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Re: Alocasias


Dear Alison,

 

It is my belief that even in the wild forest Alocasia often go through periods of boom and bust; with the plants reaching a peak of physical perfection and the  often soon afterwards ‘crashing’; the cycle in the wild seems to be ameliorated by the rejuvenation induced by regular leaf fall, but in pots there is a real danger that the pieces of the disarticulated rhizome do not get the chance to rejuvenate before they run out of stored carbohydrate, and then seem to lose the ability (will?) to re-grow.

 

Another factor that is only now becoming clear is that Alocasia, and many other terrestrial aroids too, I suspect, have some mycrorrhizal association. I first began to suspect this on finding super-vigorous specimens with infeasibly small root systems in the wild. Clearly the roots were too small to support the nutrient uptake that the plants needed, and yet the plants were thriving. The point was reinforced by observations of litter-trapping Schismatoglottis, notably species in the S. barbata complex, where investigation of the leaf litter revealed copious fungal hyphae and significant composting of the oldest leaf litter, with the plants rooting from the stem and through the leaf bases into this composted material and the decomposing leaves above. From our experiments we have observed a beneficial fungal population developing in the leaf litter within a couple of months, and a notable increase in plant vigour at this time. In fact, we no longer apply fertilizer to our plants (a considerable saving in time and money with ca 10,000 individual pots...) and this despite the fact that the nursery receives 5+ m of rain per anuum, and thus the flow-through of nutrients from the pots must be considerable.

 

On the subject of watering, our plants get watered every day, either from our virtually daily torrential downpours, or, in ‘dry’ periods from overhead sprinklers. Even in dry periods humidity seldom drops below 70%. The key is well-drained media and making sure that the rhizome is not totally buried. The crucial thing is that the leaf litter layer should not become dry (leaves crispy). The leaf litter (topmost leaves) remain damp and the leaves flexible.

 

One note, once you get the fungal hyphae community underway, the leaf litter will decompose fairly quickly. We ‘top up’ the leaves regularly to ensure that there are always fresh leaves on top of the decomposing and composted ones.

 

Very best

 

Peter

 

From: aroid-l-bounces@gizmoworks.com [mailto:aroid-l-bounces@gizmoworks.com] On Behalf Of STARSELL@aol.com
Sent: 30 June 2009 05:43
To: aroid-l@gizmoworks.com
Subject: Re: [Aroid-l] Alocasias

 

Dear Peter,

 

Thank you much for posting this!  I have two that I just

re-planted per your below Rx.

 

I knew they were alive but I had not seen much improvement

using the method I described, at least they were not continuing

to decline.

 

I don't know what happened to them.  All of my other Alocasias

are thriving.  One, a zebrina got knocked over and the stems

bent and would not straighten; the other a cuprea just randomly

began to droop until nothing was left but the tuber.

 

At least now I have some hope.  The pots do look funny though;

all that leaf litter.  But now I have real hope.

 

One question - about watering this.  Do you guess at it?  Feel

the loam to see if it is damp?  Go by the weight of the pot?

 

I wondered about leaving the loam only damp and moistening the

leaf litter on the top?

 

 

Alison

 

In a message dated 6/29/2009 9:38:06 A.M. Central Daylight Time, phymatarum@googlemail.com writes:

Hi Tsuh Yang,

Many Alocasia literally 'climb' through layers of leaf litter, rooting as
they go, with the older parts of the elongated rhizome gradually senescing
and eventually dying. After much experimentation, and not a few deaths, we
have settled pots half full of a mineral soil (locally produce red topsoil
mixed with river sand in 1:1 mix), with the rhizome at most half buried, and
the remained of the pot filled with leaf litter. The root growth at the leaf
litter/mineral soil interface is extraordinarily vigorous and with the loose
leaves the problem of bacterial rot is resolved. I would suggest that you
try planting our dormant rhizomes in this manner and see what happens.

Peter

 


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