26 February 2008

Seed in the news

Why, amid the self-congratulation suffusing media accounts of the global seed bank in Svalbard, does it require a "radical" NGO to point out the problem? You don't get a prize for destroying the world's crop diversity, then saving a tiny sample in the freezer.

20 February 2008


Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor

Now that it's started raining again, I can report that while it was sunny, Bulbinella latifolia and this Lachenalia rushed into bloom along with the crocus I mentioned. By the way, I have been castigated for not using common names, but does it really help you to know that the Lachenalia is called a "cape cowslip"? The Bulbinella doesn't even have a common name, as far as I know... When I started this, I didn't know shit about plants, so I made a point of learning their real names to be sure what I was talking about. But so many plants that grow here either have no common name, or a fake common name, or a common name that is meaningless to those of us who live continents away from its habitat, that it wouldn't make sense to use them even if I wanted to.

Anyway, the sun allowed me to inspect my seeds further. No sign of life yet from the Fritillaria recurva, but I haven't quite given up hope yet -- there are a few sign of life in the long-abandoned Penstemon grahamii pot, of all places; probably weeds, but you never know. And much to my surprise, I successfully germinated Castilleja applegatei var. pinetorum: common, nay, vulgar name "indian paintbrush" (and unlike I. niamniamensis, it memorializes nothing but stupidity). The hard part is apparently not germination (not if I can do it), but getting them to grow: it is a hemiparasite. No one knows what the host species is (are?).

All Castillejas are parasites by the way. They've been transferred from the Schrophuliariaceae to Orobanchaceae. Commonly called, as those of you who profess to value such names will be dismayed to learn, "the broom rape family."

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06 February 2008

Naivete, i.e., stupidity

After 11 or so days of continuous rain, the sun came out the other day, and I remembered I had a garden. I went out to see what happened and found this tiny crocus in the "meadow" (=lawn that I stopped weeding or watering). I thought this one would look cute with the delicate blues and orange stamens of C. sativus / cartwrightianus.

And it would be a cute combination, if Crocus gargaricus bloomed in the fall like the others.

In it's native... Turkey? this Crocus apparently blanket fields in its inimitable gold, creating quite a spectacle. Good thing I bought 3 of them!

Another surprise was a profusion of flowers on an Impatiens nyungwensis that had done nothing since I planted it months ago. Makes up for losing the I. niamniamensis, presumably to cold. It wanted too much water anyway.

The excitement of last year's alliums finally germinating was similarly tempered by the failure of my Fritillaria recurva to do anything. (You'll recall I bought seeds from four different populations last year, and had [vain]glorious visions of breeding the ultimate frit). I haven't completely given up yet, but I'm getting seriously worried. They must have dried out too much over the summer. The prospect of starting over is discouraging.

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