Leaf of the Day: Crucillo Sprig and Seedling Update

Today I am having a studio and balcony sort-out day. In my “studio” which is the other bedroom I have the small nature table which is now covered with bit of pods and twigs and leaves. They are all getting out of hand and occasionally a seed pod explodes and seeds ricochet around the room. It is Ant’s perfect adventure playground of course. Yes, Ant is still here. Why? The balcony door is open day and night. He must just prefer to be inside I suppose, yesterday he was mountaineering in my jar of brushes.

I also have a few pots on the balcony where I optimistically plant things, sometimes bits of stem that I have drawn, sometimes small cuttings and the occasional seed. Many are doing well. I am particularly delighted that the “leaf” of the beautiful Red Rhipsalis here is growing, my Soapberry seedling is a now a tiny tree, the Crown of Thorns and Stapelia which Pedro gave me are thriving and all the leaves of the various Sansevierias are sprouting roots and the piece of Devil’s Backbone here is beginning to zig zag its way to heaven.

My seedlings are doing well too. The tiny Desert Rose seedlings look like little plants already. There were 6 but I managed to knock the head off one of them.

And to my amazement the Silky Hakea here seeds have sprouted. On one of my visits a few weeks ago I noticed that the Hakea I like so much is dying. All the beautiful pods had opened up and almost all the seeds had gone. This may be a natural part of its life cycle as it has to be damaged in some way for the pods to open, but I did manage to find three intact seeds and wondered if they might germinate for me. My methods are haphazard to say the least and because I like to see how things grow I just use damp kitchen towel in an old upside down plastic fruit container. After only a week they had sprouted and here they are just shrugging off their seed coats, looking happy and relatively healthy I think.

But my favourites for the moment are the two spindly and comical Gout plant seedlings. They sprang out of their pots within a few days of planting and I am entranced by their elegance and vigour.

Bill and Ben… not quite twins, but related.

I´m afraid I have called them Bill and Ben .. well, a little silliness has to creep in every now and then. My American readers were probably spared the much loved UK 1950’s children’s TV programme with the two flower pot men puppets and the very annoying Little Weed..

Image from Whirligig TV here

I need some more time and a better sample to continue the cotton drawings so today I drew the little crucillo sprig that has been waiting for a couple of days now . It seemed happy enough in some wet oasis but the leaves are just beginning to droop.

It is labelled as “Randia laetevirens” Crucillo Bush, the name meaning “little cross” for obvious reasons. It was the cross formation of the white stems that caught my eye and the leaves are dainty but there are some very sharp spikes on the ends of the twigs. I have not been able to find out very much about this particular variety but Austin and Honychurch writing about the Randia aculeata (White Indigoberry) in “Florida Ethnobotany” say it is described as the “little cross” in South American countries and the branches sold as small Christmas trees in the winter.. so this must be a close relative. I will amend this post if I find out.


Leaf of the Day: The Gout Plant, Biofuel and more.

I like everything about this plant. It’s quirky and striking and it’s the one with the ballistic pods which exploded in the studio a couple of days ago. One pod is still left so I have drawn that (quickly) and the remains of the shattered pod and a seed.
It has some wonderful names, Gout stick, Buddha belly, Guatemala rhubarb, Goutystalk nettlespurge, and Tartogo, as well as this splendid Latin name Jatropha podagrica. If this were my name I would, without a doubt, be a famous and sought after artist already. I may adopt it.
The Jatrophas, and there are qute a few of them, are from the Euphorbia family and native to central America. The name “Jatrophais from the Greek iatrós meaning ‘doctor’, and trophé meaning ‘food’, referring to its nutritious qualities (although this one is poisonous!) and podagrica means ‘swollen foot’ ( gouty )

When you see this odd little plant you realise why it has the name Buddha belly, from its bulbous thickened lower stem which gives it a belly (to rub for good luck of course). Another Buddha plant for this month.
This photo from Toptropicals site here shows very well its bottle shaped stem and also the two hopefully waving raised arms that are another characteristic, (this one seems to be wearing small sunglasses too). Toptropicals is an very good site and I have referred to it quite often now. It has excellent information about plants and good photos too.

My photo below from Leu shows its nicely shaped leaves and brilliantly coloured flowers…and again, the two waving arms.

Its relative Jatropha curcas, the Physic nut, or Barbados nut has recently been discovered to produce excellent oil which could be a replacement for diesel. The seeds contain 30% oil that can be processed to produce this high-quality biodiesel fuel, usable in a standard diesel engine. Last year an article in the Times was optimistic ,

“The jatropha bush seems an unlikely prize in the hunt for alternative energy, being an ugly, fast-growing and poisonous weed. Hitherto, its use to humanity has principally been as a remedy for constipation. Very soon, however, it may be powering your car.
Almost overnight, the unloved Jatropha curcas has become an agricultural and economic celebrity, with the discovery that it may be the ideal biofuel crop, an alternative to fossil fuels for a world dangerously dependent on oil supplies and deeply alarmed by the effects of global warming.

If you GoogleJatropha’ now you will find many trials and projects from all over the world growing and testing this crop.
The plant was already well know in some countries as a malaria treatment, live fencing and for candle-making and, despite its potentially fatal properties (three untreated seeds can kill a person) as an ingredient in medicinal remedies around the world, hence the name “physic nut”. There doesn’t seem to be any down side to this plant as it grows almost anywhere, really quite liking arid and harsh conditions so we watch with interest its progress.

But getting back to the Gout plant, here is a closeup of the flower head where you can see the green pods developing. It would be wonderful to draw the whole thing but I should have to, either get my own plant, or use a photo as there are only a few flowers on each plant, and I would need more than a couple of hours.

My drawing shows the one pod that remained after the first one exploded. It broke away from its central stalk which is on the left. What first drew my attention to these pods was an empty seed capsule that was sitting on one of the leaves. It looked just like a beetle. The pod divides into 3 capsules, each holding a hard, pretty little seed and the seeds look like beetles too. Fascinating.


Gout Plant Pod and Seeds