3 interestingly new plants (seeds) to my collection

Dear everyone!

First of all, for my readers who celebrated Christmas hope you had joy and fun with your loved ones. Secondly I have an update to you. In today’s blog post I would like to talk about 3 different type of plants. These plants are dioscorea elephantipes, edithcolea grandis and euphorbia obesa.

What is common in all 3 is that I have recently bought seeds online and I have just made a potting video, which you can watch here: Potting of the seeds – you might ask, but it is winter! You shouldn’t sow seeds now! You are right, but this year, the winter is pretty mild, where I live, not to mention there is always a good amount of sun. So I am quite optimistic and hoping it works out well!

Without further delay let’s start talking about these plants. First I would like to talk about  dioscorea elephantipes.


What everyone notices first is the strange shape and look. This is also why I have decided to acquire some seeds.  It is a deciduous climber. It takes the name “elephant’s foot” from the appearance of its large, partially buried, tuberous stem, which grows very slowly but often reaches a considerable size, often more than 3 m (10 ft) in circumference with a height of nearly 1 m (3 ft 3 in) above ground. It is rich in starch, whence the name Hottentot bread, and is covered on the outside with thick, hard, corky plates. It requires significant processing before being eaten to remove toxic compounds.

Primarily a winter grower, it develops slender, leafy, climbing shoots with dark-spotted, greenish-yellow flowers in winter (May or June in habitat)The flowers are dioecious, with male or female flowers occurring on separate plants.


Its natural habitat is the arid inland regions of the Cape, stretching from the centre of the Northern Cape (where it occurs around Springbok), south to the Clanwilliam & Cederberg area, and eastwards through the districts of Graaff Reinet, Uniondale and Willowmore, as far as Grahamstown.

It was recently rediscovered in a section of the Northern Cape Province by an expedition collecting seeds for the Millennium Seed Bank Project.

In this area, it is most common on rocky north & east-facing slopes, in quartz or shale based soils.


This species is not difficult to cultivate, however it requires extremely coarse, well-drained soil, and sparse watering. Importantly, it is deciduous and loses its leaves in the summer. At this time it goes through a dry dormancy period.


This species indicates when it is requiring water, by the presence of green growth. From when a new growth appears from the caudex, it can receive regular watering, up until the growth withers and dies back. This is when the plant goes into its summer dormancy. Then watering should become more rare – until the next new growth appears.

The cycle can be extremely unpredictable or erratic, but in most cases this results in a watering regime of wetter winter and spring, and a dry summer dormancy period.

Sun & shade

In nature, the caudex is usually in shade beneath thicket vegetation, and only the leafy tendrils reach up to the sunlight. Therefore the caudex is sensitive to prolonged exposure to heat and full sunlight, and a dappled-sun or semi-shaded position is preferable. The green vine tendrils however, thrive if they are able to reach partial or full sunlight.


This plant grows naturally in brush on rocky slopes, so it requires extremely well-drained soil, with a large (at least 50%) mineral component.

Second is the edithcolea grandis.


Edithcolea is a monotypic genus with a single species Edithcolea grandis (Persian carpet flower). Once classified in the family Asclepiadaceae, it is now in the subfamily Asclepiadoideae of the dogbane family Apocynaceae. It is native to Africa and to the Arabian Peninsula.

The genus is named after Miss Edith Cole (1859-1940). She collected the type material for this plant together with Mrs. Lort Philips in 1895, during a botanical expedition (1894-1895) led by Mr. Ethelbert Edward Lort Phillips (1857-1944) from Berbera to the Golis mountains in northern Somalia.

Edithcolea grandis is a succulent plant with leafless richly branched perennial and decumbent stems with a diameter of 2 to 4 cm and up to 30 cm in length (ref prota, ref Field 80). The glabrous stems are 4 or 5 angled and armed with regularly placed hard and acute spinelike teeth or tubercules. The base color of the plant varies from green to red with brownish spots.

The bisexual flowers are 8 to 13 cm in diameter and are formed near the apex of the branches. The flower consists of an outer corolla with 5 corolla lobes (petals), which are fused halfway to the center and a relatively small inner corolla. The outside or back side of the flower is yellow to green. The inside consist of a pale yellow base color with a purple-reddish pattern of spots at the outside that gradually become smaller near the inner corona, which has itself has concentric reddish lines. Long purple hairs are present at the border of the brim of the outer corolla lobes. The remarkable flower is at times described as the Persian carpet flower. The carrion-like smell of the flowers attracts flies and other insects for pollination.

The fruit (follicles) contain a large number of seeds. The oval shaped seeds bear a tuft of hairs (coma) so they can be dispersed with the wind. The smaller variant baylissiana (Lavros & Hardy) has more branched stems that are smaller in diameter (1 to 1.5 cm), shorter (10 cm) and are often spirally twisted.


Edithcolea grandis is distributed throughout the African Great Lakes region (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia) and Yemen (including the Socotra archipelago). The plant is found in dry and arid regions. Sometimes in full sun, but mostly partly shaded by rocks and shrubby vegetation.

Usage and growth


Edithcolea grandis is occasionally cultivated as an ornamental in desert gardens worldwide. It has a gained a reputation as a particularly difficult plant to keep because of its very specific growing needs with much light and relatively high (above 15 °C) winter temperatures. It’s very susceptible to rot in combination with low temperatures.

Third and last plant is the euphorbia obesa. 


Euphorbia obesa is a subtropical succulent species of Euphorbia genus. It comes from South Africa, especially in the Cape Province. Sometimes referred to as a Kaffirhuisie, or a Baseball plant. In the wild, it is endangered because of over-collection and poaching, because of its slow growth, and the fact that the pod contains only 2 to 3 seeds. However, it is widely cultivated in botanical gardens.


Euphorbia obesa resembles a ball, thornless and decorative. It is commonly known as ‘baseball plant’ due to its shape. Its diameter is between 6 cm and 15 cm depending on its age. Young Euphorbia obesas are spherical, but become cylindrical with age. They contain water reservoirs for periods of drought.

The plant is dioecious, which means that a subject has only male or female flowers. The small flowers are insignificant in apex. In fact, like all Euphorbia, flowers are called cyathia.

As in all Euphorbia species, the latex is toxic.

Living in similar conditions on two different continents, Euphorbia obesa presents a form of convergence with Astrophytum asterias which is a cactus from Mexico.


This species is indigenous to a small range in the arid Karoo region of South Africa. This is a region of summer rainfall.





Plants That Changed the Course of History – The pineapple

Dear everyone!

It is December and as you know, during this time majority of the plants are in rest period. That means I don’t have much work with them. Luckily that means I have time to do other things, sadly that means I won’t be able to post on my blog as frequently.


Recently a book came to my attention. I found and bought called “Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History by Bill Laws”. So I have decided to start a new winter series and talk about plants which have changed the world we are currently living in. If you haven’t heard about this book, I recommend you to check it out. Some plants I am sure you have heard of, while others can be a surprise to you. Without revealing too much, I will mention some of the plants from the book… so spoiler alert!


Plants That Changed the Course of History – The pineapple
You might ask yourself… the pineapple? Must do something with agriculture, right? In fact yes and no. Many plants are related to agriculture or consumption, but not the pineapple, it shaped architecture mostly!


The pineapple has a long and interesting history. Many fruits, vegetables, animals were unknown in Europe before the exploration of the New World aka America. The pineapple prefers warm climate, hardly a climate which is in the (large part) of Europe. Captains, scientists and explorers returned from America with exotic fruits, plants and animals, so they can studied (or reproduced) in Europe. But here came the first issue. It required suitable conditions.
Especially on the colder regions of Europe it seemed challenging to produce these topical fruits. Great Britain was one of the regions. The era of inventions in horticulture started, and it spread like fire, a competition between royal courts and aristocracy. It was challenging to produce exotic plants, and they tried everything.. wooden structured glass tents with heating stoves and best quality horse manure.
John Evelyn, gardener and writer, wrote about how to use the natural resources (Sun) with combination of manure to heat glasshouses.
The upcoming years the “greenhouse building passion” didn’t decrease in fact it started to become more and more popular across the Western world.

Hendrick Danckerts’ painting about John Rose, royal gardener giving a pineapple as present to Charles II., King of England

The biggest breakthrough was achieved by Joseph Paxton, the son of a British peasant. He revolutionised how greenhouses work. He realised the importance of ventilation in greenhouses, the white walls reflecting light and heat, furthermore if the glass windows are 52° degree, then during the noon period, the roof can collect the most sunlight. His observations revolutionised greenhouses and until today they are relevant.

In summary, tropical fruits – mostly the “weird shaped” pineapple revolutionised and promoted the use of greenhouses. Thanks to that, we can now grow tropical fruits, vegetables all year round even at the colder regions of the world!


The Soil

Hello everyone,

During the last months, I have talked about various plants and fungi, but I haven’t talked about something, which all of them need – except Tillandsien – and it is the soil. The soil is the key to start… basically everything.

Imagine, without (clean, nutritious and healthy) soil there wouldn’t be agriculture, trees and plants, and this would affect everything, the whole ecosystem. This is why when corporations or consumers pollute their soil, is like pointing the gun towards ourselves.

Let’s start our journey in the garden. You go outside and dip up some soil. In that small amount of soil, you can see more diversity than anywhere else. On the top (humus) layer, you can find various plants, seeds, mosses, fungi, bugs, bacteria and even animals (if it is a big piece of soil of course :)), the more you go down (top soil – subsoil and finally bedrock) and more hidden world appears in front of us. You can find a waste network of plant roots, the underground network of fungi, “gardening” earthworms, maybe some borrowing animal (mole) and millions – billions of microbes.

Source: http://www.ezrasorganics.com

This clearly shows that soil is providing home, food and generally life for all of us. But what is it made of?
– 45% minerals
– 25% water
– 5% organic matter
– 25% air*

I will not go into too much in the detail, but all the 4 elements above are crucial to create a healthy cycle of life – if you are interested in it more detailed, feel free to read about it here.

Source: USDA

* data from United States Department of Agriculture

We can also talk about multiple type of soil. There are areas which are rich in minerals, while others are poor. Different colours, from brown, white, red or black. Different textures from rocky to sandy places, but surprisingly nature found a way to adopt to most of these terrains and conditions. The soil texture is dependent on 2 aspects, such as natural (weather) and non-natural (human) interventions. The biggest changes occur, because of humanity, agricultural and urban development interventions and climate change.

Source: USDA

Sadly, due to humanity we are faster and faster destroying the soil. With the increasing population we need bigger and bigger areas for agriculture, and where agriculture is present it destroys the ecological balance of the soil. By nature, the upper layer of the soil is slowly losing its mineral content due to wind and water – this is what we call soil erosion. To this soil erosion process, agriculture plays a significant role. It has speed up the process by 10-40 times.

Source: Wikipedia

As you can see from the map, huge areas will be affected in the near future if we can’t find a solution to soil erosion. Everyone can do a bit to preserve their healthy environment. The next time you plan to use chemicals in your garden, think about a more biologically friendly solution!

Rose of Jericho, the resurrection plant

Hello everyone,

Today I would like to talk about a very interesting plant. I am sure you know my common phrase “the world of plants can’t stop to amaze me, with its diversity”. I could repeat myself. This plant can literally “cheat death” with its unbelievable strategy to survive without water.

I am talking about the Selaginella lepidophylla, aka (fake) rose of Jericho. This plant has a strategy to survive dry conditions. In fact it can survive without water for years and years. This plant is native in the Chihuahuan Desert (Mexico/USA). It forms a tumbleweed, which means they are blown by the wind around the desert. By the first look, they seem to be a bunch of dry, dead sticks and leaves.


rose-von-jerichoSource: http://www.krautrausch.de/rose-von-jericho

But when it gets in contact with moisture, it starts to “resurrect”. It begins to curl out and the yellow/brownish color starts to turn green – this is why it received the name, resurrection plant.

Selaginella lepidophylla is easily confused with Anastatica both species are resurrection plants and form tumbleweeds, they share the common name “rose of Jericho”.
Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selaginella_lepidophylla

In some traditions, the plant symbolizes energy renewal, good luck, good business and health.

Lately I have purchased 2 specimen to seem them coming back to life before my eyes. It takes couple of hours to unfold, so I have decided to make a video out of it. The video can be seen on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-1rIzd5mCE

Thank you for reading! 🙂

A desert in bloom

Hello everyone,

I thought I write a post about some news I have read recently. For me it is quite fascinating, especially because nature is sometimes more powerful, than we can imagine it.

In this post I would like to talk about the Atacama desert (in Peru), a well-known desert for its harsh conditions. Even NASA is doing experiments here, because the conditions and landscape are similar to Mars. To put it in numbers, the average rainfall is about 15 mm per year, although some locations, such as Arica and Iquique, receive 1 to 3 mm in a year. Moreover, some weather stations in the Atacama have never received rain.


Yellow area is defined at the Atacama desert – orange is marked as an arid “border” (Source: Wikipedia)

? Flora Quiz ?

Before reading further, take a guess how many species could survive in such a condition like this?

The answer to the previous question is surprising. You can find over 500 specimen within the border of the desert. How can nature be so diverse under so harsh conditions, it can surprise me always.
There is something, very valuable here, and it is called water. Water is the engine here. Plants need to quickly react to rain (absorb, disperse seeds, germination,…). The seasons here work a little bit different from what most of us got used to. In the desert during – what we call summer – is winter, and during – what we call winter – is summer (basically the seasons are the other way around). Which means most of the rain and plant life happens during the “winter”. But when we look at the calendar, it is normal comparing to other relatives, since if you go to your garden May, June, July, August, September are the months when most of the plants are flowering. Flowers usually grow there once every seven years, but the extra rain meant it occurred just two years after the last bloom.

Source: Metro.co.uk

If you would be there many regions would be in bloom, while others would remain dead.

Source: Metro.co.uk


Sources used:
– Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atacama_Desert)
– http://metro.co.uk/2017/08/22/desert-erupts-in-floral-beauty-after-unexpected-rain-falls-in-driest-place-on-earth-6869451/

My orchid nursery visit

Hello everyone,

After a long time, I would like to come with another interesting post. I had the chance to visit a nursery I wanted for a long time, but never had the real chance. This opportunity came on Friday 28th of August, when I could visit the Akerne Orchids nursery in Schoten.


My trip was quite adventurous. I recommend coming here by car or taxi – I did my journey on foot and with train. My journey started from Brussels with a train to Antwerpen, and from there with a bus to Schoten, and within Schoten on foot. Sounds simple, but finding the right bus and the right way took me quite a lot of preparation, not to mention I got lost couple of time…  but it was worthy! Before going to the nursery I contacted the owner(s). I was surprised that after 1 or 2 days I have received a message from the nursery – from Kenneth – that it isn’t a problem to come and we have arranged a day for the visit.
Continue reading “My orchid nursery visit”


Hello everyone,

As a continuation of last week’s topic, I am now going to talk a bit about plants in a closed environment. Last week, I have showed you, how I made a terrarium from a starter kit, and this week I would like to talk about the principle behind it.

So why is it an interesting experiment? First of all, it demonstrates in a micro environment how different organism work together to create an ecosystem. An ecosystem (as you can guess from its name) must something to do with interactions. To speak scientifically ecosystem is: An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water and mineral soil), interacting as a system. (Wikipedia). This is simple and complex at the same time. Simple in sense to understand how it work, it is a circle of life/activities, and complex in terms of chemical and biological procedure – luckily nature invented it and it works perfectly. In this process are key non-living components like Water(H20), N2(Nitrogen), Oxygen(O2), Carbon Dioxide(CO2) and living components like plants, fungi, bugs and animals.

The nutrient cycle

In fact, you don’t need to make this experiment, you are already part of this experiment – by living on the planet. Nevertheless it is fun to see how a micro environment evolves.

So from now on, we will talk about the process in a terrarium. And let’s start from the bottom upwards…
There are 4 key elements to understand:
1. Drainage, it is key to avoid the rotting of the roots and keep the water sitting in the soil.
2. Charcoal layer, it cleans the water and soil fresh and removes toxins (unfortunately in my kit there was no such)
3. Soil, obviously one of the most important since plants need a growing medium. It needs to be clean, high in minerals and non-chemically treated.
4. Plants, to enable the ecosystem to cycle.

Afterwards, the only component you need to add, is water and ready to experience how our ecosystem works.

An overview

In action you can see, how it looks like:


Our planet works on the same principle and just like in the your glass jar, the earth consists of different layers – of course a little bit more complex


To simply explain I will use the explanation from BottledPlants.com:

They divided it into 2 categories. 1. Water cycle and 2. Gaseous Exchange

1. Water Cycle:

Starting from the plant itself:

  1. Plant Transpires – This means the exchange of gas between the environment. This also means gas in the form of water vapour, as technically, water behaves like gas in this stage of the water cycle.
  2. Water Condenses – Water vapour given out by the plant condenses into water droplets. These water droplets may form on the wall of the enclosure or in the air itself as mist. Usually mist will form during cooler temperature. However, if the terrarium is overly watered, water droplets on the water will be visible throughout the day. This is when you need to ‘air’ the plant.
  3. Soil Wets – Mist in the air and water droplets on the wall sips into the soil. This of course includes you watering the soil. Always use a sprinkler so as to maintain top soil layer’s landscape.
  4. Water Absorption – Water is taken into the roots following a few methods.
    • Osmosis – This happens when there is a lower concentration of salt in the soil than in the plant at the root. Water basically flows into the roots along the concentration gradient, from a lower salt concentration to a higher salt concentration. This process does not take up energy.
    • Reverse Osmosis (RO) – This takes place when there is a higher concentration of salt in the soil than in the plant at the root. Not to be mistaken by dryness of soil, a relatively dry soil can still be low in salt concentration. This process requires the use of energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). ATP is manufactured in the leaves during photosynthesis.
    •  Capillary Action – This action takes place simultaneously during Osmosis or RO. Basically it makes use of surface tension and suction effect to draw water. The molecular forces in the Plant’s stem attracts water molecules on it’s inner surface and draws water up against gravity. Transpiration of the plant also creates a suction effect (think sucking water through a straw) which suck up water on the surface of tubes in the stem

This lesson on the water cycle happening in a terrarium ecosystem does not take into account how the plant makes use of the water. However, it gives you a basic idea of the water cycle.

2. Gaseous Exchange:


As mentioned at the beginning there are numerous important gases which are required to ensure a healthy ecosystem. CO2 and O2 you know they are important, but there is also another very important component, N2 – Nitrogen. It important to have in the the air of the terrarium, but too much will kill the life inside. As a solution, you can use lichen (as it was included in my starter kit).

All in all, having a sealed terrarium is easy to maintain – in theory – but in practice you see that the chemical and biological processes are very complex and too much or too little from one component can destroy the whole life.

Finally, I leave you with a thought to think about. Our planet. Our planet was engineered perfectly by nature, but one component – human activity (over exploitation of resources, pollution, over population, etc.) threatens the whole system. We can see how easily everything can collapse and everyone will experience the consequences!

Thank you for reading!