Wednesday, November 27, 2019

More Germination of Annuals

We had some welcome rain on November 20. I had been waiting for this, and I had quite a few annual seeds to spread around, including Lupinus succulentus, Layia platyglossa, Collinsia heterophylla, and several others. In addition, there were lots of seeds in the soil from annuals I have grown the past few years. As I write this, rain is coming down again, giving us hope for a flowery spring.

I posted previously about germination resulting from my watering of some areas, but after last week's rain they are coming up everywhere. I'm not real good at identifying seedlings, but I'm working on it. This first one I've decided is Clarkia unguiculata.

I'm guessing these are cotyledons because they do not resemble the adult leaves. In the area that I watered before, the plants have grown enough to tell what they are (below) . Also, they are growing so densely that I'm going to have to thin them. This plant gets pretty large for an annual.

The next one is miner's lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata. I have learned to recognize this one at its very early stages because I've had it for more than 5 years.

The next two are mysteries to me. The seedlings in the first photo could be from the seeds I recently bought or they could be Sidalcea malviflora that I grew here last year.

The next one is the bigger mystery. The cotyledons look like a Fabaceae, but I don't recall buying any Fab seeds. The other possibility is Asclepias eriocarpa which I collected from the Mojave desert a couple of years ago. I just don't know if this is what Asclepias seedlings look like. It will be fun to see what they turn into.

Lastly, an Isocoma menziesii decided to bloom this week. I have several of these and all the rest are going dormant, but this one isn't ready to go to sleep yet.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Constancea nevinii

In the Channel Islands section of my garden, Constancea nevinii is blooming right now. The common name is Nevin's woolly sunflower. This seems an unusual time for it to bloom since it had bloomed in the spring and I haven't watered it since then.

This member of the Asteraceae (aster or sunflower family) is native only to the Channel islands. Since my garden is pretty close to the beach, the environment in my garden is a good approximation of the island setting. The plant quite clearly likes where I have planted it among other Channel Islands species such as Leptosyne gigantea and Dendromecon harfordii. Starting as a one-gallon container, it has now taken over all the space that I will allow it to. In the photo below you see it underneath a very large Santa Cruz Island ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus asplenifolius).

Here's a better look at the beautiful, lacy foliage and the seed heads from the spring bloom.

The California Native Plant Society gives it a ranking of 1B.3 which means very rare in the wild. However, it is commonly available at native plant nurseries. I find it to be easy to grow and relatively drought tolerant at the coast. I don't know how it would perform in warmer inland locations.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Mammillaria in Fruit

One of the things I have been interested in lately is the timing of flowering and fruiting of M. dioica. I have blogged before about this cactus in my garden. I gave it some water in late September or early October, and it flowered by October 16. On Nov. 8 I first noticed that it had produced two fruit. Here's that photo:

Today it has 5 fruit and the last of the flowers is finishing up.

Based on this extremely small sample, it appears that M. dioica growing on the coast can bloom within 2-4 weeks after receiving water. It then goes to fruit 3-6 weeks after that.

I believe that this is quite different from tetrancistra which can delay fruiting for several months. Dioica in the desert may also behave differently. My next question is whether these fruit have viable seeds. If there are seeds, how easily do they germinate?

Friday, November 8, 2019

Baja Succulents Going Through Some Changes

Three of my Baja plants recently experienced some changes in their status. Two of these were very good changes. One remains to be seen.

The first one is coast hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus maritimus maritimus) that has decided to bloom in November. I have seen this plant in the wild on Punta Banda just south of Ensenada, and it was blooming profusely. But flowering is a rare event for the one in my garden, so I'm super excited about it.

The Echinocereus genus is commonly called hedgehog cactus because of its resemblance to the small, shy, spiny European mammal. There are six taxa of Echinocereus native to California, all from the interior deserts. In contrast, maritimus is found only along the coast from Ensenada southward. The wild plants I've seen were large mounds, not very tall but 3-6 ft. in diameter. Rebman and Roberts say that it prefers sea air and sedimentary soils, both of which I have, so it appears to be very happy. I've had this plant 20+years. It started as a single stem. It now has 22 stems, so it has added a stem per year, on average. Maritimus is the only species of Echinocereus in Baja that produces a yellow flower, and mine has probably bloomed 5-10 times since I've had it. I don't know what its pollinator is, and I don't think I have ever seen mine produce fruit. Maybe it will flower more often now that it has reached a more mature size.

The second plant that is changing is Dudleya candida. This lovely succulent is endemic to the Coronados Islands, just south of the border, and I have had a couple of them for about 10 years. I've never been to the Coronados, so I've never seen candida in the wild. Like the Echincereus, it seems quite happy in my garden. In fact, I have them planted almost side-by-side. The change that is happening now is a new rosette emerging right at the base of the Echinocereus.

This is the second time my D. candida have produced offspring (see my post of Sept. 29), and I don't know whether these babies are coming from seed or sprouting from the roots. I know that Dudleyas can produce pups around their base, but my two babies are several inches away from the base of the mother plants, so I'm inclined to think they are seedlings. In either case, it's a great sign whenever a plant is able to reproduce.

The third plant of this Baja trilogy is Dudleya pachyphytum. It is endemic to Cedros Island which is much further south. I have never been there either, but I was attracted to the somewhat unusual leaf morphology of this plant. The leaves are quite plump for a Dudleya. The prefix "pachy" refers to elephants, so one could say the leaves are elephantine. Of course, they swell and shrink depending on how much moisture is available to them.

I've had this one for somewhat less than 10 years. It has been growing happily in a pot, but recently the larger of its two stems broke off. This happens with some succulents, and it is often possible to get the broken off stem to re-root by laying it on the soil and leaving it undisturbed for awhile. So I'm going to try that and see if it works. The stem is also swollen, like a caudex, as you can see in the photo below.

I did this successfully once before with a Cochemia poselgeri, another Baja cactus. Stems break off this species quite easily. When I accidentally broke one, I just laid it back on the soil and it eventually re-rooted. In the photo below, the large stem on the right is the one that broke off and re-rooted. So I'm optimistic about the pachyphytum.

Apparently these Dudleya species have become very popular in Asia, and poachers have been stealing them from Cedros Island and other places. Here's a link to an article about the problem.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Most Unusual Plant

My garden is arranged in geographic sections. One of those sections is devoted to plants of the Channel Islands, primarily Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Catalina. These island plants are interesting for several reasons. They tend to be a bit more garden-friendly, especially for coastal gardens, because they are more tolerant of supplemental water. Some island plants are exactly the same as their mainland counterparts. Other species have evolved differences from mainland ancestors as a result of their isolation. Still others are truly unique and have no close cousins on the mainland.

On a personal level, I grew up in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties where I was able to see the islands often. As an adult I had the opportunity to visit Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands several times. One of the plants I got to know on Anacapa Island was Leptosyne (formerly Coreopsis) gigantea. It's a member of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family, but a really odd one, primarily due to its main stem which is a stout, succulent (not woody) trunk up to 6 ft. high and 3-5 in. in diameter. The trunk can go straight up like the one in the photo, or it could slump to the ground or even twist itself around in a curl. The trunk serves as water storage. A few branches may be produced near the top.

Leaves are produced in a tight cluster at the stem tip. In summer they dry out and hang limply like shaggy hair, as shown above. The next photo shows new leaves emerging right now.

The inflorescence is the typical sunflower type of both disk and ray flowers. The photo below shows a dry seed head. Lots of seeds are produced and they germinate readily, typical of Asteraceae.

The trunks of tall plants like the one in the first photo can break easily, in which case they will sometimes sprout from the top of the stump.

This species grows wild in only one spot on the mainland, on coastal bluffs in the Pt. Mugu part of Ventura County. However, Caltrans has used it in seed mixes for freeway slopes in various spots, so it may be seen in unlikely locations. Thus, it is not native to Encinitas or even San Diego County, but it is doing well in my garden and it is a foundation of the Channel Islands theme.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


In general, I prefer species to hybrids for my garden. I want native southern California plants which to me means the species, subspecies or variety that is found in the wild. There are tons of hybrid manzanitas, Ceanothus, Salvia and others. I'm not saying they are terrible. I just prefer the straight species.

However, there is one genus where I think a hybrid is truly superior for the garden, and that is Trichostema. There are several species found in southern and central California. A species that is native to the coast and foothills from Baja to San Francisco and is commonly available in the nursery trade is lanatum.  It has beautiful flowers and a great fragrance because it is in the mint family. The flowers range in color from deep blue to lavender. The new buds are very furry and look fantastic. The foliage is deep green. The downside is that it has a reputation for being short-lived and tricky to grow, and I have found that to be true.

There is a hybrid that has been around for a few years that is a cross between lanatum and purpusii. The latter is from central Mexico. Despite being somewhat rare in the wild, it has a reputation for being easy to grow, especially in terms of tolerating summer water. Its flower color is pink, but the cross has a true blue flower. It lacks the furry buds of lanatum but is still a very attractive flower.

Last year I bought one from Moosa Creek Nursery to give it a try, and it has performed well. It's in a bed with some Diplacus sp. with both red and yellow flowers, making a nice color combo. We were gone for 2 months this summer. When we got home the Trichostema looked dead, but I didn't give up on it. With some water in mid-August it came right back and is flowering now. I still love T. lanatum but I'm not going to waster any more time and money trying to grow it when this hybrid is so much easier.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Bee Plant

One of the plants I see fairly often when hiking is Scrophularia californica, commonly known as bee plant. I usually see it growing at the base of a really large boulder. It is found along the coast from Baja to Oregon, as well as the Coast Ranges and the Sierras, in woodlands and chaparral.

I have one in my garden on the north side of the house where it is mostly shaded and the soil is more moist. I don't have a big rock on it which is maybe something I should fix. Even without a rock it survived the summer without any water when we were gone for two months. I take that as a good sign.

Scrophularia has a very odd little flower. As the common name says, it is attractive to bees. Honey bees and bumble bees are probably too big to fit into the flower, so small solitary bees are best suited to serve as pollinator. Hummingbirds will also visit it. The photo below shows the size of the flower in comparison with my fingers.

The foliage looks like this.

Calflora says it blooms from February through May, but mine is blooming now in October.  One source I read says it spreads by rhizomes and seeds. I haven't seen this yet but I hope it spreads as much as it likes.