Saturday, November 25, 2023

The blob that has haunted me

"Sphalmanthus resurgens"

I photographed this amazing caudiciform in the greenhouses of Peter Liekkio north of Seattle. It is a plant that has haunted me for over 40 years as you will see!

Honestly, it's basically a blob with some delicate green leaves--why should it taunt me so!?

Phyllobolus (a.k.a. Sphalmanthus) photographed at the cemetery in Matjiesfontein

Here is one of dozens of photographs I took all over South Africa of plants closely related (if not identical) to Peter's blob: these have been known as "Sphalmanthus", and then "Phyllobolus" although lately they've been subsumed into the vastness of the genus "Mesembryanthemum" which is so polymorphic that it boggles the mind--let's stick to "Phyllobolus" if not "Sphalmanthus" for the nonce...

Phyllobolus (a.k.a. Sphalmanthus) photographed at the cemetery in Matjiesfontein

I am quite sure these little tufts of leaves sit atop a large bulb-like caudex, much like Peter's plant!

Phyllobolus (a.k.a. Sphalmanthus) photographed at the cemetery in Matjiesfontein

Taken a year later--another clump: how I would have loved to dig it up! I have a hunch the caudex would be the size of a soccer ball!

Phyllobolus (a.k.a. Sphalmanthus) photographed on the road towards Merwe from Sutherland

I think this may be very close to the plant I grew over 40 years ago which I picture last on this blog post.

Phyllobolus (a.k.a. Sphalmanthus) photographed in Namaqualand National Park 

Phyllobolus photographed near Nieuwoldtville ("bulb capital of the world" the sign says outside town)

A slightly different manifestation--no doubt with a big bulbous root as well..

"Sphalmanthus resurgens"

This was scanned from a slide I took about 40 years ago on a row of test beds at Denver Botanic Gardens filled with a random sampling of South African succulents I was testing for hardiness: there were several hundred taxa--only a handful of which survived the winter: this was one--which I photographed and left to perish its second year. How I wish I'd propagated it!

And thereby hangs a tale--one worth your pursuing: I wrote about it in a blog post in 2011: I think you will enjoy following this thread: Click here to do that if you wish. What you will discover is that the very first species new to science that came through my hands was MISS-named because of this plant. Namely Delosperma sphalmanthoides: I assumed the little pink Delosperma sent to me by John Lavranos was another Sphalmanthus--and I shared it with John Trager of the Huntington under the wrong generic name--which was immortalized in the specific epithet.

And Steve Hammer tells me that Delosperma sphalmanthoides may not even be a Delosperma! But then, Sphalmanthus may not even be Phyllobolus! Who knows? Maybe the whole family will all just be subsumed by the genus Mesembryanthemum one day anyway if a super lumper has his/her way...

You can see, perhaps, why I am haunted?

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Gary Whittenbaugh: impresario of the heartland

It is with great sadness that I post this small tribute to Gary Whittenbaugh, here badly shown holding up a very appropriate sign at one of his famous "Rendezvous" at Oelwein--the town where he and his brother Tom have lived.

Gary Whittenbaugh not only created (along with his brother Tom) this amazing gem (seen across from his neighbors)--an extravaganza of conifers (obviously) but a wealth of alpine and woodland plants as well.

Just a few shots to give you a taste of the remarkable transformation they wrought on a modest patch of land in Oelwein.

Just about every plant was carefully labeled, and maintained in perfect health.

Here you can see one of the many superb rock gardens filled with 

Another glimpse from out front--quite a contrast to the neighbor's!

The name they gave to their garden--a tribute to family if I remember correctly.

One of the many gems that were blooming in the autumn when I visited. I have several hundred pictures of alpines I took there...I must upload some of these--they're a revelation of what can be grown in a region where rock gardening was thought to be difficult.
Gary on the right and his brother Tom on the left, with whom he collaborated closely in the garden.

In addition to be an inspired gardener, Gary was an outstanding lecturer and impresario par excellence: he opened up an enormous number of gardeners to the world of conifers--making Iowa a centerpiece of the American Conifer Society. He had plans to do the same for the North American Rock Garden Society, but time, alas intervened.

Click here for more details on Gary's life and upcoming services in Oelwein.

I will dearly miss Gary's ebullient personality and omnipresent smile and good humor.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Even MORE Baimashan (#4) [Will this EVER END?]

Anaphalis cinerascens

Pearly everlasting is pretty much the same in Europe or the US--neither places approach China for variety or charm in the genus.

Aster sp. ign.
There are a LOT of asters here...

Cassiope pectinata and Bergenia purpurascens

I wish we could grow Cassiope as easily as we grow Bergenia!

Corydalis sp. ign.
There are a LOT of blue corydalis in China.

Juncus concinna

In Sikkim we found something very much like this identified as Juncus thomsonii: synonyms or truly distinct?

Koenigia forrestii

So strange to think this plant's congeners are tall plumy knotweeds, or the tiny, annual Koenigia islandica! I have seen this thriving in Scotland.

Minuartia sp. ign.

One of innumerable sandworts.

An unknown (sp. ign. sounds so much better) mushroom. Pretty cool, eh?

Pterocephalus hookeri

I've seen this put into a new genus (Pterocephalodes) only I can't find it referenced anywhere.

Ranunculus sp. ign. (again!)
This one is for Cliff Booker--buttercup nut extraordinaire (have a name for it Cliff?)

Rhodiola sp. (you guessed it! ign.)

I have seen so many rhodiolas in Central Asia, Sikkim, Pakistan and especially Tibet. A group that I love. I only recognize a fraction of the species...

Salix lindleyana

Saxifraga melanocentra

For once, aptly named.

Solms-Laubachia sp. (yep) ign.

The only one of this fabled genus we found in bloom. 

4292 meters = 14,081.4 feet 

Strange monument on one of the summits of the pass (there were several)...

 Milking yaks at over 14,000' has to be a chore...

And there will be more!

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Baimashan 3

Androsace delavayi

Third in a series of pictures taken on June 24, 2018, I hope the pics speak for themselves! These are only the tip of the iceberg, I fear...there will be more!

Androsace delavayi

Allium sp. (aff. victorialis?)

Allium sp.

Anaphalis uniflora

Anemone demissa (lavender form)

Anemone demissa (lavender form)

Anemone demissa (White flowered form)

Arenaria polytrichoides 

Cassiope pectinata

Cassiope selaginoides

Cremanthodium campanulatum

Prostrate krummholz Larix sp.


Pedicularis sp.

Potentilla stenophylla

Potentilla stenophylla and Primula nanobella

Primula nanobella and friends

                                                                    Primula nanobella

Rheum acuminatum

Rhodiola aff. dumulosa

Rhododendron aganniphum

Rhododendron aganniphum

Rhododendron calostrotum ssp. keleticum

Rhododendron aganniphum

Salix disticha and Cassiope

Salix disticha 

Sibbaldia cuneata 

Songiocarpella purpurea

Thermopsis alpina

Trollius scaposa


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