Last summer was a sit, wait and worry, summer. The previous winter of ‘16-‘17 was a hard one here. Because my Butia capitata had been sailing through its previous nine winters, in this location, without damage, I assumed it would be OK this time, but it wasn’t. Our 12” snowfall weighted the fronds down splaying it open and no doubt allowing moisture, ice etc. to penetrate down into the trunk to the meristem, the critical tissue from which all growth in the plant begins. Last summer not one new frond emerged, an indicator that the meristem was damaged or killed. The good thing was that there was no sign of rot. The new ‘spear’ could not be pulled free….The same winter killed my Trachycarpus martianus darkening and shattering much of the fronds’ cell walls and structure in a way typical of many freeze damaged plants. Its center spear, the newly emerging fronds, pulled free. My Butia spent last summer in a kind of limbo. This last winter was much more mild. Now, finally, with the heat settling in around us, those old spears are growing again, their leaflets opening wide, while their long rachis/stems, fully extend and arch! New spears are forming still pressed tightly against the most vertical and longest of these whose leaflets you can see below just beginning to fan open. This is slower growing than the Trachys, working on opening its third frond of the year! Typically my Trachycarpus fortuneii form 15-20 fronds in a year. I’m wondering now how this lost year of growth will effect the Butia’s trunk diameter. Because of how Palms as monocots grow, I suspect that it will result in a narrowing of its ‘waist’, with a swelling back to normal above when more normal winters prevail. Continue reading
And how did your Red Banana, Ensete, do? Mine didn’t make it having left it planted outside until after Christmas. In my part of SE, December was mild, until the 26th or so, with lows just below freezing a few times. Then we were out of town a few days and it dropped into the mid- and upper 20’s. I had thought it was okay for awhile, as it pushed out a leaf while sequestered in the basement where I had belatedly moved it, but that is all that it was able to do. It’s meristem, at the base of the plant, was damaged. I did the finger test at the top of what I had left in place of the pseudostem, about 4′ of it, and the core, through which new growth should have been pushing was mushy and smelled of rot. I cut it down with my machete in a series of cuts, illustrated here, and you can see the soft brown center surrounded by what appears to be healthy tissue. It was still able to push out a few white new roots over its winter storage. Apparently, the meristem is less cold hardy than the rest of the plant. If you could smell it you’d smell strong rot!!! After 12 + years I have found this plant’s limit! The last pic shows its dismembered carcass, reminiscent of the Tibetan Sky burial ritual, to dry away its stink before I dump it in the bin!
A few days later….This was the business end of my Ensete, Red Abyssinian Banana. You can clearly see that the starch storing rhizome, modified stem tissue, 12″ in diameter, is crisp, white and healthy! I’ve split it down the center, top to bottom, through the meristem. The meristem, the site of cell division and the initiation of all top growth, is black, dead and rotting. Each leaf begins here. As new leaves form at the center, the older leaves ‘migrate’ outward forming the tightly packed ‘pseudo-stem’. This plant, my plant, was unable to initiate any new leaves and with last year’s leaf blades removed, was dead on its ’feet’. The rot would have continued to spread from the center out. New root growth is also compromised. It shares this growth pattern with other monocots much like bulbs. In others, like the woody Palms, the maturing layers of tissue around their meristems, provides some buffering from cold as they caliper up. Obviously Ensete are very limited in their ability to do this!
See my other posts on growing this plant.
Planting out your ‘winterized’ banana
My initial winter assessment
A more in depth look at the growth of Monoctos as a group
Understanding the New Phylogeny of Angiosperms, part 2
We tend to think of evolution as a historical process, something that occurred in the past which has resulted in life today, with us at the pinnacle. Humans with our opposable thumbs, our relatively high ratio of brain to body mass, our consciousness…our souls, we often argue, are the ultimate life form. We have a hard time imagining that this is not the case, that we as a species, are a part of a continuing process, that some day will fade from the Earth, as other species, more evolved and complex, develop. This is what happens to organisms over seemingly impossible long periods of time. It has happened and is still happening to plants. It won’t happen today or tomorrow and this doesn’t mean that what we are or what we do doesn’t matter…because in evolution…’everything’ matters. Continue reading
Understanding the New Phylogeny of Angiosperms, part 1
[This is the first in a series of three posts, this one on life within the cell, the second, on the evolution of plants, and the third on the New Phylogeny and Eudicots. While trying to understand the later, I found it necessary to better understand the others, what was behind this reorganization of how we look at plants. To do that requires going back in time and scale to see what we are really taking about when we consider plants and the life within them.]
I begin here with the cell. I will not spend time discussing its structure and various parts, the differences between those of plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. That has been done by many others, elsewhere. Instead I want to present here what I’ve learned about what makes the cell, its existence and life within it, so amazing, something that which should give us all pause, when we consider our own lives and what we do. When scientists ‘split hairs’ in their arguments on which group to assign a species, when they attempt to link them to their ancestors, many of which are now long extinct, to understand their relationships with other organisms, they have a purpose. They are looking much deeper into what a plant is, what constitutes life and how it evolved. Phylogeny, the science that attempts to establish relationships between different organisms, different species, to link one to the other across time, is about both the history and the continuing journey of life on this planet. It promises to tell us much about our own place as well as that of the hundred’s of thousands of other species with which we share it. Ultimately, if we choose to understand this, it will change the way we garden and our relationship with the many landscapes that cover the Earth. Our gardens are our own personal expressions, works of ‘art’, and must live within the parameters of life in effect on our little pieces of ground and the Earth. They reflect our understanding of the limits and possibilities at work here. The better that we understand this the ‘better’ our gardens will be, the more in synch they will be with life. Continue reading
I awaken and come down stairs at about 7:00 am…it’s a warm 66ºF outside. I was up late last night, until after 12:00 am, keeping the air flowing through downstairs in an attempt to cool the house. This is on the warm side for us here in the summer. On rare occasions our lows can drop to as high as the low 70’s…such temps tend to occur more frequently in more recent years when ‘heat lows’ settle in around us and we suffer through ‘heat alerts’, whenthe air stagnates and turns ‘brown’ and we can become caught in one of those cycles of days where our highs remain in the upper 90’s and low 100’s. Our all time record high of 107º, in August of 1981, was during such a cycle that I had the privilege of experiencing as I was here in Portland visiting a friend and attending my brother’s wedding. On the 6th it hit 99º. The high rose the next day to 102º, 105º on the 8th, 104º the next, 107º on the 10th, the humidity at 15%, then cooling to 97º on the 11th. I remember taking turns trying to cool ourselves, without any air conditioning, submerging in a tub of tepid bath water, Continue reading
Many gardeners are self taught and haven’t formally learned Botany, the science that helps us understand plants in a more formal, academic way, though they may be excellent ‘gardeners’ in terms of their growing of plants. Botany provides a pathway toward the understanding that many of us crave, that for others is an unwanted burden..they are happy with the doing. For them the task of learning botanical latin, binomial nomenclature and the classification system by which we organize and study the various species, understand their structure, development and common history…is of less interest. No doubt a good many fall somewhere in the middle. I have always been among the more curious ones with regards to this. Continue reading