Friday, December 18, 2015

What's happening in December?

Pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.)! We have several species in two different greenhouses. These are carnivorous plants. Insects and other critters fall into the pitfall trap. Rainfall leaves a pool of water on the bottom, if critters try to climb out, the inside of the trap is covered in wax, causing the animals to fall down again. The plant secretes some enzymes to break down the animals, and some of the animal's own enzymes break down the critters after death.

 This is a flower of a plant in the cactus collection:

I've shown you what a Monstera fruit looks like. Here is the Monstera flower.  The spadix is in the middle. It contains tons of tiny flowers, that are arranged on the spadix like apartments on a high rise building. It swell over the period of a month or more to produce the Monstera fruit. Surrounding the spadix is the spathe. The spathe is a modified leaf and falls off after fertilization.

Yum! Pineapple! This little guy was drooping and fell off the plant when I gave it a nudge. I think the flower was fertilized in September. 


Thursday, November 19, 2015

All the pretty flowers.

 Helwingia! It has epiphyllous (growing from the leaves) flowers.
 Two different Hoya spp. They are vines.

 Phalaenopsis orchid.
Tea plant! Camellia sinensis. The flowers don't smell that great.

 I don't know what it is, but it's leaves have parallel veins, and it smells great!
 This is a Gnetum gnemon fruit. They are tropical evergreen gymnosperms.
 And this is a male Gnetum gnemon showing off it's naughty parts. The tree grows nearly to the roof of the greenhouse, and this is the first time it has produced an influorescence, allowing us to determine it's sex.

Friday, November 13, 2015

When it's cold and rainy outside, it's warm and humid inside.

When it's cold and rainy outside, it's warm and humid inside. Hence the proliferation of powdery mildew inside. Also, some plants are responding to the changing of the seasons, are dropping their leaves, and going into hibernation.

 A snail. I thought they were our friends, eating the leaves that fall from the canopy, but They are not wanted. I reminds me of this song I listened to as a kid (

This is another bromeliad. We have quite a collection.

It's a plant in the cactus collection. It looks like a spiny alien, and it's flowering!

 This is a red Anthurium. We also have a pink one. They are both really easy to take care of.

 This orchid has the tiniest flowers, but the fragrance of vanilla is delightful!

 I was cleaning out one of the greenhouses, and found a bag of sand, which I poured into the compost. This little skink was inside the bag. I think it could have been hibernating. I tried to pick it up, but it was awfully slippery. I'm not used to handling lizards and I was scared it would drop it's tail or bite me. I got it to climb up into my sleeve and grab my arm. I transported it outside and had to encourage it to leave, having just found a warm, dark place to hang out. After it left, it scaled the wall of Hesler like a pro!
 These starfruit (Averrhoa carambola), took months to ripen (Even in this state, they are not completely ripe, as there is still some green. However, I enjoy crisp, underipe, green pears to mealy, squishy, ripe ones). I was working late one night, got hungry, and gobbled them up. As I was leaving, I remembered the Biology 111 students were learning about different types of fruits in 3 weeks, and I felt immediately guilty that I wouldn't be able to share these fruits with them.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Flowers in October

After a month of writer's block, I'm back!

 This is the flower of an aggressive vine. I was recently told it is an Aristolochia. It's fly pollinated. You might think it smells of rotting meat, but I haven't experienced that.
 These are orchids. They only last one or two days, but flowered twice in October.
 Bouganvillea! It was interesting to see the color of the bracts change from copper to pink as the flowers matured.

 Cactus flower! The flower is really big, and so it the plant.
 This is a succulent with a really nice flower. The flower doesn't last long.
These are carnivorous plants. Several species of sundew in the back there. In the forefront is a species that just simply has sticky leaves. They are adapted to low nitrogen environments, hence they get special de-ionized water only. If you come down to see these things. Please just look. No touching.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Getting back to business...

I've been away at a conference for the past 4 days. It was cold, wet and rainy. It was nice to get back into the greenhouses where its warm. I was very surprised at how much everything grew. I found this sign on the blackboard. It made my day. Thanks UTK recycling!
I really like finding bugs in and outside of the greenhouses. On every single fennel I saw yesterday, I saw this caterpillar.
It will turn into a beautiful swallowtail butterfly (Papilio zelicaon). 
Meanwhile, inside the greenhouses, there is an Illicium floridanum that is flowering.
As per the name, it a native to Florida.
Also flowering is this cactus. It smells mildly of rotting meat, especially at evening. The genus is Stapelia and the common name is Carrion Flower. The smell is to attract flies to pollinate the flowers. Gladly, there are no carrion flies in the greenhouse.
Lastly, you may have seen Nepenthes Pitcher plants, but have you ever seen their flowers? These ones are males.

Friday, September 18, 2015

All about orchids

Today I'm posting photographs of orchids. I'm sorry I can't tell you what they all are; most of them don't have any labels.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

This was the highlight of my day: Individual banana flowers.
This was also exciting this week. I had a Monstera fruit rot and pull apart in my hands last Friday. This week, I checked if there were any more rotting fruits. The one came off. Apparently these things are edible. They taste like a cross between a pineapple and a banana. They are ripe when those green things come off. This one was rotten on the other side, but not quite ripe enough to eat. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't delicious either.
This was the cactus that has been blooming for a long time. The flowers open and close diurnally.
When someone brought a plant in from outside, they also brought a caterpillar inside. This is a Polygonia interrogationis, or Question Mark butterfly.

And this is what it turned into. Apparently it tries to blend in with its background. In this case, it was a dark room. I think the silver points are meant to be eyes.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

This banana is diploid, not triploid. It has great big seeds inside of it.

The banana is about to flower.

This is a young cacao pod.

Bromeliad flowers

Costus flower. We also have a red flowering individual and a variegated individual.


Illicium flower. This is one of the oldest lineages of flowering plants. Dr. Joe Williams is interested in their flowers.