Sunday, March 11, 2018

Southern Hemisphere Plants

Weather: As I mentioned last week, it has been an abnormally cold winter. This week was no exception. It was 9 degrees on my front porch on Wednesday morning. Last night’s 70% forecast of snow materialized as only high, drying winds.

What also was unusual was that I never felt cold. Now that the morning low is around 20, the typical low for our winters, I’m often cold in the house. Apparently, the furnace comes on more often when it’s very cold, so the air in the rooms stays warm. When it comes on a little less often, the heat has time to rise and the cold air rises from the floor.

What’s blooming in the area: Cranesbill at post office.

What’s reviving: Leaves on the cliff roses and fern bushes.

Weekly update: Most of the plants on my indoor porch are from southern Africa. The one that’s from somewhere else, the moss rose, is native to Argentina and nearby Uruguay and Brazil.

This was not a conscious choice of my part. They are simply the ones that survived the drought and temperature extremes of the east facing room.

What the plants have in common is they’re from the Southern Hemisphere where our winter is their summer. Seasons are managed by the sun, which is high in summer and low in winter. Generally, plants bloom in the environment’s summer and go dormant in winter. Exotic imports don’t have some vestigial preference for their ancestral home. They adapt and bloom when conditions are right. If they don’t, plant breeders abandon them for more pliable species.

They should bloom in our summer. The fact the ones on my porch bloom in our winter made little sense until I looked up. Or rather, I didn’t look up because the sun was coming into my eyes over the roof of my neighbor’s roof. That happens every winter. Last fall, it started bothering me on October 4.

The porch doesn’t get sun from above but through the windows, and the windows get more light when the sun is low to the horizon.

The plants currently blooming are zonal geraniums, an ivy-leaf geranium, and aptenia. The ones not blooming are the snake plant, which bloomed last winter, and the moss rose, which has gotten luxuriantly green instead.

The rochea never bloomed until I moved it this summer from the side of the porch, to the front where it got more sun. It put out new growth, then in October, soon after the sun was in my eyes, thrust up a bud stem. It’s still in flower, though the tiny white flowers can’t be seen from a distance.

Notes on photographs:
1. Rochea (Rochea coccinea), 10 March 2018.

2. Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora), 10 March 2018.

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