Growing in cracks between boulders: worsleya

Thu, 10 Oct 2013 12:56:49 PDT
Just a couple of observations from my experience with Worsleya:
I have my one and only one potted in Hydroton, balls of fired clay, and very little organic matter. It loves as much sun as I can give it in the Northeast, but I haven't been watering it enough lately, and it is suffering in vigor. I certainly would not classify it as difficult to grow, but getting it to bloom might be a different story.
I have read that in its native habitat, it grows on cliffs next to waterfalls and so gets a constant watering with mist and spray.
Dell, in West Virginia

From: Leo A. Martin <>
>Sent: Thursday, October 10, 2013 12:57 PM
>Subject: Re: [pbs] Growing in cracks between boulders
>Jim Waddick wrote
>> Worsleya appears to grow in full sun on,
>> in and among rocks on steep cliffs. As Lee
>> said "they really do grow in large cracks
>> in mountain-sized granite boulders."
>I can't echo enough Jim's suggestion to find out what microclimate plants experience in
>habitat. "Brazil", "Mexico" and "Madagascar" isn't much information. A lot of
>non-temperate habitats just don't occur in temperate zones so we gardeners can't imagine
>what they are like unless we see them and understand.
>I haven't been to Worsleya habitat but I have seen this environment in other places.
>Visitors to the American Southwest can find a similar habitat if they look under rock
>overhangs here and there; ferns survive in some of the hottest and driest areas. Sedums
>and a native prickly pear, Opuntia humifusa, in the east of the US, occur in similar
>situations, though usually in flatter terrain.
>All over the mountains of Mexico succulents like Echeveria, Graptopetalum, Sedum and
>Villadia occur in similar conditions. In Brazil I have seen various cacti in this
>habitat, along with a Hippeastrum and lithophytic Laelia orchids; I also saw but did not
>recognize Sinningia tubers.
>In Madagascar, the yellow-flowered Pachypodium grow in such habitats; also angraecoid
>orchids like Jumella and several species of Aloe and Cynanchum. Also in Madagascar, many
>Oeceoclades orchids grow on the forest floor in the layer of fallen leaves. This leaf
>mat often is about a foot / 30cm thick but overlays large, jumbled boulders. It can be
>treacherous walking since the surface seems smooth but is not. The orchids have a thick,
>well-aerated layer of leaf mold with air underneath.
>In the rock-face habitats rock cracks accumulate a little dust and a very small amount
>of decaying leaves and moss. Mosses and ferns fill the cracks; frequently they are
>"resurrection plants", green and growing with rain, and brown and shriveled during dry
>seasons. Larger plants grow in these hummocks of moss and leaf litter.
>Any plant living there will have lots of air at the roots even when soaked with rain for
>many days on end. During dry spells the thin mat of organic matter holds moisture much
>longer than expected. The decaying organic matter provides and acid environment. Water
>runs off rapidly so minerals with a basic chemical reaction are not leached to the
>surface as they are in arid environments.
>Some of these habitats are wet to damp all year owing to nightly dews; others have
>distinct dry spells. Some have cool weather and some warm. This needs to be taken into
>account. Plants growing on high rock walls facing the sun will be accustomed to high
>heat and insolation for at least some of the year. I was not able to grow some Brazilian
>cacti well until I realized some grow on black rocks in full sun in places where daytime
>temperatures may exceed 120 F / 50C.
>John Lavranos taught me how to grow some of these plants in containers. He said to
>choose a wide, shallow dish-type container with large drainage holes; fill it halfway
>with pumice or something similar; top it with a 2-5 centimeters of crumbled fallen
>leaves from my garden; and nestle the plant into the leaf mold. The leaf mold keeps in
>the moisture, while the spaces between the pumice provide excellent aeration. I was able
>to grow some lithophytic orchids for the first time with this method. It is the same
>method Jim described in his message.
>Leo Martin
>Phoenix Arizona USA
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