Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Breaking Dioon News: the girl's a boy!


Some of my posts are copied (and in the process made far prettier) into the award-winning GardenDrum, usually accompanied by a recording by me reading the post into my mobile phone. So you can read and hear (some) TalkingPlants.

The benefit of this is that more people get to find out what I think is interesting in the plant and garden world, and more people get to give me feedback on what I write (and say). (I also have an automated system in place to send out a tweet (follow @TimEntwisle) and Facebook post each time the blog is updated. Again I get feedback through these sites as well.)

Often enough I get a gentle correction, which I do appreciate. For me the fun in writing these posts is learning more myself about plants I know only a little about, or perhaps thought I knew more about than I do.

Anyway, this extraordinary (non-Tuesday) post is to report breaking news, predicted by a reader of GardenDrum three days ago (31 March 2014), when Craig Thompson added the following comment to my coning of the dioon post:

Thanks Tim for putting your appreciation of cycads out there for others to read. They are much maligned by the general public as being too slow or being too spiky to warrant growing. The common cycad most people can buy and grow is Cycas revoluta from Japan. Check out your real estate for sale section in the local papers and you will find them in nearly every property for sale. They do exude that expensive look. But more often than not, they are planted without regard to their eventual size and need to be removed or relocated. 

Not so with Dioon edule. My experience with these plants go back to the early 80′s and I have found that toenails grow faster. The new growth, which can be as little as twice per decade, is indeed beautiful. Their radial symmetry is breathtaking, as it is with most cycads, but they are just so slow. 

My first Dioon edule coned about eight years ago. It would seem that it, like yours, is the dwarf form – possibly angustifolium. But sorry to burst your bubble – I feel that yours is a boy. I do hate sticking my neck out, preferring to keep it down, but I feel pretty confident with my assertion. It is very hard to diagnose from a photo, but as it appears different from what I remember of mine, which subsequently was female, I bet yours elongates and drops pollen. Perhaps ours could mate in the coming decade(s).

Sure enough, our cone is elongating... Dermot Molloy, our trusty horticulturist in charge of Dioon cultivation, reported this morning in response to me sending him Craig's comments: 

The Dioon cone is now elongating more than a female would and I would have to agree.  The last couple of days has seen the cone really develop large gaps in a spiral formation.  


The pictures in this post were taken this morning (at around 9 am, 2 April 2014), from a bump on 20 February and a swollen 'girl-like' cone in mid-March (images of both in my last post). You can see in this close-up a modified leaf (the microsporophyll) bearing small round beads (the microsporangia). Each of the beads will release pollen.

So there you have it. We have a boy, not a girl, and perhaps a step closer to the correct botanical name. But still no mate on this occasion.

Thanks Craig, and thanks GardenDrum!

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