Tag Archives: Euphorbia lambii

random updates

San Miguel Island buckwheat, Eriogonum grande var. rubescens, possibly protected by a cloak of extra-hot chili powder

Update #1: The gopher chronicles (Original post: Cooking for Vermin)

It’s been three weeks since I tried to ward off gophers by using extra-hot chili powder. People want to know if it works.

The conclusion: There’s no sign of obvious damage from pocket gophers in the treated area. The plants are growing and blooming normally. That might sound like success, but there hasn’t been any gopher damage anywhere else in the garden, either. So it’s inconclusive at this point. But I’ll post as the season goes on. I really really want this to work.

Update #2: Life post-hacking (Original post: I was hacked)

After I realized that my blog was hacked I cleaned out what looked like the problem code. But two days later the WordPress Pharma Hack was back. I did more drastic cleanup after that, and it looks like that took care of the problem.

The tide turns...

Even after cleanup, because it takes days to weeks for Google to catch up and reindex everything on a site, searches for my blog showed many titles for my posts as promising ways to buy various drugs without prescription. Even as recently as Wednesday, last week, the number one blog keyword was “Prescription.” For a garden blog it’s pathetic to have that word ahead of the next four on the list: “garden,” “plants,” “blog” or “landscape.” But the tide turned on Thursday, and the good words continue to rise as the hacker words sink.

Update #3: Aloe, good-bye (Original post: Exotic plant, exotic pest)

It’s been almost a year since I mentioned that my specimen Aloe barberae (aka A. bainesii) was in serious decline. Aloe mites had attacked the plant and I was blaming its fate on them. The plant continued to decline to the point that it had just a few growing tips that kept getting smaller and smaller. Something was very wrong and we cut the plant back to a stump one to two months later, leaving three small pups that were springing from the lowest two feet of the plant.

The dying trunk of the dying aloe, with the three pups looking increasingly worse. Time to pull the pups off to root them, it looks like...

Since then even those little pups have failed to thrive. Signs of mites have been few, so I’m beginning to think that some other cause is responsible for the problems. Hypothesis #1 at the moment: pocket gophers eating the roots. My main reason for thinking this is that there’s another A. barberae just a few feet away that looks robust, with none of the signs of illness the big plant was showing. I’ll keep my hope up for that plant.

A rooted cutting of the original big aloe

In the meantime, aloes being aloes, I figured that all the little branch tips I cut off might root easily. I treated all the chunks with miticide, stuck them in potting mix and kept them just-moist. All three took.

Quite frankly I’m not sure there’s room in the front for two giant aloes I had there in the first place–placing the two original plants so close was a mistake. So I gave two of the rooted plants to people in my office who were eager to grow this terrific plant. I still have one rooted plant, along with a half dozen more unrooted branch tips sitting on my greenhouse floor that are still green, almost a year later. I might end up with an impressive aloe in a pot if I can’t find a place for it. And if I root the remaining branch tips I could have a half-dozen more giveaways.

The original plant looks doomed, but pieces of the original clone live on. In the life and death world of gardens that’s almost a happy ending.

Update #4: Crest-fallen (Original post: Mutant Primrose)

In case you’re wonderng what happened to the mutant Hooker’s evening primrose from a May 12 posting, it looks like the weight of the extra tissue on the crested growing tip was more than the stem could keep aloft. Within a week of the original photo, the stem flopped to the ground, where it has stayed, still alive, but not thriving…

Now (early July)...
How the plant looked in early May...

Update #5: A different outcome for a crested growth (Original post: Deformity or Biological Wonder?)

My last progress report is on this mutant crested growth of a Euphorbia lambii. Since I posted on it in June of 2009, the plant seems to have incorporated the crest into its continued growth patterns, unlike on what was going on with the primrose above. Still, you can tell that the growth pattern isn’t quite what normal plants go through. Still interesting, two years later…

The crest as of July of this year...
The crest in June, 2009
A different view of the plant as it looks today. The spindly-looking-ness of the plant is my fault (forgetting to water it enough) and not something the crested growth is responsible for.

a new weed

This past winter I was noticing a weed popping up all around the yard that I hadn’t noticed before. I was mentioning it to John, and added, “I’m not sure what it is, though think it could be some sort of euphorbia.”

Then in the gently tactful way spouses have of correcting you and pointing out your blind spots he quietly cleared his throat and pointed to one of the four young potted plants we have around the garden of Euphorbia lambii, one of my dry garden-adapted plants from the Canary Islands. “Maybe it’s that?”

Uh, like duh. What else would it be?

Last year was the first that these plants bloomed, and this spring they bloomed with a vengeance. During sunny weather over the last few weeks I’ve heard little popping noises from the direction of the plants, and have come to the conclusion that the sounds were that of seed pods exploding and jettisoning the dust-like seed everywhere.

I may come to regret the day I introduced these to the garden, which according to my records is March 9, 2008.

Speaking of weedy plants, here’s another surprise seedling from the garden, a little baby red fountain grass, one of three seedlings I noticed this year. In recent years the related green fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum has become a noxious (though stunningly beautiful) weed and has landed high on virtually every thou-shalt-not-plant list issued for California. But many people gave a by to this related red plant. It was often pushed as being sterile and incapable of reproducing by seed, a piece of misinformation even I relayed in this blog. (I’ve corrected that earlier oops in case anyone reads that earlier post.) As you can see here it can reproduce by seed, though this form doesn’t spawn the same way regular fountain grass does. Nor is it immediately the same monster pest that feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) can be.

Poking around the web I found an updated plant description at San Marcos Growers that includes some interesting background on this plant:

Recent work in preparation for the grass sections of the Flora of North America, which will include naturalized and cultivated grasses, indicates that the name chosen for this plant will be Pennisetum advena or perhaps P. x advena. Dr. Joseph K. Wipff, previously with Texas A&M and now a turfgrass breeder, wrote the section on Pennisetum and has indicated that Red Fountain Grass is most likely a cross between P. setaceum and P. macrostachys (AKA ‘Burgundy Giant’). As a hybrid the name would most appropriately be Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’. The latin word advena means “newly arrived” or “stranger.”

So is it safe to plant this form of fountain grass? Here’s my thinking: Hybrids between species are often sterile. (Think of mules, the offspring of a horse and a donkey.) But every now and then something happens that allows the hybrid to reproduce. Sometimes the seedlings will be just as nearly sterile as the immediate parent, but other times a mutation could render the seedling entirely fertile. In that latter scenario the nearly-sterile fountain grass could turn into something with the ugly invasive potential of its Pennisetum setaceum ancestor.

In other words, today I would be cautious and not plant it. Unfortunately, almost twenty years ago, we designed the front yard around a big mound of the stuff. The plants look stunning and move graciously in response to the breezes. Their size is perfect for the spot, and their red color is unmatched among other grasses. Every now and then I look at other options, like those recommended in the Don’t Plant a Pest brochure put out by the California Invasive Plant Council. But these lists often fall short in the alternatives they offer and end up reading like, “Cheesecake is bad for you. Would you like to eat this delicious raw rutabaga instead?” So…I’m still looking for the perfect replacement plant–hopefully some sort of native, but in the meantime I’m pulling the occasional seedlings.

deformity or biological wonder?

There are some things I just don’t get. Waffles topped with fried chicken and syrup, for one thing. Crested succulents, another.

A trip to a cactus show or nursery site for succulents will likely turn up a section devoted to plants with crested (or “cristate”) and monstrose growths. Generally I find that the shapes of plants are interesting enough, and I usually don’t go gaga over some genetic oddball.


But the oddball cresting behavior found its way to the garden anyway. This is a young Euphorbia lambii in the back yard, one of four I have growing in pots.


Here’s a closeup…


And here’s a view from the top…


The typical habit for this plant is to produce branches that are distributed around its growing tip, something that you can see in this normal lambii nearby. With the crested mutation, the apical meristem, the point where new growth emerges, has changed from a point to a line. So instead of a cylindrical stem with branches all around, you get a stem that grows flat, like a cobra’s hood, with new growths distributed along that line.

From what research I’ve done it isn’t apparent what causes this particular mutation. The genus Euphorbia, however, is one of those where you could encounter it fairly commonly. (If there’s anything in the plant’s environment that caused it, I wonder if might be drought stress. Of the four plants, this one received the least amount of water. A couple times it came close to defoliating. All the others are growing normally.)

I’ll admit that the crested growth interesting. Maybe I’ll learn to love it. But I’m not there yet…

steel cube planters, part 1

This is the result of one of my weekend projects:

cubessingleplanted.jpgIt’s one of four steel cubes that I assembled to put in the new raised bed. The sides of the bed are made of sheet steel that’s already weathered to a rich, warm, rusty patina, so I wanted some pots to put in it that were of the same material.

John vetoed my first avant-garde conceptual ideas for arrangements, arrangements that worked with competing systems of geometrical hierarchies, one of them based in part on some of the ideas behind Bernard Tschumi’s postmodernist and highly conceptual Parc de la Villette in Paris. But below is one that I finally came up with that makes us both happy. It has some of the geometrical tensions that I wanted to work with. At the same time, the arrangement of the elements is a little chaotic and whimsical–to the point that none of them sit flat on the ground–a quality that appealed to John.

Each pot is planted with the identical plant material. Euphorbia lambii is placed in the center, pointing as perfectly upright and away from the earth’s core as I could manage without getting out the level, an effect that I’m hoping will point out how crookedly each planter is placed. Creeping thyme will eventually protect the top of the slanted top plane of potting mix.

This is an overview of two of the other containers in the garden space, here in the middle- and background, with part of the new stepping stone pathway:

cubesoverview.jpgIf you have basic of welding chops and a supplier that will pre-cut pieces fairly accurately, you can make them yourself in an afternoon. You could also make similar containers by screwing the steel plate to little pieces of angle iron. Part 2 of this post provides some basic instructions for the welded version shown here.