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Temperature Tolerant Epiphytic Ant Plants

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Epiphyte   

My first post!  I'm going to attach a few epiphytes (topics) to this branch (thread).

 

I found out about this forum a few months ago on ebay.  I probably did a search for "Myrmecodia" but I can't remember exactly which vendor it was that mentioned this forum in the item's description. 

 

Epiphytic ant plants are awesome so it was pretty great to learn about this place.  I immediately added it to my long list of plant forum bookmarks and every once in a while I lurked around.  It's been on my "to do" list to register and I finally got around to it.  

 

A little bit about me... I live in Glendale, Southern California and I LOVE epiphytes!  I grow a wide variety of epiphytes outdoors year around.  Last year I posted a short blog entry on some of my ant plants... Epiphytic Ant Plants Outdoors in Southern California?   

 

I think it would be really helpful if there was a comprehensive list of epiphytic ant plants (EAPs) that could be grown outdoors year around in places like Southern California.  How many EAPs don't require a greenhouse in SoCal?  Is it a long list?  If this list was compiled and widely disseminated... then more people would grow EAPs.  Wouldn't you like to walk around SoCal and see EAPs growing on lots of trees?  I know I would!  

 

Now, like I said, I think this forum is great...but there's not much activity.  I'm definitely biased but maybe a better strategy would have been to start an epiphyte forum instead?  Then you could have had a category dedicated to APs.  I'm pretty sure that many of you grow other epiphytes besides APs...right?  Any of you grow any epiphytic blueberries...aka "Ericas"?  

 

I sure wouldn't be surprised if my friend Dave started a forum dedicated to Ericas.  He really loves them.  But how much activity would it have though?  Maybe less activity than this forum?  But Dave doesn't just grow Ericas...he also grows a bunch of other epiphytes...ferns, orchids, Gesneriads, Tillandsias, Bromeliads, APs, Anthuriums, Hoyas, Dischidias, Rhipsalis, Peperomias...it's a long list.

 

In theory, a forum with all these groups would be quite active.  And it's a given that there would be plenty of spillover.  Lateral movement is super easy.  Plenty of epiphytic plants are quite happy growing in a moss basket.  So it seems likely that the individual groups would grow much faster together than if they were apart.  Not sure though how large a group would have to be to support its own forum.   Clearly the orchid group is already large enough.  It's large enough to support several forums.  Haven't visited the bromeliad forum very much lately so not sure how active it's been. 

 

How would the categories be sorted in an epiphyte forum?  Alphabetically?  If so, then the ant plants would be at the top of the list!  

 

The simplest approach to starting an epiphyte forum would be to just use this forum.  The domain name wouldn't have to change...just the title and description.  Rather than "the ant plant forum" it would be "the epiphyte forum".  Then you would move all the EAP threads into one category.  Lastly you would change the names of the current categories.  Voila!  

 

When people registered...they'd basically be registering for a dozen forums rather than just one...

 

Ant plants

Aroids

Ascleps

Bromeliads

Cactus

Ericas

Ferns

Gesneriads

Melastomas

Misc

Orchids

Peperomias  

 

And when people told their friends about this forum...they wouldn't just be promoting one group...they'd be promoting twelve groups.  It should generate twelve times the interest.  

 

Perhaps Selby would be twelve times more likely to help spread the word?  

 

Basically you catch more fish with a larger net.  Which is why you should all start blogs if you haven't already done so!  

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Derrick   

There is much evidence that a wider subject base is not the answer to greater inputs.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/myrmecophytes/ is the first group to specialise in Ant-plants. It currently has 407 members and is growing at more than one person per day, at times more than five per day. Since its inception it has been copied, but in a much wider format by the enormous planet/moon group of Facebook plant forums as "Planet Epiphyte - Myrmecophyte - Lithophyte - Xerophyte"   https://www.facebook.com/groups/planetepiphyte/  Surely a much wider format and as you will see, although it currently has 347 members (due primarily to the marketing forces of the planet groups) its inputs are dismal. I have just looked at it, and I see its last entries are spam and some off-topic images. (I joined for a while but left because it wasted my time.)

 However, having said all this, probably one of the reasons that the Facebook groups are so popular, is that most users are members of many groups, so there is usually something to entertain them.  Of course many are parasites of the system by giving nothing back, but one hopes among today's many followers will be one or more of tomorrows teachers.

  The key to having a successful forum is to have enough subject erudite persons that are willing to share. Facebook casts an enormously wide net but as the old saying goes, it creates "many jacks of all trades but masters of NONE."

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Epiphyte   

Derrick, do you grow any EAPs outdoors year around in New Zealand?

 

So your argument is that less people would participate on this forum if the subject was broadened to include all epiphytes?  How's that even possible?  Who would leave and for what reasons?  Maybe somebody would say, "ughhh, there goes the neighborhood"?  

 

Did people leave the Dendroboard when a category for plants was added?  Did participation decrease on the GardenWeb when they created a category for orchids?  Was there a mass exodus on the PalmTalk forum when a category was added for tropical looking plants other than palms?  Do less people join the Carnivorous Plant Forum because they have a category for orchids, a category for bromeliads, tillandsias, ferns, a category for cactus and succulents, and a category for miscellaneous plants?  Would the members of the carnivorous plant forum revolt if a category was added for EAPs?  

 

Regarding your example of the facebook page....Planet Epiphyte - Myrmecophyte - Lithophyte - Xerophyte...that sucks that there's spam and its inputs are dismal.  But why do you think these things are caused by the group's broad scope?  The numerous forums I listed above clearly indicate that the two things are not at all positively correlated.  

 

Unlike forums...facebook groups/pages do not have categories.  A while back I brought an orchid in for "show and tell" at my local fern society meeting.  I overheard one old lady tell her friend, "I thought this was a fern society".  Heh.  Evidently I was wasting her time.  The same thing can happen on a facebook group/page because there's only one stream.  But forums can have multiple "streams" (categories) and members choose for themselves which categories they view.  Therefore, it's not at all a zero sum game.  Topics are by no means mutually exclusive.  More orchid threads really doesn't mean less fern threads.

 

Let's say that right now 100% of the members here on this forum grow EAPs.  If you broadened this forum's scope to include all epiphytes...then what percentage of the members would grow EAPs?  Maybe 10%?  If you had 1000 members... then 100 would grow epiphytic ant plants and 900 would grow other epiphytes.  Why wouldn't you want to lure in 900 epiphyte growers?  Do you have a better target audience in mind?  Maybe you perceive that you can grow the membership by preaching to the choir?  Maybe you believe that jumping from growing epiphytes to growing epiphytic ant plants is the equivalent of jumping the grand canyon?  It's an impossible leap?  

 

Out of curiosity I checked flickr to see if there was a group for ant plants and I found one... Ant Plants - Myrmecodia and related genera.  As the title indicates... no Lecanopteris, Myrmecophilas or Dischidias allowed!  The group has 25 members.  How many more members would the group have if all EAPs were allowed?   Maybe less than 235 members?  That's how many members the epiphyte group on flickr that I help run has.  

 

So are you going to join flickr and start a group dedicated to all EAPs?  Then again...that scope might be too broad.  You certainly wouldn't want people to be jacks of all trades and masters of none.  If that truly concerns you then perhaps you should narrow the scope of this forum to only cover Myrmecodia and related genera.  

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Basically you catch more fish with a larger net.  Which is why you should all start blogs if you haven't already done so!  

 

Hello Epiphyte,

I think I need to explain a little what was my idea when founding this forum:

 

Personally I am not a very big fan of facebook. One reason are copyright reasons, the other reason and more important for me is the fact that it's hard to find older posts and the whole approach ends in a more or less unstructured mess. I started posting my pictures on facebook and did not find my own posts again without using the search engine in this big black hole...

 

The idea behind this forum is completely different. I am not after having thousands of readers that all do not contribute. The idea is to have some kind of image and information resource that grows over the years with a healthy ratio of contributors versus readers. I wish to attract the few people that are really "into ant plants" and hope to attract new people to this fascinating group.

 

Opening the whole forum to epiphytes in general would "mask" this idea. A big proportion of Orchids are epiphytes....

 

All the best

Andreas 

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Epiphyte:

There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm expressed in your first post. I think some insight from a regular participant of this particular forum may clarify why it is so attractive to a slowly-growing cadre of "ant plant" specialists and why the frequency of posts still tends to occur in bursts, rather than with the steady regularity of a mature discussion group.

It should be obvious to even a casual observer that the major focus here so far are hydnophytines/ant rubiacs and ant ferns. Both groups are relatively new to tropical horticulture, particularly in the U.S. As Derrick Rowe has noted, this is still a very esoteric interest. Until recently, there were relatively few images of the more noteworthy species of these groups available online or in print, so people simply had no concept of the amazing variety of forms. Outside of a few large plants being grown in public or university BGs (often off-exhibit), there are few places where growers could appreciate what mature individuals look like. Until very recently, the availability of these plants in the U.S. was limited to a pair of common ant ferns and four somewhat unremarkable hydnophytines representing the two best-known genera. The situation in Europe was notably better, but still not comparable to the selection available to rare succulent, orchid or tropical carnivorous plant growers. Simply put, this is a new subset of warm glasshouse horticulture that is, IMO, just gaining traction as more growers of exoterica around the world "find out" about them. Therein, I believe, coupled with the forum's recent vintage, is the "why" the site does not attract more traffic as opposed to it being over-specialized.

I would note that to my eye this forum is conspicuous in that amongst the admittedly small group of core participants so far, there is a disproportionately high number of people growing these plants in a number of different countries, as opposed to being just UK-, EU- or U.S.-centric.This is a huge plus for me.

Re; attracting more (presumably US-based) users. First, as far as I know no bona fide gardener is being excluded from participating in this group, least of all tropical epiphyte growers. Second, you have, no doubt, observed that the noteworthy US-based tropical plant fora tend to be dominated by growers located in southern Florida and southern California. To pick as an example one that you participate on, this is particularly evident in the case of the International Palm Society's web forum. I have been a member of the IPS site (incl. its previous incarnation) for about a decade. During that time I have observed that a double handful of growers, located mostly in LA and San Diego counties with one or two in Hawaii, generate an overwhelming majority of the posts. I will also note that (surprise!!) very popular topic items as measured by participation tend to involve flame wars over the climate change debate, California coconuts, and snarky, passive aggressive nonsense between individual personalities and their followers. To be fair, this is by no means unique to the IPS site. It is just the prevailing Zeitgeist evident on the internet. I know my fair share of acclaimed private collectors and sellers of tropical plants around the world and almost none of them participate in online horticulture fora anymore. Most, including me, are particularly turned off by the parochial, nasty, often uninformed tone and content of the dialogue so prevalent on the 'net these days.

I'm glad you think the forum is "great". Me, too! The site's founder and administrator, Andreas Wistuba, has made this a labor of love and both he and Derrick Rowe have loaded it with scads of fabulous eye candy for ant plant fans garnered from the farthest corners of Malesia, Fiji and northeastern Australia. As we gain a better understanding of the finer aspects of growing them in cultivation, this forum provides an excellent vehicle to disseminate these findings. As someone who grows a large number of epiphytic plants and rare stem succulents, I particularly like the breadth of the forum to include all of the families that have complex ant-plant interactions, incl. things as off the beaten track as melastomes. And as an aside, I do not participate on any social media site (other than following a select finance-oriented Twitter stream) and, while I am familiar with the ant plant sites on Facebook, prefer not to join. I realize that those of us who shun FB and similar are an ever dwindling minority, but can assure you that I consider myself to be in good company! This site seems a great alternative site to the FB groups to people who don't use FB.

I will leave it to the site's administrator to respond to your proposal that it changes its ostensible mission from ant plants to epiphytic plants in the broadest sense, but personally can't really see any upside to "casting a wider net". Quite the opposite.

I think you'll find that the most cold-tolerant hydnophytines originate from alpine and subalpine New Guinea and are still extremely rare in cultivation. While they would probably shrug off the occasional blast of Arctic air you may experience in the dead of winter, I suspect they would melt in a SoCal summer or shrivel before the Santa Ana's. I have heard that there are (were?) successful outdoor growers of a number of species of highland Nepenthes in the cooler coastal parts of San Diego county, so I imagine there are a few species of ant plants that grow in sympatry with these neps in the wild that are worth playing around with if you get the opportunity to grow them. Certainly there are a few species from both readily available genera other than Myrmecodia beccarii that can succeed under your conditions until you have a killer freeze. Note; I have found that both Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia spp. with non-succulent leaves are generally quite intolerant of cool temperatures, even for relatively brief periods.

In response to another of your queries; I grow a number of Neotropicals ericads/blueberries in both the US and Guatemala. As you probably know, there are a few species (particularly in Macleania and Disterigma) with showy inflorescences or foliage that can be happily confined to a 15 or 25 cm hanging pot, but most attain massive sizes rather quickly under optimum conditions. To my intense disappointment, I have found that a number of desirable cloud forest Cavendishia and Satyria spp. need to run free to flower well and take up too much space in a small garden to be worth it.

I think you'll find this an interesting, generally non-confrontational place. Looking forward to seeing your input on the forum.

Cheers,

J

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Derrick   

Well written Jay & Andreas. Incidentally, this site has an enormously larger public reach than its membership as evidenced by the many times its posts and images turn up in my online searches.  Regarding cultivation outdoors, I have tried Australian myrmecodias and hydnophytums outdoors in the sub tropics near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. They did well through the hot, humid, (sometimes above 40 degrees Celsius) wet season summers, but severely languished in the very low humidities of the cooler annual dry seasons.  Because of this very dry and cloudless 'winter' atmosphere, inland lowland Brisbane does experience occasional sharp frosts, but I lived at about 500m ASL surrounded mostly by luxuriant rainforest. I had a few magnificent specimens of highland Nepenthes grown outdoors year round. 

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Epiphyte   

Andreas, thanks for the insight!  You're correct that a large proportion of epiphytes are orchids.  And they are by far the most popular group of epiphytes.  But you're incorrect that having one category for orchids will somehow "mask" less popular epiphytes such as the ant plants.  Like I noted in my second post...the carnivorous plant forum has a category for orchids and in no way, shape or form has this negatively impacted the main topic of carnivorous plants.  

 

If somebody wants to discuss only orchids...then why would they join this forum, with only one category for orchids, when they could join these other forums...

 

OrchidBoard

OrchidForums

OrchidSource

 

...that have many categories for orchids?  If this forum had a category for orchids then I would definitely recommend that this list of dedicated orchid forums be stuck to the top of the orchid category.  

 

If this forum only had one category for ant plants...perhaps people who want to discuss only EAPs wouldn't be interested in becoming members?  Except, if this forum had one category for ant plants...then it would still have one more category than all the other plant forums have.  What I mean is...I participate in many plant forums and not a single one of them has even one category for ant plants.  Why is that?  It's because there isn't enough demand.  

 

If there isn't enough demand for ant plant discussion to warrant even one category on other plant forums...then why do you think there's enough demand to warrant an entire forum dedicated to ant plant discussion?  

 

Don't get me wrong...I'm a huge fan of the whole..."If you build it they will come" concept.  Except, in this case, I believe its counterproductive.  Not enough people are going to come.  Even if you broadened the scope to include all epiphytes I'm not sure if enough people would come.  For example...do a search for epiphyte blogs and tell me how many you find.  Of course the correct answer will always be "not enough"...heh.  

 

I suppose I'm coming off as critical rather than supportive and constructive.  Sorry about that.  It's just that I don't know a single person who only grows EAPs.  I have quite a few local "plant" friends and they all grow a wide variety of epiphytes.  When I send out my next e-mail newsletter to the Epiphyte Society of Southern California (ESSC)...I'm definitely going to encourage our members to join this forum.  But I know for a fact that they would be more inclined to join if they could discuss other epiphytes as well.  Heck, that's why I didn't immediately sign up.  I doubt it will be worth it for most of them to go through the hassle of registration if all they can discuss are EAPs...which at most represent 1% of their collections.  

 

To help illustrate my point...let's consider one of the ESSC's many outstanding members...Alfred.  You can see his photos on flickriver.  As you can tell, orchids are definitely his favorite epiphyte.  If you search his photos for "Hydnophytum" or "Myrmecodia" or even "ant" you're not going to find any results.  But if you actually visited his garden then you'd find at least one EAP.  You'd also find a few other epiphytes such as a handful of Tillandsias (here and here), some Platyceriums such as ridleyi and Little Will, a few Ascleps such as this Hoya serpens specimen and some other epiphytes.

 

I'd be somewhat surprised if Alfred took the time and effort to register for this forum to only discuss EAPs.  And maybe that's how you want it to be.  It just seems like this type of strategy of weeding out people who merely like (rather than love) EAPs really isn't the best way to cultivate interest in EAPs.  I could be wrong though.  It's not like I've discovered the secret to cultivating interest in epiphytes!  

 

Maybe I should see if Selby Botanical Gardens is interested in hosting a forum for all epiphytes?  I suppose it wouldn't hurt to ask.  It just seems like it would be far more mutually beneficial if we could all be together under the same roof.  Alfred could benefit from your EAP expertise and perhaps you could benefit from his orchid expertise.  

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Epiphyte   

Stone Jaguar!  Thanks to you there's a Yucca growing on my tree!  

 

Regarding images of epiphytic ant plants...I'm guessing that you're not on flickr?  Flickr has a bunch of really great photos of EAPs.  The problem is that nobody has consolidated them all.  It was the same thing with photos of orchids growing on trees.  So I created a flickr group dedicated to orchids growing on trees.  I searched for relevant photos and invited them to be added to the group.  Now the photos are all in one place.  Hopefully the group will help inspire more people to grow orchids on trees.  

 

How can epiphyte enthusiasts who don't grow any EAPs participate on this forum?  Oops, I hadn't scrolled down far enough to find the category for non-ant plants.  I suppose it's pretty much the equivalent of the PalmTalk's category for tropical looking plants other than palms.   I'm not much of a palm guy so that's the only category I participate in.  Perhaps that's why I haven't witnessed the shenanigans to which you refer.  

 

Thanks for the info regarding temperature tolerance.  I'd be somewhat surprised if Myrmecodia beccarii was the only Rubiaceae EAP that can grow outdoors year around here in Southern California.  Unlike the epiphytic ant ferns.  I would be surprised, and very pleasantly so, if any of them could grow outside here.  

 

So are you going to post any threads here about your epiphytic blueberries?  You should really start a blog because it's hard to keep up with which forums you post on. 

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Epiphyte:

When you praise the quality of images on Flickr, I assume that you have also been through the in situ and captive photographs in the various threads on this site to compare.

With regard to your statement that the strategy of the founder of this group to achieve his goals will be "counterproductive" and "not enough people are going to come". This is based on what insight? Personally, I have no idea what the right number of people is for this site, but I do agree with the notion that quality of threads trumps quantity of posts.

The apparent lack of ant plant specialists in southern California may bely the fact that there is a growing cadre of aficionados around the globe that is extremely interested in collecting epiphytic ant plants in general and hydnophytines in particular. Let's begin in California. Dylan Hannon, the curator of tropicals at the Huntington BG and an acquaintance of mine is extremely interested in ant rubiacs and has made a conscious effort to build their collection of this family in the near term. Both Frank Omilian and I have contributed plants to their collection over the past couple of years and continue to collaborate with them as new species become available from our own collections. There are also hydnophytines represented in BGs of some of the top line campuses of the University of California system, starting with UC Berkeley. I am constantly being pestered by a friend of mine who is a director of the Conservatory of Flowers at the San Francisco BG to help them build a collection of hynophytines there. Elsewhere, I started growing them in Guatemala ~2006 and made them available to the specialized tropical nursery trade there starting in 2010. They now have found a relatively big following amongst local orchid and bromeliad growers based purely on their native aesthetic appeal. Dennis Cathcart at Tropiflora in Florida has told me that he is also very interested in expanding his current selection and inventory of hydnophytines in response to growing interest in these plants by his customer base. They are already well known for their ever-growing selection of hoyas and dischidias. I think you will find they are one of the, if not THE, largest vendor/s of a vast array of tropical epiphyte plant species in the world. You may be surprised to find these plants becoming more visible in the rare plant trade in the US as early as next summer or the spring of 2016. Executive summary? I suspect traffic may pick up on this website rather suddenly sometime in the not-too-distant future.

I visited Selby a couple times back when the late Harry Luther was curating their live collection and prior to the Phragmipedium kovachii legal debacle that resulted in the departure of many critical and high-profile members of their staff, including the director. They did indeed have some very interesting stuff in the early 2000s and were very focused on tropical epiphytes. Not sure that anyone I know thinks MSBG has a cutting edge epiphyte collection anymore. Perhaps you know people in management there who can commit to the costs of setting up, maintaining and moderating a web fora on epiphytes as part of their public relations outreach? Not to be off-putting, but I think it may prove a bit of a tough sell. As to guessing as to anyone here's expertise growing orchids vs. MSBG's horticultural chops? The majority of epiphytic orchid species originate from combined middle and upper elevation cloud forests around the tropics. MSBG is limited by space constraints to the number of cool house orchids they can grow. Having been there, I doubt there's much about orchid culture they could teach at least a couple of this forum's members who specialize in cool growing tropical ornamentals.

Thanks for the interest in Neotropical ericads. No, I don't think they fit here and I don't feel particularly comfortable posting on other plant fora these days for reasons outlined above. I do not have the time nor the inclination to blog, but you should always find me here. Glad you are so enthusiastic about epiphytic yuccas. Your epiphyte tree looks great. After a couple tries last year, this past June I finally managed a legal import of a decent-sized bare-root Yucca lacandonica division with full accession data that I now have greenhoused in South San Francisco. This plant is earmarked for the Huntington down the line, so you should be able to visit it there in a couple of years.

Cheers,

J

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Derrick   

I have just come across a Facebook group devoted to a single Cactus species (Gymnocalycium bruchii) yet it has 1041 members.

  See https://www.facebook.com/groups/297557913667193/   

Food for thought!  I expect it is impossible to predict how various forums will perform in the future. Will some improve along with the learning curve of their memberships, or merely languish in the doldrums until they eventually crash as members find better sources to entertain them.  Will Facebook eventually go the way of Yahoo?  One thing I am sure of, there will be an enormous sorting out of groups as time passes.  

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