the day I removed her from the tree.


I must confess I didn’t follow this plant’s growth too closely last year and look forward to noting what happens (and when) on this year’s go ’round!  I hope you all find it  interesting, too!

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂

Neoregelia spp

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

After yesterday’s downpour, my plants were adorned with lingering raindrops. I liked how this Passiflora belotti leaf caught the reflection of barely emerging sunlight:

Passiflora Belotti foliage

The overflowing “tank” of my Neoregelia Spectabilis  mirrored the Bauhinia tree above it: note the reflection of branches on the tank’s righthand side:

Neoregelia Spectabilis, 12/06/12

Reflection is not just physics and lightwaves; it describes behavioural elements, too ➡ hover your mouse over the picture to see what I mean! HA!

Passiflora belotti flower bud, 12/07/12

😉 😉

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…….

🙂 🙂 🙂

Mushroom Update and a Few “Firsts”

As promised, I’m back with the results of my little mushroom experiment. 🙂

Yesterday dawned incredibly muggy and overcast, with a forecast of clearing by midmorning.  Realizing I’d be at the beach and unable to take pictures at 3:30pm, I decided to change my 24hr deadline to 17hrs instead ➡ at 8:37am, this is what I saw in the bromeliad container:

Psathyrella, June 2, 2012 8:37am

Wow, yeah?  Compared to Friday afternoon, these look enormo!! They DO grow fast!

To be honest, mushrooms make me nervous:  “Poison” flashes like a neon sign in my mind’s eye whenever I see one!  I also worry about hallucinogens absorbing through my skin if I touch them…….which is absurd and proof we humans fear the things about  which we know little!!  Clearly, I needed an education in mycology, so I emailed the photos to Bill Petty, a Florida Master Gardener from Wakulla County who runs the Florida Fungi website and Facebook Page.

I was particularly curious if Bill could help with identification because there are thousands (no exageration!!)  of mushroom varieties. I also hoped he’d direct me to additional reading material, and his speedy reply exceeded expectations on both counts. This is what he wrote:

Those mushrooms in the first pic look like Psathyrella to me. These are in a group of fungi we call “LBMs” (Little Brown Mushrooms) and they are pretty difficult to identify from a photograph.  Sometimes microscopic examination of the spores (and maybe tissue) is required.  Psathyrella have inflated cells in the cap surface that catch, refract, and reflect sunlight, so if you hold a cap in sunlight and slowly move it around, you can see tiny sparkles…like itsy-bitsy diamonds!  The species may be P. candolleana, but I can’t be sure from the pic.  Many of these small mushrooms (in the family Coprinaceae) fruit and fade in a single day…sometimes melting before noon! Here’s a link to info on the genus:http://www.mushroomexpert.com/psathyrella.html

Given what he said about this variety fading within the day, I’m glad I took my picture earlier than originally planned—I might’nt have had anything to show! Checking earlier today, it’s as if they never happened–not a single bit of mushroom is visible in the pot!

All this rain has brought more than mushrooms  to the Ranchero.  Take a look at these other “firsts.”

Sansevieria in bloom!

Sansevieria in bloom!

These Sansevieria (aka Snake Plants) were among my first plantings of December, 2009. I’ve heard tell of this species blooming, but it had never seen it happen! What a fabulous scent they have, similar to my beloved northern Honeysuckle. 🙂
The next shot is of Gomphrena, the seeds of which I planted several seasons back.  I guess the rain activated them somehow?
Gomphrena haagaena

Where’ve you been hiding?!?

And remember the bromeliad with the pink flower scape from Friday’s post?  It  opened up a bit more, revealing this:
Billbergia windii in bloom

I’m not sure why it chose to flower this year and not any other! It’s been sitting in the same spot since Spring, 2010 and though it has grown several “pups” none have put up a spike before this!  Such a graceful, breathtaking plume!

And since I obviously can’t top this photo, I’ll close with a last shout of thanks to Bill of Florida Fungi!  🙂

Until next time……