Friday, March 8, 2013

Don't squish this spider!

BLOG UPDATE: Good news! I have now gone through all of my pictures from my vacation (can you believe that I took 600 pictures in a single day twice?!), and organized them into "plant pictures," "lizard pictures," and "other" pictures. Since I have so many of them, I might even find a way to squeak a lizard picture or two into a blog post somewhere down the line...
Thanks for bearing with me during my weeks of sporadic activity! Back to regular blog posts we go.

Species name: Hymenocallis speciosa

Common name: spider lily

Location: Dominican Republic

The spider lily, which should be incredibly reminiscent of my last blog post about the potted bulb of the "amaryllis" (which you can read all about HERE), is native to Dominican Republic and other islands in the West Indies. It has been spread all over the world in tropical and sub-tropical areas where it is very popular as an ornamental garden plant (it doesn't do nearly as well in a pot as the traditional amaryllis). While not the same genus, the "amaryllis" and the spider lily are very closely related, and have many characters that are similar between them.

One notable difference is how the flower itself looks. In the spider lily, the tepals are fused into a bottom structure called a staminate cup. Here, all of the stamens (and hence the name of the cup) emerge from the centre of the flower and produce huge amounts of pollen. The bottom of the cup is also where the nectaries are formed, and if you catch the flowers as soon as they open they reportedly have a very strong vanilla-like scent (I can't speak for that since all I smelled most of the trip where these flowers were growing was sunscreen and BBQ!). The seed pods are also quite different than in Hippeastrum; instead of being located on stalks coming off of the inflorescence stalk, they are sessile (or directly attached by their base to the stalk of the inflorescence). Other than those two differences, the leaves look nearly identical, the bulbs are completely indistinguishable from Hippeastrum, and the flower buds before they open look nearly identical.

The growth form of this bulb and where it thrives is also very different from the traditional houseplant amaryllis, and can be used as another easy way to distinguish the two genera. Hippeastrum does very poorly when submerged for any amount of time, and that's one of the reasons why it is recommended when you have an amaryllis in a pot that you water it from the bottom to prevent drowning the bulb. Hymenocallis, on the other hand, can grow in swampy areas where the bulbs are completely submerged in water for months at a time. They do require a dry period to store enough nutrients to support flowers the next year, but this doesn't have to be a significant amount of the year. Also, it does very well growing in pure sand, which is incredibly unusual for a plant since sand contains very few nutrients (the soil is so porous everything just flows right through). Since these plants are such popular ornamental species in the areas where they are native, their status as a common species is secure.

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