Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mona Island, exploring the Acropora palmata reef, circa 1982

Acropora palmata, notice the extreme clarity of the water
Various types of coral, In the center of the photo Jorge Saliva, notice the puny arm lacking the basketball sized muscles that later appeared there
The reef crest was haunted by an unbelievable quantity of fish
There was coral all over the place

I took these few photos of the coral at the reef that borders the Sardinera beach in Mona Island.  At the time visiting this reef was for me a new and unbelievable exciting thing.  I took just a few photos because I was too busy drinking deeply from the incredible experiece of snorkeling there.   There were so many things to see and explore that it was like visiting an alien city in outer space.  The diversity of corals, fish and invertebrates made this place a dream experience for a biologist that had read all about them in the books but had not until them too much oportunity to see them in the flesh.  I have been told that the reef I visited so many years ago no longer exists, that most of the Acropora has died, that there are much less fish and algae reigns supreme.  I vividly remember marveling at a school of large parrot fish, two feet long feeding in water that was less than three feet deep.  These photos stand as a testament of the beauty that was and hopefully some day will again be.

1980 Mona Island, a happy smile in an awful spot, a memory from my AEB times

This is a photo of one of my dearest friends.  It was taken during a trip to Mona Island 1980.  I can hardly believe that thirty one years have passed since we did that trip.  Mona Island is an uninhabited island between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.  It boasts some of the most dangerous and inhospitable terrain in the Caribbean, its central plateau is dominated by fearsomely thorny, horribly poisonous xerophytic flora.  As hard core biology students we decided to visit one of the eastern Caribbean largest breeding colony of red-footed boobies.   The colony is located in the most remote and inaccessible part of the island.  To reach it we traveled for hours through very difficult terrain and did so enduring air temperatures that in the sun reached up to 120 F.  It is a wonder nobody died.  This photo was taken near Punta del Norte, we had found a cave to take refuge from the tremendous heat and had rested for a time inside it.  The cave was filled by a several feet thick blanket of dried goat droppings.  But we were so overjoyed to be out of the sun that we didn’t mind in the least.  As we rested our tired bones on the cave floor we were thankful for a cool place to rest.  This photo reminds me of the times when life was simpler, when we were alarmingly skinny and when a cave full of dried droppings was another amazing thing to be experienced and not a horrific ordeal to be endured.  So many years have passed and we are still good friends and he is still a very nice person, always with a smile on his face.  My friend went back later to the colony and took with him his future wife.  Now he has two beautiful children and a wonderful marriage.  I suspect that if a girlfriend has the fortitude to endure the heat, the thorns and spines, the endless walking and the awful cave, there is little that can put a dent on this relationship.

One one trip to the red footed booby colony I found a an orchid in full bloom with flowers that I have never seen before.  It looked so delicate and out of place in the arid landscape.  I took a flower back with me and Hector Colon who was quite familiar with the flora of Mona Island identified it as something new for Mona Island.  Later it was identified as Broughtonia dominguensis, this was the first time this orchid had ever been found in the Puerto Rico area.  I was fascinated by the fact that this small orchid could thrive in such a hostile enviroment.  This was the start of my interest for orchids, which continues to this day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A small pendent Dendrobium hybrid, Dendrobium Adastra x Den. parishii

Dendrobium Adastra x parishii
Dendrobium Adastra x parishii
Dendrobium Adastra x parishii
Dendrobium Adastra
Dendrobium anosmum
Dendrobium cucullatum
Dendrobium parishii
I brought this small Dendrobium hybrid at a huge Spring orchid show in 2009 that was held at Plaza Las Americas, the largest Mall in the Caribbean.  One interesting feature of these shows is that every year a few new and interesting plants are brought in, sold in quantity, and then never seen again for sale.   Because this has happened a number of times I am always on the lookout for orchids that I know are rarely exported.  This little Dendrobium is one of those rare and exciting finds.
This little plant combines the genome of three of the most outstanding species of Dendrobium of the section Dendrobium.  This orchid is the result of the cross of Den. Adastra (anosmum x cucullatum) and Den. parishii.   It is interesting to note the flower of this hybrid doesn’t resemble too closely any of the parents and has a unique charm all of its own.  One surprising characteristic of this plant is its small size.  The canes of my plant are between 12 and 15 inches long, pretty small considering than a local anosmum can easily produce five foot canes and I have some clones of cucullatum reach more than six feet long with ease.  It appears that the influence of the parishii parent has resulted in a reduced cane length in this hybrid.  But I must confess the size of this plant might have also been influenced by the way I culture it. 
One vexing problem I have had with parishii derived hybrids is their vulnerability to cane rot under my local conditions, something that also plagues my parishii plants.  However not all my parishii hybrids are equally affected, those that are in baskets with excellent drainage fare the best, those in pots fare poorly.  Because I didn’t want to lose this plant to rot I put it in a tiny basket with just enough moss to give the roots something to hold but not enough that it would stay sopping wet for hours.  As a result the root ball of this plant is comparatively puny for its size.  But since after three years under my care it has now shown itself to be quite hardy I plan to move it to a larger basket where it will be able to develop a larger root ball.  Unfortunately it has shown no inclination to produce two canes at the same time as anosmum sometimes does and its quite stingy producing keikis having produced just two so puny that I will wait until they have two canes to remove them.
As far as culture goes I grow them like I grow my anosmum except that this one is kept in a shadier location until I have more plants and can test them for resistance to several hours of full sun exposure.  Indications on growing anosmum are located elsewhere in this blog, a link can be found at the bottom of this blog page.   Compared with Adastra, anosmum and cucullatum this orchid is a relatively slow grower.  The canes sometime have slight sidewise twists, an odd feature that none of the parental species show under my care.
The flowers of this hybrid have a better shape and presentation than the flowers of any of its parents and the pink color is outstanding.  But sadly they are not scented and they are produced in limited numbers.  The relative small flower count might be due the way I grow it so the flower number will probably increase significantly if I expose it to more sun but that will be tested in the future.   Personally I would love to see a flower with the shape and color of this one but with a size comparable to the flowers of anosmum which can be four inches wide.  I sometimes wonder what would come out if someone would cross this plant with Dendrobium primulinum var. giganteum which has an enormous lip with a spectacular orange coloring in the center.  Alas it is a fantasy at this moment but, you can always dream!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vanda merrillii Ames & Quisumb. 1932, a collector's item for those that value Vanda species

A freshly opened flower of var. inmaculata
A fully maure flower
Top view to show the degree of reflection of the petals
Variety rotorii
Variety rotorii
Vanda merrillii is native of the phillipine island of Luzon where it grows at altitudes of 1,500 feet.  This orchid has been a long time member of my orchid collection and has shown itself to be a hardy survivor of both overwatering and neglect.  My plant has grown at its best when cultivated in an area where there is high humidity and when it has been fertilized every week with a weak solution of fertilizer.  My problem has been that I usually don’t fertilize plants that are not growing and sometimes forget to fertilize this Vanda too.  That has resulted in slow growth, leaf loss and sparse flowering.  So my recommendation on this plant is to water it generously and to keep a conscientious schedule of fertilizing it.  This orchid seems to prefer a slightly shadier light regime than my other plants of this genus, I give it only a few hours of sun in the morning and light shade the rest of the day.
The flowers are produced in the spring and are long lasting. They are highly colored but unfortunately the petals twist back shortly after the flower opens giving it the appearance of a diver doing the swan dive.  Different clones differ in the amount of twisting, some only twist the petals back slightly others twist them back so much they end up almost parallel.  There are several color forms of this species that vary in the amount of red or yellow in the flower and even some that have a very dark color.  In Puerto Rico I have seen plants of the variety rotorii and some that might have been var. inmaculata but that were not labeled as such.  Plants of var. rotorii are noted by their rich red color that covers almost all the flower.  Plants of the var. inmaculata show extensive yellow areas in the basal portions of the sepals and petals with the areas of solid red color confined to the margins of the floral segments.  I think this plant will grow well in most areas of Puerto Rico, however to get a good flower show out of this Vanda you need to make sure it get the watering and fertilizing regime that it prefers.  This plant is rarely seen in local orchid collections.  I regard it like a collector’s item for those growers that appreciate the particular charms of the various Vanda species over the generally huge size and roundness of the most commonly available hybrids.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dendrobium farmeri, a small Dendrobium that can produce an impressive show

The white form of the species, albiflorum
The most common form in the wild

A very light pastel pink form

A highly colored type with smaller slightly cupped flowers

A pink form, the orange lip is due to the fact that they were photographed with flash
Two slightly different forms side by side, note the long slits for aireation on the pots

The albiflorum form next to a pink one

A plant almost totally covered with flowers

This deeply colored form even has a purple dot in the lip
Dendrobium farmeri is an orchid that has a geographical distribution that goes from the eastern Himalayas to Malaysia.  This means that plants of this species can grow in environmental conditions that range from fairly cool to sweltering hot.  But this doesn’t mean that all plants of this species will grow under any condition that you can expose them.   There are local populations of this species that have adapted to certain regimes and will not bloom in the environmental conditions don’t match their seasonal needs.  Visitors to their natural habitat remark that the plants are often seen growing in trees near river courses.  I have had the experience of growing several different plants of Den, farmer, I will detail my experiences in the following paragraphs.

A few years ago a friend gave me as a gift a very peculiar farmeri plant.  It had a long and thin stem that about halfway of the way up the stem would fatten to a ridiculously disproportionate girth.  It was the tallest farmeri that I ever seen with canes 30cm long.  My friend gave me the plant because it would not bloom for him (he lives in the coastal lowlands of Puerto Rico), at that time the canes were about 15 cm tall.  What made them grow to 30 cm was the heavy application of water and fertilizer during its active growth phase.  After two years under my cultural regime the plant produced the two largest inflorescences that I have ever seeing in a farmeri plant.  I have wondered this plant was palpebrae but it lip didn’t show the fringe that palpebrae flowers are said to have.  This plant sadly died unexpectedly of a stem rot that had never previously attacked any farmeri plant in my collection and has never attacked one since this one died.  This plant was cultivated in a plastic basket that it eventually filled with roots, the only potting material were several large pieces of bark.  The flowers of this orchid were pure white with a bright yellow coloration in the lip.   This orchid was a large sized representative of the albiflorum variety.  All my other plants are smaller than this one and don’t show the shape of the stem this plant had.  I suspect this plant came from and mountainous region and needed a sharp drop in temperature to stimulate blooming.

I have several smaller (less that 20 cm tall) slender types will bloom equally well in the mountains as in the coasts of Puerto Rico.  In the early nineties there was a huge importation of Den. farmeri, the plants were sold at the Puerto Rico Orchid society show in San Juan.  When these plants bloomed they all turned out to be the white variant of the species Den. farmeri albiflorum.  For many years var. albiflorum was the only one that was seen in orchid exhibits in the island.  During the course of the nineties I saw exhibited some impressive specimens and I personally had a plant that would produce more than a dozen inflorescences at the same time.  Unfortunately many plants of this importation showed cupped, nodding flowers, this detracted from the beauty of the blooms.  It is not clear whether this cupping of the flowers is due to genetic or cultural causes.   

A few years ago there was another importation, this one consisted almost entirely of the pink form of the species.  I saw one plant in bloom and was so smitten with it that spent $60 dollars. That is right I spent almost five times the value of a seedling of this type of orchid in a single plant.   But I loved the purplish color of the flowers and was quite happy with my purchase.  In due time the flowers fell (the flowers of this plant last from a week to ten days, less time if weather is really hot).  In about two week the plant bloomed again and to my surprise the flowers were different!   In this blooming the flowers were pink, larger and fuller than in the firsts bloom.  A few weeks later the plant produced a single inflorescence which was again different from the previous two.   In this case the flowers had a very delicate pastel pink color.   After careful examination of the plant I had to conclude that I actually had three plants growing very close together in a single pot.

With extreme care I disentangled the three different clones and potted them separately.  Two of them have been growing well with no problems, the third one almost died.  Why?  Because under my conditions farmeri seems to be extremely vulnerable to rot after it has been repotted.  The plants can live for a long time, a decade or more filling and growing over their old pot in great health.  But every time I have divided and repotted the plants I have lost many of the pieces.

My saddest experience was when I took out of its pot a specimen plant of the variety albiflorum that had been in the same basket of about ten years.  I took the plant out of the basket divided it in several pieces and potted each piece separately.  After a few days they started dying, at the end only a tiny two cane piece survived.  This piece has been growing painfully slowly but at least is alive and has started producing small but pleasing inflorescences.  So what is my advice on potting this plant?  Put it into a basket that will allow the plant to grow for years without the need to repot.  Use the hardest most decay resistant media you can find, don’t use cheap bark and for Peter’s sake don’t even consider the super cheap landscaping bark for this orchid. 

The most vexing problem I have had to deal with this species is the proclivity of some clones to produce new canes lower in the stem than the original cane.  As a result of this habit the new canes end up growing through the media and sometimes into the media before growing upwards.  These types may be better grown in slat baskets or mounted on tree fern slabs.

For most of the year I don’t fertilize this orchid, I only fertilize when the plant is producing new growths.  When this plant is growing the canes grow comparatively fast so you need to give it fertilizer frequently.  When my plants I growing I give them diluted fertilizer at every watering.  I use whatever fertilizer I have on had, be it 20-20-20 or any other combination, I have never seen any difference in growth as long as I fertilize the plant regularly.

My plants bloom in February, March and April.  The albiflorum type produces a single flush of inflorescences that open all at the same time.  The pink flowered types bloom once a year when they have few canes, but once they grow large they bloom twice, once in February and again in March or April.  My main problem has been that the flowers are wildly attractive to thrips which will attack them in great numbers even when they have been rendered toxic by the application of pesticides.  To avoid having the flowers damaged with these hateful pesky pests I move the plants indoor for the duration of the blooming period.  As the plants mature and gain size they can produce very impressive flowerings.

These plants need bright light to bloom well.  I grow my plants in a terrace where they get full morning sun for two to three hours and then sunlight filtered through the trees the rest of the day.  Too much shade results in poor blooming or even no blooming at all.
When my plants are growing I water them almost daily to sustain the rapid growth of the canes.  During the summer my plants get a daily soaking from the thunderstorms that form over the mountains every day.  The plants take the wetness with little complaint.  When the dry season starts in December I stop watering the plants and allow them to dry, but not so much the canes shrivel and twist, if the canes start to get too wrinkled I water the plant lightly.
This plant is an excellent addition for an orchid collection if you can fulfill its relatively modest needs.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dendrobium densiflorum revisited, the March 2011 blooming

Photo taken using sunglight 
Freshly opened inflorescences photographed under sunlight

Four day old inflorescences photographed with flash.  The fact that local temperatures have been significantly cooler than the norm has meant that the flowers have held up well and may last more than a week.

This is the 2011 blooming of my Dendrobium densiflorum.  It produced four large inflorescences, because of the way they were in the canes only three can be seen.  This plant has continued growing in size since I wrote about it back in 2008.  Good management when it is producing its new growths, which need plenty of watering and fertilizer, has resulted in the plant producint the largest canes to date, some achieving a lenght of 20 inches (53 cm).  Although this orchid has been at times an erratic and shy bloomer, a winter with unusually cool temperatures for our locality stimulated four of the canes into blooming.  The cooler temperatures have also helped extend the life of the flowers.  This plant is very pot bound and has been in need of repoting for some time now, but this is something I must confess I dread as this plants greatly resent root damage and can sulk or even die from a too rough repotting.  I have moved the plant indoors as thrips are driven insane with desire by the sight of this flowers and will flock to them in great numbers and damage them in short order.  Rain can also damage the flowers.  Sudden exposure to higher temperatures can cause premature wilt in individual flowers of the inflorescence which can spoil the look of the same.  I saw a number of seedlings of this species for same at the 2011 Puerto Rico Orchid society orchid show in March 17-20.  I wonder if in a few years there will be more plants of this species blooming locally.  I recall that in the nineties in every spring show you could see plants of Den farmeri, Den palpebrae and even Den. densiflorum (although this last one was the rarest of the lot).  Nowadays all you see in local shows of this type of Dendrobium are plants of Den, farmeri var. albiflora.

Someone asked me why grow plants with such short lived flowers.  The flowers of this species can be short lived, but during the time they are in full bloom they are so beautiful they outshine everything else.  The japanese people have a concept where certain things are beautiful because they are transcient.  Then these flowers have double measure of beauty, they are transcient and also beautiful on their own right.   This concept of fleeting beauty can be seen on the poem of Kokan Shiren (1278-1346) a poet and Zen Master This poem was written after a large earthquake has struck the part of Japan where the poet lived.

Still things moving,
firm becomes unfirm,
land like ocean waves,
house like a boat --
a time to be fearful,     
but to delight as well;
no wind, yet the wind-bells
keep on ringing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Epidendrum nocturnum, a night fragrant orchid native of Puerto Rico

This cleistogamous flower was opened to show the flower structure inside the unopened bud
See developing seed capsure at the lower right corner

Epidendrum nocturnum is an orchid with a very large geographical distribution.  It can be found in Central America, the Greater Antilles and tropical South America.  In Puerto Rico it is reported as growing in the coast as well as in the high peaks in moist areas in the east of the island.  All the plants that I have seen have been in the middle to high points in the Sierra de Luquillo.  There are three orchids in the Sierra de Luquillo that have very similar flowers, Epidendrum nocturnum, Epi. carpophorum and Epi. tridens.  Epidendrum capophorum is so distinctive in its vegetative form that it is easy to distinguish from the other two.  Distinguishing between Epi. nocturnum and Epi. tridens it’s a bit harder but adult plants can be told apart because of the larger size of Epi. tridens.
In favorable habitats Epi. nocturnum is not rare, unfortunately I have yet to find a non cleistogamous plant.   A cleistogamic plant is one that self fertilizes. In some cleistogamic species the flowers never open.  This is the case of the Epi. nocturnum that I have found in the wild.   There are several species of orchids in Puerto Rico that are self fertilizing.  Why do plants do this?  There is a theory that says that cleistogamy allows plants to colonize areas where their natural pollinators are not present.  There are a number of species of Puertorican orchids that are pollinated in the continents by insects that are not present in the island.  A good example is the genus Dichaea, in those areas of South America where they grow they are pollinated by Euglossine bees, these bees are absent from Puerto Rico and yet local Dicheas reproduce well enough without them.  In these species cleistogamy is suspected even in those cases where the flowers open fully.
I have seen this plant growing in boulders in the middle of streams and in the trunk of tree ferns and Sierra Palms.  One interesting detail is that the healthiest plants all were growing in areas where there was an opening in the canopy.  These openings in the canopy could be in the middle of a river, in an area where a landslide or tree fall allowed the sunshine to penetrate into the forest and in the areas bordering roads.  This tells me that this plant grows best if it received bright light which may include being exposed to full sun for some time during the day.
The presence of seedlings growing under the cleistogamic plants show that this strategy is fairly successful locally.  This plant has a delightful perfume that is produced at night.  This plant is grown horticultural but all the plants I have seen in cultivation have been produced commercially outside Puerto Rico.  I was pleasantly surprised to see seedlings of this species for sale in the 2011 Puerto Rico Orchid Society annual orchid show.  The easy availability of plants produced in captivity, and the general absence of this species from most orchid collections probably means that wild collection of this species in Puerto Rico is apparently very rare.  I have yet to see plants of this species exhibited at orchid shows, the reason is not clear but it may reflect a preference for showing flowers with larger and more brightly colored flowers rather than any particular rarity of the species in captivity.
You can easily see the massive root system of this plant
I recommend this orchid for those people that place a great value in the fragrance in orchids.  I have not cultivated this plant but from observations of its habitat I would think this plant needs regular watering, high enviromental humidity and bright light to do well.  In all cases where I have seen this plant growing the roots were exposed to the air which indicates that this is a plant that needs an open, airy media to do well if grown in a pot.  Another alternative is to grow it mounted on a slab or plaque.  The downside of growing this it mounted is the need for copious watering during the peak of the dry season to avoid the death of the plant from dehydration.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Epidendrum ramosum, an orchid native of Puerto Rico

An inflorescence
A large plant growing in the Sierra Palm forest
Dry inflorescences and three flowers, the flowers are near the center of the photo
A large clump growing among water tank bromeliads, the plant is right over the wine colored bromeliads
Epidendrum ramosum is a widespread species that has a geographical range that covers Central America, tropical South America and the West Indies.  In Puerto Rico it has been reported from moist areas at middle to high elevation from Camuy to Naguabo.  It grows as an epiphyte on the trunks of trees and palms.  I have seen this species in the Sierra de Luquillo, in El Yunque Mountain.  I have seen plants growing in the trunks of Sierra Palms forming untidy masses of stems.
The flowers are green, small and unremarkable.  Their shape and column immediately identifies them as Epidendrum.  The inflorescence consist of a few flowers that are produced on short stems, the flower peduncle is cradled in a green bract.  Because the flowers are small and the inflorescence is short, they are easy to miss amid the tangle of the stems and leaves.  This species has the peculiarity that the stems can produce many side branches which gives large plants a bushy appearance.
This plant is not in cultivation locally and as far as I know has not garnered any interest from the horticultural community.  Given its inconspicuous uninteresting flowers and general lack of features that would attract the attention of local growers, this species can only be seen in the wild.  In some parts of the Sierra Palm forest that grows along the road that goes to the high peaks of the Caribbean National Forest you can see plants of this species growing alongside tank bromeliads and a multitude of other epiphytic plants. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Eltroplectis calcarata a green and white terrestrial orchid native of Puerto Rico

Front view of the flower
The orchid in situ
Close up of the lip
Side view
Seed pod

Eltroplectis calcarata is an uncommon terrestrial orchid native of Puerto Rico.  It has a large geographical distribution that includes South America, the Greater Antilles, Grenada, Trinidad and Florida in the United States.  In Puerto Rico it has been reported from the western part of the island from low to high elevations.  I have seen this plant in Maricao and some botanist friends have told me they have seen it in Rio Abajo.
This is a small inconspicuous plant with white and green nodding flowers.  Those plants that I have found are easy to miss as they were growing under the shade of low bushes that essentially hid them from view.  The flowers are relatively large and have a vague resemblance to some members of the Coilostylis genus.  Unfortunately the nodding stance of the flowers means the flower presents its back to the viewer.
This plant has no horticultural importance and I have not seen it in cultivation anywhere.  Photos of this plant taken in Puerto Rico seem to be quite rare.  The only photo of a local plant I was able to find before I was able to take these photos were of an exceptionally poor quality and seemed to have been taken from a plant that was collected from the wild.     Since the plants I have seen were all inside state forest reserves and the plant has no commercial value there is little threat that this plant will be ever affected by collection for the plant trade.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Arundina graminifolia an exotic orchid that has become naturalized in Puerto Rico

A flower of the most common form
A flower of the dwarf form
A flower of the dwarf form in the middle of a group of canes of this orchid
A side view of the flower of a form that seems to be uncommon in the extreme
Excuse me for the poor photo but it is the only front view I have of this mysterious flower
Arundina graminifolia is an orchid native of Southeast Asia that has become naturalized in Puerto Rico.   It can be found in the wild from Sri Lanka and India on the Indian Ocean to the Caroline Islands and Tahiti on the Pacific Ocean.  It is a vigorous plant that has escaped cultivation in areas outside its natural geographical range for example the Hawaiian Islands and Puerto Rico.  In Puerto Rico it has been reported from moist areas in the east of the island.
I have seen it growing in gardens all over the island sometimes forming huge specimen plants.  The tallest plants I have seen were in cultivation right on the ground in gardens in the foothills of the Luquillo Mountains, some seemed to be close to seven feet tall.  There is a huge specimen plant growing in a garden that sits by the side of the road that goes from Utuado to Adjuntas that is notable due to the large number of flowers it can have at the same time.  The plants are known locally as bamboo orchid due to a fancied similarity between the tall canes of this orchid and the canes of the bamboo plant.
I have seen several variations of this plant growing in captivity.  The most common form of Arundina in Puerto Rico is the tall one that can grow to six feet or more.  This form is nearly ubiquitous in the gardens of orchid growers.  However a dwarf form has become very popular in the last few years and it not rare to see this form growing as a pot plant.  It can also grow into a large clump of stems but since it is just a few feet tall even large clumps can be accommodated in a limited space.  The flowers of the tall type and the smaller type are quite similar, they differ mainly in the way the flower are presented and in some details of structure of the lip.  In its native haunts there are several varieties that formerly were classified as different species, these are now considered variations of a single species. Recently a white flowered form is sometimes being offered for sale at orchid shows but I have yet to see one blooming in a local garden.
Intriguingly there is a fourth type of Arundina in Puerto Rico.  The lip of the flowers of these plants is very different from the two more common types.  I have searched to see if this type of Arundina has been reported elsewhere but so far it has been absent from the books and Internet sources that I have accessed.   As far as I know this mysterious Arundina type is not in wide cultivation and I have seen mature plants of this type only in one private garden.  I was told that this type of plant was found in a population of feral plants in the south east of the island.
This orchid is easy to cultivate in Puerto Rico and responds vigorously to good care.  To cultivate this plant you need a eight or ten inch wide pot to accommodate its rampant growth.  The media should be coarse and heavy to avoid having the pot tip over.  Cow manure is an excellent additive as a top dressing to the media in the pot.  You need to water this plant abundantly as this helps the plant achieve its tallest size.  Large vigorous plants can produce single or branched inflorescences that can produce blooms sequentially for weeks or even for months.  When the inflorescences stop producing flowers they produce small plantlets.
These little plants can be detached when they stop growing.  I put them in water to stimulate the production of roots.  When the small plants have several roots they are transplanted to a pot with a mixture of potting soil and compost that is kept moist until the plants have been able to develop a significant root system.  This plant root system tends to be superficial so when growing the tall type in a pot it is useful to have a stake in the pot to tie the canes.  Young canes don’t need staking to stay upright but canes seen to become weaker with age and prone to tip over. Once the plant produces its second cane it can be treated as an adult plant.  Unlike most orchids this one is easy to grow into a specimen plant in a comparably short time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Creando una pradera subacuatica en miniatura usando la hierba Echinodorus tenellus

Tres machos barbo Odessa, la ventaja de la densa vegetación es que ayuda a los peces subalternos a escapar de la constante agresión de los mas dominantes

La pecera recién preparada, para detalles vea texto, note que la pecera esta siendo iluminada por el sol y que el agua esta cristalina

La pecera una vez establecida, la banda negra es un crecimiento normal de algas que coloniza el cristal que esta en contacto con el substrato 
El exceso de nutrientes causa que las hojas sean cubiertas por algas epifiticas, el pez es un macho barbo Odessa en librea de desove,
El alga filamentosa puede llegar a cubrir las plantas con un crecimiento algodonoso que se puede aprovechar para el desove de ciertos peces
La detestable alga verde azul, buuu!!!
La pecera en su etapa madura, note el denso crecimiento y la gran talla de estas plantas que normalmente son mas pequeñas

Unos de los aspectos de los que más disfruto de la afición del acuarismo es cuando recreo en miniatura el hábitat natural de algunas de las especies de mis peces.  Cuando comencé en el acuarismo allá para los años setenta muy pocas personas mantenían peceras plantadas que replicaran en su composición aspectos del hábitat natural de los peces que mantenían.  La mayoría de las peceras tenían como decoración objetos tales como canicas de cristal, cerámicas y gravillas de colores exageradamente  brillantes y una verdadera cornucopia de decoraciones plásticas de todo tema imaginable.  Pero en los años ochenta comenzó un movimiento para utilizar las plantas no solo como un elemento decorativo subsidiario sino como el foco de atención en la pecera.  A este estilo de decorar peceras, que distinguía por usar gran número de plantas combinadas con pocos peces se le conocía como el método “holandés” ya que muchos de sus mas conocidos exponentes se encontraban en Holanda.  En tiempos recientes el Sr. Amano, un japonés de singular visión estética, ha creado peceras plantas que sorprenden y deleitan a quienes las ven por la hábil combinación de plantas y peces en decoraciones que simulan vastos paisajes subacuáticos encapsulados en un espacio limitado.  Estas peceras me han inspirado y en ocasiones he mantenido peceras con arreglos que simulan ambientes naturales.
Uno de los arreglos de pecera que más me agrada es la réplica en miniatura de una pradera subacuática.  Este arreglo es sumamente sencillo de crear y mantener si se siguen algunas reglas simples.  Mi inspiración para esta pecera plantada en particular fue las grandes praderas de Thalassia (hierba marina) que vi por primera vez en mis años de estudiante universitario.  Explorar las praderas submarinas del área sur de la isla era como visitar un reino mágico lleno de sorpresas y maravillas.  La fauna y la flora marina, que conocí por primera vez en ese tiempo, ha sido para mi una fuente casi infinita de cosas sobre las cuales se puede aprender algo. 
Pero replicar una pradera de Thalassia en cautiverio no es sencillo.   Mantener las condiciones físico-químicas del agua marina propias de este hábitat, proveer las necesidades lumínicas de las plantas, y el volumen de substrato necesario para un cultivo exitoso convierten estas peceras en un reto aun para el acuarista marino experimentado.
Para mi fortuna es posible hacer una mímica en miniatura de este hábitat sin incurrir en grandes gastos de equipo, tener que llevar a cabo un constante monitoreo de la calidad del agua y sin la necesidad de una pecera de gran tamaño.  La planta que hace esto posible es parte del genero EchinodorusEchinodorus tenellus está entre los miembros de menor estatura de este género.  En la naturaleza se le puede encontrar creciendo en áreas arenosas a la orilla de estanques y lagos, generalmente no se le encuentra creciendo a las orillas de los ríos sino que favorece áreas de poca corriente.  Su área de distribución es vastísima e incluye a las partes sureñas de Norteamérica y las partes tropicales de Sur América.   Esta muy bien adaptada a tolerar fluctuaciones en los niveles de agua y sobrevive con igual facilidad tanto dentro como fuera del agua, sin embargo muere si el substrato se seca totalmente.  En la naturaleza florecen cuando en nivel de agua baja durante la temporada de sequia dejando las plantas expuestas.  Las flores con blancas con seis pétalos y un centro amarillo.  En mi experiencia todas las plantas florecen juntas.  Las plantas en flor son muy decorativas pero este evento ocurre pocas veces en el acuario ya que la intensidad lumínica y el balance de nutrientes necesario para estimular la floración generalmente no se dan en las peceras.  Esta planta es conocida comercialmente como “pigmy chain sword plant”.  En cautiverio se les usa para crear un “césped” en la parte frontal de la pecera que sirve de marco a plantas de mayor talla y espectacularidad que son las que usualmente se escogen como punto focal en las composiciones decorativas de los acuarios plantados.
Crear una pradera subacuática en miniatura usando Echinodorus tenellus es extremadamente sencillo.  Lo he hecho usando en peceras que han variado en tamaño desde cinco hasta treinta galones.  Primero hay que comenzar con el substrato.  La base del substrato es la arena, prefiero arena de rio y no arena marina.  La arena de rio la lavo cuidadosamente y luego la hiervo antes de usarla, un paso molesto pero necesario para evitar introducir a la pecera alguna de las numerosas y horribles plagas que infestan algunos de nuestros cuerpos de agua dulce.  También se puede usar gravilla de pecera comercial sin problema alguno.  Quiero dedicar un momento a enfatizar el asunto de evitar la introducción de plagas en la pecera.  Hace unos años tenía una pecera plantada espectacular en la cual desovaban casi a diario una pareja de peces arcoíris turquesa.  Aun cuando era claro que los peces estaban depositando huevos por toda la pecera, jamás vi un alevín aparecer.  Cuando decidí cambiar la decoración de la pecera arranque todas las plantas y como resultado una gran cantidad de nutrientes fueron a parar a la columna de agua lo que causo una descomposición anaeróbica.  Grande fue mi sorpresa cuando descubrí que condición anaeróbica del agua provoco que subieran a la superficie cientos de planarias que vivían en el fondo y la vegetación de la pecera.  ¡Con razón no había sobrevivido un solo huevo!  LMi mi sospecha es que densa población de estos turbelarios devoraba los huevos tan rápido como eran puestos.  Ya aclarado este punto volvamos a retomar la preparación de la pecera.
La mezcla que es la base del substrato se compone de ½ porción de arena, ¼ de excreta seca de vaca y ¼ compost maduro.   Estas tres porciones son revueltas hasta que se tiene una mezcla uniforme.  La mezcla es depositada en el fondo de la pecera hasta que se logra una profundidad de unas dos pulgadas.  Luego que esta base se ha allanado a una superficie plana, se le cubre con una capa de por lo menos una pulgada de tierra roja cernida.  Esta capa de tierra es sumamente importante porque sella el substrato base y evita que el mismo contamine el agua y produzca una masiva y asquerosa descomposición anaeróbica producto de un cantidad masiva de nutrientes en suspensión.
Una vez el substrato está preparado la pecera se llena con extremo cuidado para evitar que nada perturbe en lo mas mínimo la capa de tierra roja que esta sobre el substrato base.  Si somos cuidadosos el agua conservara su claridad y el substrato base permanecerá intacto.  En este momento se introducen las plantas.  Cuanto más plantas se usen más rápido la pecera se llenara de ellas, sin embargo aun unas pocas plantas son capaces de multiplicarse con rapidez.  Generalmente no las planto sino que las coloco sobre el substrato fijándolas con una piedrecilla.  Una vez que las raíces de las primeras plantas alcanzan el substrato base, el crecimiento se incrementa significativamente.  Estas plantas se reproducen en las peceras por estolones, los cuales son extensiones horizontales de los tallos que desarrollan una planta en la punta.  Es necesario, para el crecimiento vigoroso de las plantas. que la pecera se coloque en un lugar en donde reciba algunas horas de luz solar en la mañana.  Una fuente le luz artificial de buena calidad también produce buenos resultados.  Lo importante es que las plantas estén expuestas a una fuente de luz intensa.
Durante las primeras semanas después de haber montado la pecera la pecera se mantiene tapada con una tapa traslucida y sin peces.  Hay dos razones para no tener peces en la pecera, la primera es que durante el periodo en que las bacterias y otros microorganismos están colonizando el substrato los parámetros físico-químicos del agua pueden variar de formas nocivas para los peces.  El substrato base emite algunas burbujas en ocasiones debido a la furiosa actividad de los microorganismos que lo están colonizando y descomponiendo durante las primeras semanas.  La segunda razón es que los peces puedan perturbar la capa de tierra superficial causando un escape excesivo de nutrientes a la columna de agua.  La pecera debe estar tapada para evitar que los mosquitos la invadan.  En un par de meses la pecera debe tener un buen crecimiento de plantas en su interior y no debe haber preocupación en moverla o introducir peces ya que en este punto las plantas han  agarrado fuertemente el substrato con sus raíces formado una estructura firme que lo mantiene en su sitio.
Una vez establecida esta pecera puede mantenerse por años con muy poco esfuerzo adicional más allá de cambios de agua periódicos y la limpieza de los cristales.  Cuando se tienen muy pocos peces en este tipo de pecera se les alimenta con moderación en ocasiones ni siquiera es necesario tener un filtro ya que las plantas eliminan los desechos metabólicos tan rápido como los peces los producen.
Pero estas peceras pueden sufrir de problemas si se les somete a regímenes que no son compatibles con la buena salud de las plantas.  El problema más frecuente en mi experiencia ocurre cuando se mantienen peces que producen mas desechos de los que las plantas pueden absorver.  Estos desechos permanecen en la columna de agua y dan pie al crecimiento desmedido de varios tipos de algas indeseables.  Bajo condiciones de contaminación de nutrientes moderada la pecera es invadida por algas epifíticas que cubren las hojas de la Echinodorus pero que generalmente no causan más problemas y que mueren cuando se reducen los nutrientes en el agua.
Si la carga de nutrientes en el agua aumenta demasiado la pecera puede ser invadida por algas filamentosas o aun peor por las desagradables algas verde azules.  Las algas verde azules son las peores plagas de este tipo de pecera ya que cubren las plantas y las matan al privarlas de la luz.  Se dice que algunas de estas algas son toxicas aunque no he perdido peces por su causa.  La solución al problema de las algas verde azules  consiste en sacar todos o casi todos los peces para reducir la cantidad de nutrientes que circulan por la pecera y reducir la intensidad lumínica que la pecera recibe.   Desafortunadamente una vez el alga verde azul invade una pecera puede ser increíblemente tenaz y tardar meses en morir.  Tiendo a remover manualmente casi toda la que puedo encontrar para acelerar su desaparición. Los cambios de agua para reducir los nutrientes disueltos soh una pieza clave de la estrategia de control de esta alga.  Una forma rápida de matar el alga verde azul es usando el antibiótico Erithromicina, sin embargo no recuerdo la dosis por galón que es necesaria para matar el alga.  La única vez que use este método la muerte súbita de toda el alga verde azul en la pecera causo una rápida turbidez que obligo a cambios repetidos de agua.
En varias ocasiones he usado estas peceras con éxito para lograr el desove de algunas especies de peces.  La rica fauna microscópica de este tipo de pecera ayuda a la supervivencia de los alevines mas diminutos ofreciéndoles una fuente de alimento que les permite sobrevivir hasta que crecen lo suficiente para comer alimentos de mayor tamaño.  He mantenido con éxito en este tipo de peceras a barbos, cíclidos (de los que no les gusta excavar), killies, tetras y gouramis entre otros.