Friday, July 31, 2009

Hail to the King, Baby

Drosera regia in cultivation in Connecticut, June 2009. Leaves about 40 cm (16 inches) long.

Drosera regia, the King Sundew, is one of the giants among carnivorous plants, apparently growing close to a meter tall in some situations. Its natural range is a small patch of mountainous terrain north of Cape Town, South Africa, and it occupies an evolutionarily isolated branch of the sundew family tree, being the only surviving representative of a very early-diverging lineage. King Sundews are uncommon in cultivation, having a reputation for being slow-growing and temperamental. These plants at the University of Connecticut were started from seed collected in Bainskloof, South Africa, and are flowering for the first time at age 4.

Drosera regia flower.

I had several individual King Sundews flowering at the same time, so I cross-pollinated them. Six weeks later, the first seed capsules have started to ripen, and it looks like pollination was successful. Even seeds are big in D. regia: about the size of poppyseed, which is gigantic by Drosera standards.

Drosera regia, ripe capsule and seeds (pencil tip for scale).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jerry Barad's 53rd Open House

Jerry Barad discusses salvaging plantlets from a favorite variegated Agave potatorum, which was in the process of dying after it flowered.

For more than half a century, Jerry and Bea Barad have been hosting an annual open house at their spectacular private collection of cacti and succulents in New Jersey. This year, the Massachusetts and Connecticut cactus clubs decided to work together to charter a bus down to Jerry's place for the big event.

Dr. Barad made a living as a gynecologist before his retirement, but in his free time he is also a serious student of succulent plants who has traveled extensively in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and the Canary Islands, and published his findings in national and international journals. His area of specialization is stapeliads (succulents in the Apocynaceae, or milkweed family), but he grows pretty much everything. Outside of stapeliads, his collections of Haworthia and Echeveria are especially impressive.

Stapeliad festival.

Stapelia vetula, which has dropped some of its milkweed-like seeds to the left of the flower.

Jerry has two greenhouses. The smaller one is devoted mainly to the Crassulaceae: Echeveria, Crassula, and other members of the stonecrop family. The larger, older greenhouse is divided into halves, with a warm section given over to stapeliads, pachypodiums and other more tropical plants, and a cooler section with cacti, Haworthia, mesembs and more.

Variegated Haworthia truncata. Nothing that a little 2, 4-D wouldn't clear up. I'm not a fan of variegates, but actually, that is impressive.

Outside of the greenhouse, the grounds are like a miniature botanical garden/zoo, with hardy cactus and succulent rockeries, koi pond, bamboo grove, orchards, sheep pasture, a giant vegetable garden and carefully tended borders with annuals and dozens of large Brugmansia (Angel's Trumpet) plants that are planted out every spring, then dug out and stored in a cool garage all winter. It must be an enormous job to take care of it all, but Jerry does have hired help.

The view from the house. The greenhouses are behind the clump of bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata?) at left.

The trip went smoothly, and I think everyone had a great day photographing plants, meeting fellow enthusiasts from all over the region, and just lounging by the pool. I'll be looking forward to visiting the Barads again some time!

Connecticut visitors Martha B., Bill B. and Ken M. between the koi pond and the swimming pool.

Echeveria and other Mexican Crassulaceae in the smaller greenhouse.

Impatiens mirabilis, a semi-succulent lithophyte (plant that grows on rocks) from tropical Southeast Asia.

Euphorbia piscidermis, a remarkable example of evolutionary convergence with the unrelated cactus genus Pelecyphora.

Me next to a giant Adenia (A. fruticosa?), which apparently grew from a piece of stem that Jerry left by the post many decades ago.