Category Archives: Flora

About Trees and Plants from around the world.

Ten Aloes For You to Grow

For some, Aloes are far away plants, and that means southern Africa. For others, aloes mean Aloe Vera, the most popular aloe plant around the world. For me, aloes are plants I grow, and plants which offer me a gateway to understanding a significant species collection of our succulent family.

The title is the name of a video which I have on YouTube, but for the purpose of this blog I will offer a different justification for my chosen ten. Obviously, like most plants, aloes come in many sizes and although most species will be selected for their aesthetic considerations, there are other limitations to what we all can manage. I shall split my collection into three groups based on size, from petite to large, and that should allow any specie newcomers a very different vantage point from which to start.

You may be asking what is a small aloe. To me, in this particular survey, any plant where the main stems are below one foot as in A sinkatana, A bellatula, and the numeous diminutive hybrid aloes which are gaining in popularity. Of course, I exclude the flower spikes which can be quite arbitrary, and sometimes much longer than the actual stems. The large aloes are the tree aloes, as in A trashkii, A marlothii and A excelsa, which usually grow above five foot tall and which are perfect specimens in any landscape setting. I deliberately avoided naming the center group preferring to fit four species in between the small group and the large tree specimens. Not surprisingly, there are lots to choose from, and my aim is to avoid popular names.

Are Aloes worth growing? Definitely yes, and I would add they present you with an incredible choice. In fact seeking out new plants to grow offer you an education, as you will find lots of uncommon species readily available. Even if you are are unsatisfied with what comes up, you may also go the longer route by growing from seeds. Either way, the experience earned is truly rewarding.

SMALL ALOES Aloe bellatula Aloe sinkatana Aloe cv ‘Christmas Carol’

MIDDLE SIZE ALOES: Aloe suzanne Aloe camperi Aloe elgonica Aloe vanbalenii

LARGE ALOES: Aloe speciosa Aloe marlothii Aloe barberae

Now that you have seen my final ten, I should offer that even in a temperate London climate, I am able to grow all of these. Of course you have to be selective at the start, but I will place a lot of emphasis on the right soil and genuine protection from the weather elements. If you choose to winter your plants outdoors you will need a kind of greenhouse protection, but a practical alternative is to do like me and move them to a cool basement with a few fluorescent bulbs. And that works adequately for what I need.

Winston

BROMELIADS: Understanding Dyckia

Bromeliads need no introduction as plants species go, and this is because they are admirably attractive, absolutely well known,  and are grown all over the world. The fact that most of them are native to Brazil, South and Central America gives them the perfect tropical fit which suggests when growing, that these plants will  flourish without even the simplest effort.  A recent survey of mine suggest that in spite of their popularity, not all bromeliads are equal.  With over fifty one genera and over three thousand species people are spoiled for choice.  But finally when they do choose, many species of plants are left out.  This is my experience when recently I tried, after reading an article on Dyckia , to acquire a group of plants.

I had assumed that it would be quite easy to visit my garden center, and collect a few.  That was not the reality. Yes,  my local garden center did have samples of bromeliads, but Dyckia was not among them. A much more detailed search offered an obvious explanation, attractive decorative bromeliads were always available, but fearful spiny species were not so, and they needed a much more thorough search.  Eventually I was able to find a small collection of plants, which offered me the the introduction to the genus I was hoping for.  For your information, there are over 150 species of Dyckia, and they are endemic to the arid and high altitude regions of Brazil and central South America. They belong to the Bromeliaceae sub-family, Pitcairnioideae. The genus is named after a Prussian botanist, The Prince and Earl of Salm Reifferscheid-Dyck (1773–1861).

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This is the first Dyckia that I bought three years ago, long before I had any interest in the genus.  Dyckia marnier-lapostellei is a very attractive specie with a beautiful colour.  I bought in Italy while on a visit to the continent.  Below is a another dyckia, a hybrid of unknown origin, and another plant which I like.

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Dyckia ‘Silver Spurs’

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This is Dyckia platyphylla and is one of the few species I am familiar with, and I find that it grows quite easily.   Below are some identified species at the Jardim Botanico in Rio de Janeiro.  This Botanical Garden offers a wealth of experience for novices like me.

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Below four close-up photo images of some of my plants.

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My short experience with Dyckia tells me that hybridising is an important part of the Bromeliad business. Yet I feel it would be wise to get much more acquainted with the species before I chase many of the other complicated hybrids. plants.  I am also trying to grow some from seeds, which is not going all that well. This means that after a few weeks there is no sign of life.  We will see what will happen in the long term.

Winston

Photos from Aripo Valley

The Aripo Valley is like a guardian of the northern range in Trinidad, and in many ways is a significant stop on your way to the main mountain peak, El Cerro del Aripo. Any time I visit the island, I make an effort to do some exploration within the area.  These photos demonstrate my love affair with nature especially as described in these tropical habitats.

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Trees are always fascinating, and become much more so  when you encounter and experience the intricate going ons of the tropical jungle.  Lianas which are very prevalent are more than a curious surprise. Trying to work out where vines start or end is quite difficult.  Also interesting, at this level, is the way most other plants manage to survive without being intimidated by the numerous vines.

 

The ginger flowers and heliconias are always conspicuous in this setting, as the climate and humidity makes it easy for them to flourish.  It is not a valley that orchids and bromeliads  show off their bloom in great abundance, but the species are there to be observed.  Of course, the birds are everywhere, and without compromise make their music for us to hear.  Sometimes I feel ashamed that I am not able to identify the species as they flutter around.  But, I do know the humming birds,  and that’s a start.  Below, two photos from the Asa Wright Centre, which is great introduction to the Aripo Valley.

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