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(Article) The Training of the Shrew: Pitcher Plant Evolves Into Toilet

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Adapted from Treehugger.com

Pitcher plants are carnivorous and usually eat insects for nutrients and nitrogen. But in the highlands of Borneo there are not enough for it to survive on insects alone, so the pitcher plant evolved into a toilet plant, complete with standing lid that serves an unusual purpose.

Full article here

(I, and the person who found the link, couldn’t believe the news at first. So off he went to Google it more intensively, and found an article written to and published by the Royal Society Publishing.)

Adapted from Royal Society Publishing

Nepenthes pitcher plants are typically carnivorous, producing pitchers with varying combinations of epicuticular wax crystals, viscoelastic fluids and slippery peristomes to trap arthropod prey, especially ants. However, ant densities are low in tropical montane habitats, thereby limiting the potential benefits of the carnivorous syndrome. Nepenthes lowii, a montane species from Borneo, produces two types of pitchers that differ greatly in form and function. Pitchers produced by immature plants conform to the ‘typical’ Nepenthes pattern, catching arthropod prey. However, pitchers produced by mature N. lowii plants lack the features associated with carnivory and are instead visited by tree shrews, which defaecate into them after feeding on exudates that accumulate on the pitcher lid.

Full article/letter here (PDF format)

(Photography) Try to take over the world!

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One of the nepenthes albomarginata var. ‘rubra’ pitchers.

(Photography) Atap chee, leaves

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Atap chee.

(Growing conditions | Hydroponics) Something most sites don’t say


In all the hydroponics websites I’ve Googled up, only one (sadly, I’ve lost the link to that one. If anyone comes upon a site which has information like what I’m writing in this post, please let me know the link!) has ever brought up the effect of hydroponics on a perennial plant (or at least, not a cut-and-grow-again plant) with regards to unequal nutrients uptake.

It wasn’t until my chocolate mint which was growing extremely well in hydroponics died, that I went to Google again and found out the very possible reason why: unequal nutrients uptake, with a wrong method of replenishing the hydroponics solution in the bottle of mine.

What happens is this.

The plants absorb nutrients from the hydroponics solution at different rates. With that in mind, it means that over the course of say, a few days to a week, the remaining solution (if any) contains nutrients in varying amounts: some are in excess; some are in severe lack.

If, assuming there is still remaining solution, and over a long period of time, one only keeps topping up the solution, then over that period of time, some nutrients will accumulate in great excess; others in great lack. Your plants will suffer and will die off rather quickly.

I’ve learnt to always pour away any excess solution at the end of each week, and then pour in new solution. Or, if I’ve grown familiar with how much solution my plant takes up in a day, I can make sure that I top up the empty container at the end of each day.

Forget to do that, and well, what you’ll see is gradual yellowing of leaves and those yellow leaves falling off in great batches everyday, until your plant kneels over and die a watery grave of sorts.

Note: my healthy mint in the setup in the picture lasted only about four to five months before dying.

(Article) Human Pee With Ash Is a Natural Fertilizer, Study Says

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Adapted from a National Geographic article.

When it comes to cultivating a green thumb, gardeners perhaps need only look to their urinals and fireplaces.

That’s because human urine mixed with wood ash can help produce bumper crops of tomatoes, new research shows.

Full article here

(Craftwork) Valentine’s Day gift


I’m not a fan at all of Valentine’s Day. I don’t see why I should subscribe to a day which has been commercialized by people. However, I do like to indulge in craftwork using as many natural materials as possible. So I like to use commercialized days to give me excuses to indulge in messing up my room with lots of craftwork materials.

This V’day, I decided to make a small gift (as usual) for my partner. This is an idea I got from a herb book, so credit can’t be given to me. However, it’s so simple I didn’t know why I hadn’t thought of it. But since it uses herbs and natural materials, I thought it warranted a post on this blog.

I decided to make a cloth spice coaster for him for use in his office and/or at home. Okay, maybe I’ll make two.

I bought some cheap and thin cloth so that air can pass through it easily. I hand-sewed the cloth into a small pouch of sorts. And then I stuffed cinammon sticks, star aniseed, cloves and dried bay leaves into the pouch, and sealed up one of the openings with adhesive velcro.

When you place a cup of hot drink on the coaster, the aromatic fragrance of the spices will be released by the heat, mixing with the fragrance of whatever drink is in your cup.

Now, I’m not the most adept sewer nor craftsperson. But it’d do. I don’t think my partner reads this blog frequently, so…

Materials needed
1. Thin cloth
2. Thread
3. Sewing machine (optional)
4. Dried spices – cloves, star aniseed, cinammon sticks, bay leaves.

(Photography) World Farm


I went to World Farm today with a few others. Took some random shots.

Zinnia flower I believe.

More typical VFTs.

Cephalotus pitcher.

On a bed of moss.

Big and small pitchers.

(Photography) Carnivorous plants

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Close up of cephalotus’s teeth.

Cephalotus hair.

Teeth of typical venus flytrap.

Note: I was using the Canon S5IS with a macro converter, which unfortunately gives an extremely shallow depth-of-field; I can go only to a maximum of f/8 on it. Meh.

(Planting media | Growing conditions) Of planting media and growing conditions

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This post might be slightly useful for people who are new to growing plants (perhaps moreso herbs and edible plants).

I’ve noticed that people new to growing plants will commonly ask a few questions: what type of media should I use? How much should I water? How often should I fertilize the plants?

I shall just deal briefly with growing media today.

There are many types of growing media, broadly divided into two types: water-retaining, and non-water-retaining.

For the first category, in growing herbs, the most common I’ve seen people using are Tref potting mix, compost, Indonesian burnt earth (IBE); peat and such like.

Compost | Source: Google Image.

For the second, common draining media include perlite, vermiculite, IBE, volcanic sand, coco husks/chips, river sand etc.

Vermiculite | Source: Aquarium Sand

It isn’t really what type of media you buy. Not totally, at least. It is understanding the growing conditions of your garden, and tweaking the media you buy to suit your growing conditions, and the type of plant you want to grow.

For example, a person who has land is able to grow mints (for example) in 100% of poor quality IBE and water the plants twice a day without the mints suffering from intense waterlogging problems, even if they are plants which much prefer moisture to dryness. However, for apartment dwellers who perhaps get only four to five hours of sun a day, a much looser and aerated soil mix is definitely needed. In this case, for myself, I use 50% of Tref potting mix, and 50% of volcanic sand mixed thoroughly for good aeration. I can water my plants twice a day without worrying about waterlogging. Another person who perhaps only receives bright shade for his plants might need an even more aerated mix, with perhaps 35% of water-retaining mix with 65% of aerated mix.

So, to really know what mix to use, it is part trial-and-error, and part knowing that it’s not exactly what media you use, but how you use them to find a combination which works in your growing environment.

Of course, if you are growing carnivorous plants, you should use media which contain absolutely no minerals, and aerate them as you would for other types of plants, especially since you will be able to control watering and the amount of moisture retained with a better aerated mix.

It is really a lot easier to create a more aerated mix and to water more frequently (or to use a water tray) than to have an overly moisture retaining mix and have to deal with root rot.

I will attempt to write about the different types of growing media in slightly more detail in my next post.

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