06/18/2022 onion time

Oops. We disturbed this big beautiful toad.
The toad hopped over our onions to nestle down under some bean plants. We turned the soaker hose on after we were done harvesting to make sure any other plants we disturbed weren’t too upset, and hopefully that will keep the toad safely into the cooler night too.
Three kinds of onion!
The shadiest bed has Inca pea beans planted over Thomas Laxton sugar peas which we removed as they were getting mildewy. Now the pea beans have room to grow.
Our supervisor chose a shady, cool corner.
Left are the dried Thomas Laxton sugar peas for next season. To the right are Oregon sugar pod II (the original kind I had) from earlier this spring. I am going to bleach them to prevent transfer of the mildew to next season. We also put the plant waste in the city yard waste bins as their composting gets much hotter than ours.

06/05/2022 bird nest

Bird’s nest fungi, that is!!!
The Chef noticed these this afternoon. Very excited.
A William’s pride apple!!!
I realized there are multiple kinds of horse crippler cactus. Mom helped me identify this as Echinocactus horizonthalonius (the common and widespread subspecies), based on it having eight ribs. The flower closed in the sunshine today. Apparently it needs a second individual to make fruit, ie it’s self sterile (also known as self incompatible).
Some kind friends brought us a big obsidian rock!
I put it near the baby two leaf senna. I think the black and yellow will look very nice together.
A small pokeberry growing in backyard.
A Texas dandelion accidentally brought from home! Yay!

2022/05/21 a cool afternoon, good for last plantings before summer heat

Weird fungus in front strawberry bed where sweetgum roots are rotting.
Potatoes!
Some eggs on the house.
Dayflower. Someday I’ll figure out if it’s the native or non native species.
A mystery that came along from Texas.
It turns out these tiny things are seedheads, so I completely missed it blooming.
I looked at it in the microscope to confirm they are seeds. Abby suggested a Nutallanthus sp which looks right. I can’t believe I somehow missed the flowers! Maybe while I was at home in Texas in April?
A non native rye. It’s pulled now. Thanks Jeanne!
Mystery grass, up close of seedheads. Abby has identified as Vulpia sp, but that genus contains both native and non native species.
The same Vulpia sp, outside.
Guest cat Shackleton wanted and got a leash walk today.
He loves a good dust patch.
At the end of the water hose is a small Datura wrightii that I figured I should plant while we have our probably last spell of cool weather for the spring. I left its sibling in a pot until I find out if this spot has enough sun.
A baby Dalea purpurea (purple prairie clover) in the prickly pear planter! This was from a free seed packet from prairie moon. I didn’t use any inoculum.
Abby very kindly gave me one of her two seedlings from her Rudbeckia maxima! Really excited to watch this one grow!!

04/26 and 04/28 assorted

The Tupperware experiment Ashy Sunflowers have a few more sprouts as of 04/26. I need to move them more carefully as the last two I tried to plant promptly shriveled up and died.
Texas mallow coming up!
The other individual of Texas mallow coming up!
Now on 04/28, an Ashy Sunflower actually sprouting from seed! I believe this was one that got stratified.
04/28 rock garden is looking good.
Penstemon grandiflorus from prairiemoon.com as bare root seems to be growing!
The Astragalus (ground plum) not looking as good again.
Finishing up the 04/28 pics, the culinary sage is blooming in the rainbow garden!

Moving things around and catching up

Moving some things out of plant window to outside, I found two ashy sunflower seedlings in the experimental warm humid container! I have planted them in potting soil now. I will keep them inside for now as I imagine they will need a careful hardening off.

Path and fence plants

I got a bit of dirt from near the rosette of Spiranthes orchids to get any mycorrhizae to sprinkle in my soil at home.
Here it is.
“Mother hellloooooooo hi hi hi hi wigglessss”
Boredom between walks.
Also bored.
Several spring prairie plants I want to establish in my mini-prairie (to ensure flowers for early pollinators) are growing right by Mom and Dad’s house where they always weedeat, right along the foundation and in the driveway. This is a wild onion.
A weird and neato double stemmed and double seed head ten petal anemone!!
Hopefully these annual groundsel (which will get mowed in path) will seed in my yard.
Mom did a cross post on her blog. This is private property, so we are the only people digging any plants and are careful to take very few and from areas on the property where they will be damaged or killed, such as a path, the house foundation, or fence line. We also divided plants from the garden near the house and dug up babies from yard trees that would get mowed.
Gracie got a sticker in her paw, so Mom helped her out. Up along the fence, there was a small fragrant sumac that Mom was going to lop off (keeping the fence line clear) so we dug it up. It had a long taproot! Still not as long as a yucca though.

By popular request: germinating native cacti (updated summer 2022)

A few caveats

  • To my knowledge, none of the cacti around north-central Texas or central Oklahoma are legally endangered or threatened, but cacti can be highly desirable to plant collectors. So, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make sure any cactus seeds you have acquired are from a sustainable and legal source! The three species I have grown (below) are relatively common.
  • I am assuming in this blog post that you are growing within the native range of the cacti so that outdoor temperatures are not a concern once established.
  • I don’t really know what I’m doing. I have managed to get three of our local species (Escobaria missouriensis, E. vivipara, and Coryphantha sulcata to grow, but only the two Escobaria have as yet made it to a stage where I think they’ll live. The first C. sulcata died after sprouting, and the one I have now may or may not make it (update summer 2022: it perked up after the winter, but then a second new seedling died outside in the summer and the one later died, sometime after June 2022, but I don’t seem to have a blog post to link for it).
  • When I have encountered cactus genera in articles and resources, it appears the species in the genera Coryphantha, Escobaria, and Mammillaria seem to get reassigned among each other periodically, so I’m going to guess that similar conditions apply to all. I will specify the species given if it’s one of the three I have grown that are common in our region.

What to plant in

  • Soil needs to be well drained. You could go with cactus/succulent medium, possibly sterilized or with anti-fungal liquid added (pg 3 of Newland et al. 1981 suggests “Captan fungicide”). I did this for last year’s baby. What I did for the first time I tried was random dirt similar to where they normally live – I filled my outdoor planters with some sandy loam and gravel from a berm in my yard. The three-tiered planter had a lot of germination for E. vivipara (at least 7 up, though I didn’t count how many I planted), only a few (two? I don’t remember) for E. missouriensis, and one for C. sulcata. Not all survived, however – see “What to do once they sprout”.
  • Perhaps a pinch of local dirt from near the same species of adult cactus to ensure they get suitable mycorrhizal partners (Carillo-Garcia et al. 1999; Harding 2017). Most sources I read about did not talk about this aspect of germination, so I imagine many can make it without it, but germination or survival may not be as good. I didn’t do this, but if I try again in the future I will see if it’s possible.
  • They may need a bit of richer soil, as might be found under a nurse plant such as a tree or shrub or neighbor plant (Carillo-Garcia et al. 1999; Muro-Pérez et al. 2014). However, not too rich, as more northern Coryphantha (like ours presumably) prefer less organic matter. But not much. No details are given on how much is too much. Think about where you find the little round cacti around here normally – it’s usually up on barrens or dry hilltops, not a lush forest humus layer.
  • Make the seeds’ environment humid. Page 3 of Newland et al. 1981 provides a recommended cactus sprouting soil recipe and humidity-containing bag. As it’s for Arizona, I imagine it would work just as well for our cacti farther east here (ie if Arizona cacti can take the humidity recommended, ours probably need at least that). Edit summer 2022: we used plastic trays with clear lids to keep things humid for the 2022 Montana C. sulcata and got great germination rates (32+ out of around 50 seeds).

How to get them to sprout

  • Germination rates vary and fresher (ideally this season’s) seeds seem to be better. Love and Akins (“Second summary of the native seed germination studies of Norman C Deno: species with names beginning with letters C through E“, 2019, Native Plant Journal, vol. 20, issue 1, pp 65-97; not freely available online, so you’ll need to get it via interlibrary loan from your local library if you want it), actually have results for E. vivipara (22% germination in 1-4 weeks, at 70°F. with “a few more” seeds sprouting the following year) and E. missouriensis (65-80% in 1-6 weeks, specifically noted as being from freshly collected seeds, temperature not specified). For one Mammillaria species, less than a year old is best and two years was the maximum but germination was lower (Flores-Martínez et al. 2008). Another source said 2-3 years old at most, but I could only read the abstract as the rest of the article was in Russian. I would err on the side of planting sooner rather than later. My 2019-collected Coryphantha sulcata seeds (ie two years old) only had one germinate in 2021 and it took from Sept. 28 to mid December.
  • Surface sow. Most species, and this probably includes our local species (the three above at least) need light (pp 426-427, Barrios et al. 2020), so put them on the surface of the soil. Muro-Pérez et al. (2014) also argue against burying for a different species of Coryphantha.
  • Most cacti do well around 20-35 degrees C (aka room temperature or warmish), with an optimum of around 30 C (Figure 4, Barrios et al. 2020), including for temperate zone cacti (which is where we live).
  • I’m waiting to get this article via interlibrary loan and will update the post if it has anything new: R. BREGMAN, F. BOUMAN, Seed germination in Cactaceae, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 86, Issue 4, June 1983, Pages 357–374.

What to do once they sprout

The finished projects from yesterday plus seeds today

Four t posts. Wires go east to west on both, holding in the blackberry canes so we can walk through and harvest. There was one new sprout in the middle that grew up and we moved it into a line with another.
Close up so you can see aluminum wire.
We finished the compost pile area yesterday but I forgot to take a picture. Wes did a lovely job leveling it all and put rebar through several holes to keep it in place.
I connected an old hose from one of the rain barrels to make sure the pile stays suitably damp for decomposition.
See that big seedling on the lower right edge? I don’t recognize it, so there is a possibility it’s the native bush honeysuckle Lonicera albiflora which is what I planted in this pot and left out all winter.
A pale but bright turquoise fungus growing on the showy milkweed seeds. The seeds felt plump though so maybe some will grow.
Strophostyles helvula bean seeds. One has fungus but also a little root!!
All the seeds we planted out of fridge stratification today. There’s still a few more left for late April that needed more time.
A little mystery seedling in the old Maximilian sunflower area.
Paula and I pulled and dug a lot of Maximilian sunflower shoots out of there. Hopefully we can find them new homes!