Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Up, up, and away!

While some plants prefer to lay low in the summer heat, others shift into high gear. Here are a few prime examples of the latter, all from our garden.

The Agave parrasana next to the sidewalk has been busy pumping energy into its asparagus-like flower stalk. It's now taller the 6 ft. fence behind it.

Aloe ferox (left), Agave parrasana (middle) and Aloidendron 'Hercules' (right)

Agave parrasana is native to the Parras Mountains in the southeast of the Mexican state of Coahuila, about 300 miles south of the Texas border, where it grows at 4,500 to 8,000 ft. Since the winters can be frigid, the flower stalk of Agave parrasana emerges during summer and early fall and then stops for the cold season. Thick bracts protect the immature flowers against freeze damage. The following spring, the inflorescence completes its growth, with flowers emerging from side branches off the stalk.



For comparison, this is what Agave parrasana looked like five years ago:



Drimia maritima (see next set of photos) isn't related to agaves, but it has an inflorescence which, at least superficially, could pass for an agave flower stalk:

Drimia maritima in our front yard

Drimia maritima, or giant sea squill, is actually a Mediterranean bulb that can grow to impressive proportions. It holds leaves from fall into spring, goes dormant in late spring/early summer, and then sends up an inflorescence at this time of year.

Drimia maritima leaves

Clump of Drimia maritima in the White Garden at the UC Davis Arboretum

Drimia maritima flowers

I bought my Drimia maritima at a local Home Depot seven years ago. It was already a fairly large bulb then:

October 2013: my daughter holding the Drimia maritima bulb before it went in the ground


It's hard to determine the bulb's current size, but it's got to be the size of a child's head. And yet, this is the first time it's flowered.

Drimia maritima bulb, August 2020


August is when the clumping bamboos in our front yard start to shoot. This is a fairly rapid process, with new culms seeming to appear out of nowhere overnight. Sometimes they come up in places where they are definitely not wanted. Here's a good example:


Nope, there's no way I'll let a fat Bambusa oldhamii culm grow on the inside of the fence, especially not this close to my beloved Aloe lukeana.


Fortunately, new culms are easy to deal with: All it takes is a swift kick, and they snap right off. If you wait too long, however, a swift kick will most likely land you on your butt as the maturing culm refuses to give.

The last example is this fuzzy fellow:

Encephalartos (munchii × chimanimaniensis) × eugene-maraisii flush

It looks quite alien as it emerges from the caudex, but it will turn into a pair of beautiful fronds. It's an Encephalartos hybrid, quite a complex one: Encephalartos (munchii × chimanimaniensis) × eugene-maraisii. I bought it three or four years ago from a friend because it sounded intriguing and was cheap (always a plus when it comes to cycads). I have yet to see an adult specimen, but the leaves should look like this.

Like this Encephalartos hybrid, most cycads only produce one set of leaves (“flush”) a year—sometimes not even every year. Therefore, new growth is an exciting sight. Based on what I read in the cycad forums I follow, even experienced growers never get tired of it.



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10 comments:

  1. My Drimia is flowering too. Their sudden appearance is always dramatic. The ones in my garden skipped flowering last year, reason unknown.

    Your A. lukeana is elegant--has it flowered?

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    1. I tend to forget about the drimia until the leave come up in the fall. I was so thrilled to finally see a flower stalk!

      My Aloe lukeana hasn't flowered yet. Maybe next year? Or maybe it needs to be even older?

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  2. Encephalartos are really that slow-growing? That makes me feel better that mine hasn't put out any visible growth since I got it a year ago! Ha!

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    1. Encephalartos as a genus is slow. Some species are slower than others, but none of them could be called speed demons. Like most cycads, they require a lot of patience--not my strong suit.

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  3. For some reason, I thought Drimia flowered with its foliage intact but when I saw 2 bloggers (yourself included) post photos of flowers, I paid a visit to my neglected back slope to find a flower developing from my bulb too, after just one year in the ground. That Aloe is beautiful and I definitely would be kicking the bamboo out of its territory.

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    1. Yeah! Glad your drimia is flowering without you having to wait years and years! I think a colony of them on your back slope would be fantastic!

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  4. Drimia is a truly impressive bulb. Bamboo in the garden makes me really nervous as have seen the results of the running types left to their own devices. Good to know you can prevent this with a good kick.

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    1. The three clumping bamboos we have (all Bambusa) do expand, but very slowly, much like a clumping ornamental grass would.

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  5. The Drimia bloom immediately reminded me of Eremurus, but that bulb... Good Lord, its HUGE!
    The emerging cycad leafs is momentous event! How long before it unfurls?

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    1. The Encephalartos leaves are 10 inches tall now. They won't unfurl until they've reached their final size. Maybe another week?

      I'm giving the plant extra water because it's so hot and I don't want the emergence of the leaves to be aborted.

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