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  • Paddy
  • Born and educated in Germany, I came to live in the UK in 1982. After working in various jobs over the years, I am now a freelance writer. I have a passion for wildlife and nature in general and love my family, my dog Jet, writing, music and dragons.
  • Born and educated in Germany, I came to live in the UK in 1982. After working in various jobs over the years, I am now a freelance writer. I have a passion for wildlife and nature in general and love my family, my dog Jet, writing, music and dragons.

A - Z Plant List

A - B - C - D/E

F - G - H/I/J

K/L - M - N/O

P - Q/R - S

T to Z

 

The A - Z of House Plants is currently under construction. Plant names will be linked to their corresponding articles as they are added. Please be patient - there are a lot of plants, and there may be days when only one or two articles can be added at a time. In the meantime, why not take a look at some of these general care articles:

 

A brief Guide to Potting Mixes

 

When and how to repot House Plants

 

Grooming House Plants - the Basics

 

Indoor House Plants and Light

 

Ten House Plants tolerating low Light Conditions

 

Indoor House Plants and Humidity Levels

 

Watering Indoor House Plants

 

Fertilising House Plants

 


To save readers having to scroll through the whole alphabet when looking for a specific plant, each section will be moved to its own page once all corresponding articles have been added. 

 

Yet to come: 

 

H

Haworthia

(Haworthia species)

Heartleaf Philodendron

(Philodendron scandens)

Hellebore

(Helleborus niger)

 Hibiscus

(Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Hyacinth Flower

(Hyacinthus orientalis hybrids)

Hydrangea

(Hydrangea macrophylla)

 

I

Impatiens

(Impatiens hybrids)

Iron Cross Begonia

(Begonia masoniana)

Ivy Geranium

(Pelargonium peltatum)

Ixora 

(Ixora coccinea)

 

J

Jade Plant

(Crassula ovata)

Janet Craig Dracaena

(Dracaena deremensis)

Japanese Aralia

(Fatsia japonica)

Jasmine Plant

(Jasminum polyanthum)

Jerusalem Cherry

(Solanum pseudocapsicum)

 

K

Kaffir Lily

(Clivia miniata)

Kentia Palm

(Howea forsteriana)

 

L

Lady Palm

(Rhapis excelsa)

Lantana Plants

(Lantana camara)

Lily of the Valley                                      

(Convallaria majalis)

Lipstick Plant                                          

(Aeschynanthus lobbianus)

Living Stones                                           

(Lithops species)

Lucky Bamboo                                        

(Dracaena sanderiana)

 

M

Madagascar Palm                                    

(Pachypodium lamerei)

Maidenhair Fern                                       

(Adiantum)

Mandevilla Plant                                       

(Mandevilla hybrids)

Martha Washington Geranium                   

(Pelargonium domesticum)

Medinilla                                                 

(Medinilla magnifica)

Ming Aralia                                              

(Polyscias fruticosa)

Miniature Roses                                        

(Rosa chinensis hybrids)

Mona Lavender                                        

(Plectranthus hybrid)

Money Tree Plant                                     

(Pachira aquatica)

Moses in the Cradle                                 

(Tradescantia spathacea)

Mother of Thousands                                

(Kalanchoe daigremontiana)

Mother-in-Law's Tongue/ Snake Plant        

(Sansevieria trifasciata)

 

N

Nerve Plant                                              

(Fittonia verschaffeltii)

New Guinea Impatiens                              

(Impatiens x hawkeri hybrid)

Norfolk Island Pine                                   

(Araucaria heterophylla)

 

O

Oleander Plant                                         

(Nerium oleander)

Orchid Cactus                                         

(Epiphyllum species and hybrids)

Ornamental Chili Pepper                           

(Capsicum annuum)

 

P

Paddle Plant                                            

(Kalanchoe thyrsiflora)

Panda Plant                                            

(Kalanchoe tomentosa)

Pansy                                                     

(Viola x wittrockiana)

Paperwhite Narcissus                               

(Narcissus jonquilla)

Papyrus Plant                                          

(Cyperus papyrus)

Parlor Palm                                             

(Chamaedorea elegans)

Parrot Flower                                           

(Heliconia psittacorum)

Passion Flower                                        

(Passiflora caerulea)

Peace Lily

(Spathiphyllum)

Peacock Plant                                         

(Calathea makoyana)

Peperomia                                               

(Peperomia caperata)

Periwinkle Flower                                     

(Catharanthus roseus)

Persian Shield                                         

(Strobilanthes dyerianus)

Persian Violet                                          

(Exacum affine)

Piggyback Plant                                      

(Tolmiea menziesii)

Pink Calla Lily                                         

(Zantedeschia rehmannii)

Pink Quill                                                

(Tillandsia cyanea)

Pitcher Plant                                           

(Nepenthes hybrids)

Plumeria                                                 

(Plumeria rubra)

Pocketbook Plant                                    

(Calceolaria herbeohybrida)

Poinsettia                                                

(Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Polka Dot Plant                                       

(Hypoestes phyllostachya)

Ponytail Palm                                          

(Beaucarnea recurvata)

Pothos/ Devil's Ivy                                    

(Epipremnum aureum)

Powder Puff Tree                                      

(Calliandra haematocephala)

Prayer Plant                                            

(Maranta leuconeura)

Primrose Flowers                                     

(Primula hybrids)

Purple Heart Plant                                    

(Tradescantia pallida)

Purple Passion Plant                                

(Gynura aurantiaca)

Purple Shamrock                                     

(Oxalis regnellii)

Pygmy Date Palm                                     

(Phoenix roebelenii)

 

Q

Queen's Tears                                         

(Billbergia nutans)

 

R

Rabbit Foot Fern                                      

(Davallia fejeensis)

Rex Begonia                                            

(Begonia rex)

Rosary Vine                                            

(Ceropegia woodii)

Rubber Plant                                           

(Ficus elastica)

 

S

Sago Palm                                              

(Cycas revoluta)

Satin Pothos                                           

(Scindapsus pictus)

Scarlet Star                                             

(Guzmania lingulata)

Scented Geranium                                   

(Pelargonium species and hybrids)

Schefflera                                                

(Schefflera actinophylla)

Sensitive Plant                                         

(Mimosa pudica)

Shamrock Plant                                       

(Oxalis species)

Shrimp Plant                                           

(Justicia brandegeana)

Siam Tulip                                               

(Curcuma alismatifolia)

Spider Lily                                               

(Hymenocallis littoralis)

Spider Plant

(Chlorophytum comosum)

Split-Leaf Philodendron                             

(Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

Staghorn Fern                                          

(Platycerium bifurcatum)

Strawberry Begonia                                  

(Saxifraga stolonifera)

String of Pearls                                        

(Senecio rowleyanus)

Swedish Ivy                                             

(Plectranthus species)

Sweet Potato Vine                                   

(Ipomea batatas)

Swiss Cheese Plant                                 

(Monstera deliciosa)


T

Thanksgiving Cactus                                

(Schlumbergera truncata)

Ti Plant                                                   

(Cordyline terminalis)

Tiger's Jaw                                              

(Faucaria tigrina)

Tulips                                                      

(Tulipa hybrids)

 

U - V - W

Urn Plant                                                 

(Aechmea fasciata)

Venus Fly Trap                                        

(Dionaea muscipula)

Wandering Jew                                        

(Tradescantia albiflora)

Wax Begonia                                           

(Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum)

Wax Plant                                               

(Hoya carnosa)

Weeping Fig                                            

(Ficus benjamina)

Windmill Palm Tree                                  

(Trachycarpus fortunei)

 

X - Y - Z

Yucca                                                     

(Yucca elephantipes)

Zebra Plant                                              

(Aphelandra squarrosa)

ZZ Plant                                                  

(Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Sad News...

quote-10-06-2013-RIP.jpg

Stop Animal Cruelty

Instead of protecting the precious diversity of life on our planet, many countries, groups and individuals delight in performing acts of incredible cruelty to and on animals. To help stop this insanity going on, please go to The Petitions Site and add your voice to the thousands of individuals who are prepared to stand up and say: ' Enough is enough. Stop this now!' 

November 19 2012 2 19 /11 /November /2012 11:52

echeveria-species-greenPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Echeveria species green

Type: Succulent/ Cactus

Origin: Most Echeveria originate from Mexico and the south-west of the United States.

Height: Echeveria species green will grow to a height of around 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in).

Soil: This succulent needs a well draining potting mix, such as a cactus mix, for instance. Alternatively, a general purpose, sterilised potting mix combined with equal parts of small gravel, sharp sand, pumice or turkey grit will also work very well.

echeveria-gtLight: The majority of Echeveria need plenty of bright, even some full sun, to really come into their own. Strong afternoon sun should, however, be avoided during the summer, as the tender leaves of these plants burn easily.

Humidity: Used to predominantly dry climates in its native habitat, the Echeveria prefers average levels of humidity.

Temperatures: Average temperatures of around 18 to 27 degrees C (65 to 80 degrees F) are perfect in spring and summer, while autumn and winter temperatures should preferably be a little lower, raging between 13 and 24 degrees C (55 to 75 degrees F).

echeveria-woWater: Echeveria should be watered regularly during spring, summer and autumn, although it is best to allow the soil to dry a little between waterings. In winter, watering should be reduced. It is important to water the soil, rather than the rosettes of Echeveria, as they easily rot - and splashes of water may also leave marks on the purinose (the leaves' powdery waxy coating). 

Fertiliser: Many Echeveria do not really require fertilising at all, but a little of a liquid balanced fertiliser (which should be diluted to half its original strength) once a fortnight during spring, summer and autumn will not go amiss. Spreading worm castings over the top of the soil is a good alternative that will slowly release adequate supplies of nutrients for these house plants.

Propagation: The offsets produced by Echeveria specimens can be cut off and planted in their own container. Leaf cuttings (or leaves that have dropped off - they are attached rather loosely and may drop if the plant is moved or handled a little too rough) are also great for propagation. After allowing them to dry for around 24 hours, they can be pushed straight into a suitable potting mix. The pot should not be covered, as the resulting build-up of excess moisture will cause the new plant to rot.

Description and Care Tips 

echeveriaA member of the Crassulaceae family, the genus Echeveria includes around 180 different species, and incredible numbers of hybrids. Echeveria species green is just one lovely example of these wonderful plants. 

Its fleshy green to blue-green leaves display a hint of red when the plant is exposed to sunlight. They grow on short stems, forming rosettes of approximately 5 to 15 cm (2 to 6 in) in diameter. In late spring/ early summer, beautiful sprays of bell-shaped, colourful flowers will emerge on tall, often arching pink stems. Once faded, these flowers need to be pinched off. 

Occasionally, an Echeveria will grow a little leggy. Beheading the plant by cutting off the top end and, after allowing it to dry for a day, planting the head into a new pot. The old stem will also gradually produce new rosettes, which can then be removed and planted on their own.

echeveria-stExceptionally easy to grow, Echeveria of all types will provide pleasure and interest for many years. Most growers will agree that growing these amazing plants is without the shadow of a doubt addictive. Find out about other species, hybrids and lots of other useful information, including potential pests and how to deal with them, here: Warning: Growing Echeveria is Highly Addictive.

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November 14 2012 4 14 /11 /November /2012 16:45

european-fan-palmPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Chamaerops humilis

Type: Foliage

Origin: The European Fan Palm originates from the mountainous regions of Mediterranean countries including France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.

Height: Chamaerops humilis can reach heights of up to 1.2 m (4 ft).

Soil: For best results, two parts of peat moss potting mix should be combined with one part of sharp sand. Repotting is typically only necessary every three years or so.

Light: This house plant requires a minimum of four hours' worth of direct sunlight per day.

Humidity: European Fan Palms are quite content with the average levels of humidity present in most homes.

Temperatures: While enjoying temperatures ranging from 21 to 27 degrees C (70 to 80 degrees F) during the day, Chamaerops humilis prefers to be much cooler - at temperatures between 10 and 16 degrees C (50 to 60 degrees F) - during the night.

european-fan-palm-gtWater: From early spring until the end of summer, the soil for this plant needs to be kept constantly moist. Throughout autumn and winter, however, the top layer (around 5 cm, or 2 in) should be allowed to dry out before watering again.

Fertiliser: Monthly feeds using a diluted (1:1) liquid 10-10-10 fertiliser should be administered during the months of spring and summer. Chamaerops humilis should not be fed in autumn and winter.

Propagation: Seeds sown in spring - barely covered with soil and kept both warm (at 24 to 27 degrees C, or 75 to 80 degrees F) and moist - will take a few weeks to germinate, so patience is required. The European Fan Palm, unlike many other palms, also readily produces suckers, which can be cut off and planted in their own pots.

Description and Care Tips 

european-fan-palm-woGiven plenty of sunlight, warm days, cool nights and continually moistened soil, the shrubby European Fan Palm is fairly easy to grow, and will reach heights of 1.2 m (4 ft) when kept indoors. 

As Chamaerops humilis matures, its fine-textured, silvery or blue green leaflets, or fronds - 10 to 20 of which will grow into a rounded fan up to 60 cm (24 in) across - naturally split, and numerous sharp spines develop from its trunk.

In spite of being slow-growing, this long-lived palm will provide a stunning accent for many years, even while still relatively small.

This plant has very fragile roots, so it should only be repotted when absolutely necessary, typically about once every three years. Because these roots tend to grow deep, rather than spreading across, it is essential to use a deep pot for the European Fan Palm. When the plant has reached the desired size, it is sufficient to top-dress it (replacing roughly the top 5 to 7 cm, 2 to 3 in of the soil). Naturally, it is important to avoid disturbing any roots close to the surface.

european-fan-palm-stLike other palms, Chamaerops humilis is very sensitive to the chemicals found in tap water (chlorine, fluoride and others), as well as the salt in softened water. It is therefore recommended to use distilled, filtered or collected rain water for watering, as this will prevent a potentially lethal build-up of toxins in the soil.

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November 14 2012 4 14 /11 /November /2012 15:00

english-ivyPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Hedera helix

Type: Foliage

Origin: English Ivy originates from various locations in Europe.

Height: The sky's the limit - this house plant will climb as high as its owner allows it to go.

Soil: Hedera helix thrives in soilless potting mix, but is just as happy in other mixes - as long as they drain well.

Light: English Ivy likes lots of bright light and will thrive under fluorescent light, but should not be placed into direct sun. If the leaves of a variegated variety change to being mostly plain green, the plant is not receiving sufficient light.

english-ivy-gtHumidity: Regular misting and/ or keeping the pot on wet pebbles will raise humidity to adequate levels for the moisture-loving Hedera helix.

Temperatures: This plant prefers cool to average temperatures, ranging between 10 and 21 degrees C (50 to 70 degrees F).

Water: While the soil may be kept slightly drier in winter, it should be kept moist from spring into autumn. It should not, however, be allowed to become soggy.

Fertiliser: English Ivy needs monthly fertilising with a liquid fertiliser high in nitrogen between early spring and late autumn.

Propagation: Spring is the best time to propagate this plant from 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) long stem tip cuttings, which will root fairly easy in water or moist soil.

Description and Care Tips 

english-ivy-woThe lush trailing vines and lobed leaves of the English Ivy make this plant one of the most beautiful accent plants around. A vigorous grower, Hedera helix has strong, wiry stems that are densely covered with its gorgeous, distinctive foliage. Some of the hundreds of Hedera helix varieties feature plain green leaves, while others have leaves variegated with creamy white, yellow or gold. 

To stop variegated leaves turning plain green, it is vital to provide adequate amounts of bright light. Stems with leaves that have reverted to plain green can be pruned off to keep the plant looking its best. 

Commonly grown and sold for hanging baskets, the aerial roots of English Ivy can be  trained easily to climb up a trellis or a moss stick. Whether kept trailing or climbing, the plant needs to be kept cool - but away from cold and drafts, as exposure will dry out the leaves - and provided with moist air, moist soil and plenty of light.

english-ivy-stNaturally, the soil should not be allowed to get soggy, as this will cause the plant to rot. Using pots with drainage holes will do much to prevent soggy soil, and drainage trays/ saucers should always be emptied as soon as all excess water has drained from the pot after watering.

Misting Hedera helix will not only help to raise humidity levels and keep the plant's leaves from drying out, it will also help to prevent infestation by spider mites, a pest that just loves to attack English Ivy. 

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November 14 2012 4 14 /11 /November /2012 14:08

elephants-earPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Alocasia x amazonica

Type: Foliage

Origin: The Elephant's Ear originates from tropical Asia.

Height: Alocasia x amazonica will grow to heights of around 60 cm (2 ft).

Soil: This house plant prefers a peat moss potting mix.

Light: Elephant's Ears need plenty of bright light, but should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Humidity: As this plant likes moist air, use of a room humidifier is recommended.

Temperatures: Being a tropical plant, Alocasia x amazonica is best kept in rooms with average to warm temperatures of 18 to 24 degrees C (65 to 75 degrees F).

elephants-ear-gtWater: This plant is actively growing from spring through into autumn, and it is necessary to keep the soil moist throughout this period. Watering should be reduced in winter, allowing the soil to almost dry out between watering sessions.

Fertiliser: During the growing period (spring to autumn), the Elephant's Ear should be fertilised using a diluted (50:50) liquid 20-10-10 fertiliser on a fortnightly basis. Feeding is not required during the winter months.

Propagation: Alocasia x amazonica can be propagated by dividing its rhizomes and potting them in separate containers in spring. The rhizome's top surface should be kept above the soil's surface to prevent rotting of the growing stems at soil level.

Description and Care Tips 

elephants-ear-woThe exotic Elephant's Ear is kept predominantly for its striking foliage, as its flower - a spathe surrounding a spadix - is somewhat insignificant. The foliage really is spectacular, with glossy dark green, arrow-shaped leaves - featuring scalloped edges and a dramatic pattern of silver-green veins - being carried by upright, thick stems.

It must be said that this house plant is among the fussier plants to keep, as it craves high levels of humidity. Using a room humidifier and/ or a wet pebble tray and misting the leaves regularly with room-temperature water will, however, keep it quite happy. Misting the plant will also help to keep red spider mites - a pest fond of Elephant's Ear - at bay, as this little critter tends to prefer slightly drier conditions.

When it becomes necessary, the Elephant's Ear should be repotted in spring, and it should be given a resting period during winter. Fertilising needs to be stopped completely for this time, and watering should be reduced in frequency. The soil should be allowed to almost dry from one watering to the next during this period. 

elephants-ear-stIf the soil is allowed to dry out completely, the plant may enter a state of dormancy. This is nothing to worry about, as continued good care and plenty of humidity will result in the plant recovering within a month or so.

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October 28 2012 1 28 /10 /October /2012 17:35

easter-lilyPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Lilium Longiflorum

Type: Flowering

Origin: Easter Lilies originate from Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.

Height: Lilium Longiflorum plants will grow to approximate heights of 90 cm (3 ft).

Soil: This house plant will be served best with a high quality general purpose potting mix.

Light: The Easter Lily needs to be situated in a spot where it will receive bright light.

Humidity: Average levels of room humidity will be sufficient for this plant.

easter-lily-gtTemperatures: The Easter Lily is quite happy in temperatures ranging between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F).

Water: The potting mix for this plant should be kept just lightly moistened.

Fertiliser: Unless the plan is to transplant the Easter Lily's bulbs to an outdoor position, fertilising will not be necessary. If transplanting is planned, the plant should be fed - using a liquid, balanced fertiliser, once a month.

Propagation: Easter Lilies are propagated via bulbs.

Description and Care Tips

Traditionally purchased as Easter gifts or decorations, because their large, pristine white and trumpet-shaped flowers symbolise life and purity, Easter Lilies must have their protective plastic sleeve removed as soon as the potted house plant is brought home. 

This will ensure that adequate air circulation is provided. The foil pot covering should also be removed, as it may otherwise cover the drainage holes and cause the soil to become soggy, which may in turn cause the bulb to rot.

easter-lily-woProviding good air circulation and plenty of bright light, while keeping the soil just moist throughout, will ensure the Easter Lily will thrive and flower for quite some time. Keeping room temperatures fairly low (see above) and cutting off the pollen-bearing parts of stamens (anthers) just as soon as each bloom fully opens will also help to prolong blooming. The Easter Lily can be kept looking its best by removing spent flowers as soon as possible.

Although Lilium Longiflorum will not bloom for a second year if kept indoors, it can be placed into a bright position in the garden. Bulbs do not need to be stored, as they do not enter a state of dormancy, and can be planted out once the risk of frost is over.

They should be planted in well-drained, rich soil about 30 cm (12 in) apart and 15 cm (6 in) deep. Kept in the garden, this plant needs to be watered well and should be fertilised once every four weeks during spring and summer. 

easter-lily-stUnlike the purchased plants, which are forced into blooming by the Easter holiday, outdoor Easter Lilies will not flower until early summer, which is their natural time to bloom. 

Faded flowers need to be dead-headed, and once the foliage has yellowed, stems should be cut back. To protect the plant during the cold winter months, it should be mulched. The mulch covering will need to be removed once spring arrives, to allow the growth of new shoots.

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October 28 2012 1 28 /10 /October /2012 17:24

easter-cactusPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Hatiora gaertneri

Type: Succulent/ Cactus

Origin: The Easter Cactus originate from the tropical rainforests of Brazil.

Height: On average, this house plant will grow to heights of approximately 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in).

Soil: A 50:50 mixture of fir bark (fine grade) and potting soil is ideal for the Hatiora gaertneri.

Light: This plant requires bright, but indirect light. Direct sunlight should be avoided, as it can cause brown spots.

Humidity: The moderate levels of humidity required by the Easter Cactus can be achieved by keeping the pot on a wet pebble tray, or by misting the plant every day.

easter-cactus-gtTemperatures: To encourage the setting of flower buds, Hatiora gaertneri needs to be kept cool - daytime temperatures should not exceed 16 to 18 degrees C (60 to 65 degrees F), and night temperatures need to be as low as 7 to 13 degrees C (45 to 55 degrees F). Once in bud, the plant should be kept in temperatures of 21 to 24 degrees C (70 to 75 degrees F) during the day. At night, temperatures should be allowed to drop to between 16 and 21 degrees C (60 to 70 degrees F).

Water: While the Easter Cactus is growing and flowering, its soil needs to be kept moist - though care should be taken not to get it soggy. When flowering has ended, watering needs to be reduced to a minimum. If the roots are allowed to get too dry, the stems will wilt or shrivel, while over-watering will result in yellowing stems.

Fertiliser: Hatiora gaertneri needs to be fed once a fortnight with a diluted (1:1) liquid 10-10-10 fertiliser. After the last of the flowers have dropped off, fertilising should be stopped for a month to give the plant a well-earned rest.

Propagation: The cut ends of stem cuttings - between 1 and 4 segments long - need to dry out for 24 hours before placing the cuttings (upright) into moistened perlite, where they will root within around 3 to 4 weeks.

easter-cactus-woDescription and Care Tips

The epiphytic Easter Cactus belongs to the Cactaceae family and is native to the rain forests of South America. It is easily distinguishable from other types of holiday cactus by the fact that its narrow, flat stem segments are not toothed or scalloped. 

Another distinguishing difference consists of the star burst-shaped blooms of this house plant. Hatiora gaertneri can be expected to bloom for about 4 weeks in spring, typically around April and/ or May. Predominantly available in shades of red and pink, some varieties will also bloom in white or orange.

Blooming needs to be encouraged with approximately 8 to 10 weeks of cooler, shorter days. Temperatures need to be kept low (see above for details), and the plant should be given 14 hours of darkness per day during this period. If necessary, sunlight should be blocked out by placing a box or a paper bag over the plant. 

easter-cactus-stOnce in bud, the plant should not be moved under any circumstances - moving it may result in sudden temperature changes, which will result in the buds dropping off.

After flowering has finished, the Easter Cactus needs a rest. It should be watered sparingly for about 4 weeks, during which time fertilising should be stopped completely. At the end of this resting period, regular fertilising and watering can be resumed.

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October 25 2012 5 25 /10 /October /2012 11:41

angel-shark.jpgThe unusual, very distinctive Angel Shark, Squatina squatina, was once very common in the North East Atlantic, from Mauritania to Norway; throughout the North Sea; in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Today, it is already extinct in some areas - including its former habitats in the North Sea - and is listed as critically endangered everywhere else. Up to now, this magnificent creature was still fairly common in its last stronghold around the Canary Islands, but even there, its numbers are now seriously threatened.

Description

The wide pectoral fins and flattened front section of the Angel Shark's body make it look more like a skate or ray than a shark, although its body's rear section is more like a typical shark's rear end. Its skin colour ranges from grey to greenish or reddish brown.  While young Angel Sharks may feature net-like white markings and comparatively large dark blotches, adults are typically a little plainer, featuring a scattering of small white spots and some blackish dots. The back of the Angel Shark may also feature some lines - slightly lighter than the main colouring - that mimic tidal ridges in the sand. 

angel-shark-1.jpgThe blackish dots covering the back of the shark tend to join in the middle of the pectoral fins, creating dark bands, and the dark leading edge of the dorsal fins is trailed by a paler edge. Like other mid-water feeders, the Angel Shark has a so-called terminal mouth (opening at the head's front, with equal lower and upper jaws). It also features a pair of nasal skin flaps and nasal barbells - whisker-like projections - which it uses to feel and taste. 

Vertical slit pupils within its round, large eyes provide this creature with excellent all-round vision, making it a very efficient ambush predator. At birth, an Angel Shark is usually around 24 to 30 cm (0.8 to 1 ft) long. Females will grow to reach a mature length of between 126 and 167 cm (4.1 to 5.5 ft), while adult males can be 1.83 to 2.24 m (6 to 7.3 ft) in length. 

Biology, Behaviour and Habitat 

Angel Sharks occur in temperate waters, preferably in areas with sandy or muddy sea floors. They can be found at depth from 5 m (16.4 ft) inshore (estuaries, coast line) up to 150 m (492.1 ft) or more along the continental shelf, although they are seasonally migratory and will disappear from the majority of shallower areas during the summer. During this period, they can occasionally be found in larger numbers in bays situated on the northern end of Gran Canaria.

angel-shark-0.jpgBeing nocturnal, the Angel Shark will typically only swim off the bottom during the night, and is torpid during the day. It will find a resting place, where it uses its pectoral fins to dust away sufficient sand or mud to create a depression within which it can settle. From this position, with just its eyes protruding from the sand/ mud, it ambushes its prey. Once an unsuspecting creature - predominantly crustaceans, flatfish, mollusks and skates - swims by, the shark bursts out of its hiding position at incredible speeds and snaps it up. When hunting is good, the shark may stay in its chosen spot for prolonged periods.

Angel Sharks are ovoviviparous, which means their young develop inside eggs that remain within the female's body until the young are ready to hatch. Gestation typically takes between 8 and 10 months, at the end of which the female will give birth to a litter of 7 to 25 pups, depending on the size of the female. The larger the female is, the larger her litter is likely to be.

Threats

This species is not particularly important to fisheries, with only a fairly small number being caught for human consumption, fish-meal and perhaps oil, predominantly around Tunisia. The real threat to this lovely creature is more or less accidental - many specimens end up as by-catch of the fishing industry. Their habit of lying in wait at the bottom makes them especially  vulnerable to trawl fishing, which has significantly increased over the past 50 years and has resulted in dramatic reductions of Angel Shark populations, with complete extinction in some areas. 

Bottom long-lines and trammel nets, as well as tuna traps, also pose a danger to this species, and habit degradation - especially around coastal areas - caused by human disturbance further lead to a decline in numbers. 

angel-shark-dist.jpgConservation

Already protected within three marine reserves in the Balearic Islands, more and more countries - including the UK and Belgium - are beginning to recognise the need to protect this animal and are taking appropriate steps towards this goal. The Canary Islands, the southern Mediterranean and several other areas, however, still need to confirm the species' status and take action. 

This is particularly urgent in the Canary Islands, one of the last remaining Angel Shark strongholds, where unsustainable, destructive fishing methods, coastal habitat degradation on pollution not only threaten this species, but the whole ocean Eco-system. Having already lost the Mediterranean monk seal - the rarest seal in the world - the government of the Canary Islands must take steps now to protect this and other threatened species before it is too late. At time of writing, readers are/ were able to sign a petition to this effect at the Petition Site.

Sources:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/581/776/011/canary-islands-dont-let-the-angel-shark-disappear/

http://www.arkive.org/angel-shark/squatina-squatina/#text=Facts <http://www.arkive.org/angel-shark/squatina-squatina/>

<http://www.elasmodiver.com/CommonAngelShark.htm>

www.sharks.org/species/228-angel-shark-squatina-squatina.html <http://www.sharks.org/species/228-angel-shark-squatina-squatina.html>

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October 20 2012 7 20 /10 /October /2012 13:11

dwarf-chenillePlant Summary

Botanical Name: Acalypha pendula

Type: Flowering

Origin: The Dwarf Chenille Plant originates from New Guinea and Java.

Height: Acalypha pendula will grow to a height of approximately 30 cm (1 ft).

Soil: This house plant is content with any quality general purpose potting mix.

Light: During the summer, Dwarf Chenille Plants should be given plenty of indirect, yet bright light. In winter, they will need a minimum of 4 hours worth of direct sun each day.

Humidity: Acalypha pendula is a plant that needs moderate to high levels of humidity. There are many simple ways of raising humidity levels to adequate levels.

dwarf-chenille-gtTemperatures: A plant that likes to be fairly warm, the Dwarf Chenille Plant needs to be kept in temperatures around 18 to 29 degrees C (65 to 85 degrees F).

Water: The potting mix for this plant needs to be kept evenly moist, and should never be allowed to completely dry out.

Fertiliser: A liquid high phosphorus fertiliser must be diluted with an equal part of water and should be fed to the Dwarf Chenille Plant fortnightly throughout spring and summer.

Propagation: Stem cuttings of approximately 8 cm (3 in) will root easily in a 50:50 mix of perlite and potting mix (all-purpose). The cuttings should, by the way, be taken reasonably early in spring.

Description and Care Tips 

Also commonly known as Cat's, Fire or Kitten's Tail, the Dwarf Chenille Plant, Acalypha pendula, owes its name/s to the fuzzy plumes formed by its tiny red flowers, which trail over the plant's thick mound of serrated small leaves. As long as sufficient light is provided, Dwarf Chenille Plants will bloom almost all year.

dwarf-chenille-woBecause this dwarf variety naturally remains small, it does not require pruning, and its natural tendency to be bushy means there is no need to pinch out growing tips in order to encourage branching. Pinching off fading blooms will, however, encourage an abundance of new blooms.

During its growing season, Acalypha pendula needs to be well fertilised and watered. As it appreciates high levels of humidity, it is best to place it onto a tray with wet pebbles. Misting the foliage (water should be at room temperature) each day will also help to raise levels, although this should not be done while the plant is in bloom.

Higher levels of humidity also help to prevent spider mite invasion - it is essential to look out for these pests, particularly in winter, when air tends to be drier. Once the Dwarf Chenille Plant has outgrown its pot, it needs to be repotted, using a pot with drainage holes to prevent accumulation of excess water causing the potting mix to become soggy. Repotting should only ever be done in spring, before the plant begins to bloom.

dwarf-chenille-stPlacing this somewhat unusual house plant into a hanging basket or onto a pedestal or tiered plant stand will really show off its fuzzy, eye-catching flowers. Tiered plant stands are, by the way, an excellent, space-saving way of grouping house plants with similar needs for humidity.

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October 19 2012 6 19 /10 /October /2012 23:42

dumb-canePlant Summary

Botanical Name: Dieffenbachia

Type: Foliage

Origin: Dieffenbachias, or Dumb Canes, originate from Brazil.

Height: Regular Dumb Cane plants will grow to heights of between 30 cm and 1.8 m (1 to 6 ft), while some of the newer compact hybrids will only reach maximum heights of 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 ft).

Soil: To provide adequate drainage for this plant, the potting mix needs to be soilless. 

Light: The Dumb Cane needs bright light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Turning the plant frequently will encourage even growth.

Humidity: Dieffenbachias will do well in rooms with average levels of humidity.

Temperatures: Ideally, room temperatures should not fall below 18 degrees C (65 degrees F) or rise above 24 degrees C (75 degrees F).

dumb-cane-gtWater: After watering thoroughly, the soil should be allowed to dry a little before watering again.

Fertiliser: From the onset of spring to the end of summer, Dieffenbachias should be given a diluted (1:1) liquid fertiliser every two weeks. This should be reduced to monthly feeds during autumn and winter.

Propagation: Stem tip cuttings - around 8 to 13 cm (3 to 5 in) long should be taken during the months of spring or early summer and inserted into moistened potting mix. Dieffenbachias also produce offsets (known as pups) from the base of their stem. These pups can be cut off and planted in separate pots. 

Description and Care Tips 

The highly popular and attractive Dieffenbachia needs to be handled with care, because its poisonous sap not only causes skin irritations, but, if eaten, may also cause rather painful swelling of the throat and mouth. It may also be responsible for  a loss of voice, which is why it was given the common name Dumb Cane. In any case, it is best to wear gloves when handling this plant.

dumb-cane-woThe broad, handsome leaves of the Dumb Cane are speckled, splashed or streaked in white and green, and will grow to a length of around 25 cm (10 in), while the thick, single trunk will unwind into several smaller trunks as the plant matures. 

To control the height of this house plant, its top may be cut off using sharp, clean pruners (it is important to leave a few leaves in place). In time, new growth will appear from where the plant was cut. 

As the plant matures, it will outgrow its pot from time to time. The best time to repot it is in spring or during the first few weeks of summer. Naturally, a container with drainage holes should be used to prevent problems caused by soggy soil.

Just about all of the problems the Dumb Cane may develop will show up in its leaves. While it is normal for older leaves to eventually turn yellow and fall off, new leaves falling off is a sign that the Dieffenbachia is too cold. It particularly dislikes cold drafts, so it should be kept well away from windows and doorways.

dumb-cane-stSporadic watering will result in the leaf tips browning. Dumb Cane needs to be watered regularly, although it is important not to get the soil soggy. Crispy, curled up leaf tips may indicate that the Dumb Cane has been given too much fertiliser. 

In this case, the soil needs to be flushed with clean water, in order to remove any fertiliser that has accumulated there. The plant should be given at least a month before fertilising it again.

Should the leaves lose their variegation, it is likely that the plant is not receiving sufficient light. It should have at least moderate light, although bright light is better. Direct sun, however, is a big no-no, as this will cause the leaves to scorch, leaving them dry and covered in brown spots.

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October 19 2012 6 19 /10 /October /2012 15:39

dragonwing-begoniaPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Begonia x hybrida

Type: Flowering

Origin: The Dragon Wing Begonia originates from South America.

Height: Growing to heights of around 90 cm (3 ft), Dragon Wing Begonias also tend to spread out quite a bit, so they need to be given plenty of space.

Soil: Potting mix formulated for African Violets is ideal for this plant.

Light: Giving the Dragon Wing Begonia a sunny spot for the whole year will promote more flowers. If moved outside in summer, it should be sheltered from the heat of direct sun, especially around midday.

Humidity: Begonia x hybrida needs moderate (50 to 60 per cent) levels of relative humidity. To increase levels, a room humidifier may be used. Alternatively, the plant can be placed onto a tray filled with wet pebbles. This house plant also needs to be kept well away from any drafts, hot or cold.

dragonwing-begonia-gtTemperatures: Dragon Wing Begonias thrive in temperatures of 18 to 24 degrees C (65 to 75 degrees F), but can handle heat up to just under 38 degrees C (100 degrees F), although it is best to shield them from midday sun on hot days.

Water: The Dragon Wing Begonia's soil needs to be kept moistened, but should not become soggy.

Fertiliser: To prevent fertiliser burn, the plant should be fed with a diluted (50:50) balanced fertiliser (liquid) after it has been watered. Feeding should be done fortnightly in spring/ summer, monthly during autumn and winter.

Propagation: Dragon Wing Begonias can be propagated quite easily from 8 to 10 cm long stem tip cuttings (non-flowering) taken during spring or at the latest in the early summer months. The cuttings will root well in sterile, moist potting mix. Alternatively, seeds sown indoors during the latter half of winter will be ready for summer flowers. Raising humidity levels and using a heat mat will provide the best results.  

dragonwing-begonia-woDescription and Care Tips

Like other Begonias, the Dragon Wing Begonia is easy to grow and beautiful to look at. The delightful, glossy and big wing-shaped leaves alone are a joy to behold, and in late spring/ early summer, they will be accompanied by gorgeous sprays of red, pink or white flowers. 

Far less fussy with regards to humidity levels than, for example, the rex begonias, this plant is, in fact, one of the best and easiest species to grow indoors. It will, however, need quite a lot of space. Growing to heights of approximately 90 cm (3 ft), it will spread out by about as much.  

This and the fact that lots of sunshine will increase its blooming power also make it a perfect and dependable plant for semi-shaded spots on patios, although being a tropical beauty, it will have to come back indoors once temperatures begin to drop at the onset of autumn. 

There are only a couple of potential problems with Dragon Wing Begonias. One of these problems is over-watering. If the soil has been allowed to get soggy, the leaves of this lovely plant will turn yellow and/ or drop off. Drainage holes in the plant's container will help to prevent over-watering.

dragonwing-begonia-stThe other problem is powdery mildew. Typically appearing on stems and leaves, this white, dusty fungus is often the result of high humidity and poor air circulation. Affected leaves should be cut off and air circulation needs to be increased, although the plant must be kept away from drying AC/ heat vents. In addition, a fungicide may have to be used to treat the foliage.

As Dragon Wing Begonias tend to grow better when they are slightly pot-bound, they should only be moved to a pot that is one size larger than the old one when repotting in spring. The soil should not be packed too tightly, because the plant prefers to have a little air circulating around its fibrous roots.

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