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Oaks, Houseplants, and an Orchid Model

Dear Friends,

Flowering Dogwood Fall Foliage
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
Fall is beautiful and lasts a long time in the Carolina piedmont.

How is autumn treating you? I usually have a hard time with the shortening days and the cool temperatures, and do not look forward to this time of year. But this year I started walking at the beginning of November, using the “happy” light my mother gave me a few years ago, taking vitamin D, and drinking the occasional vitamin dense smoothie to try to keep ahead of the doldrums. It seems to be working! Now the trick is to avoid getting overwhelmed through the holidays, but so far, so good.

Sweetgum Tree and Blue December Sky
Sweetgum tree against the bluest skies we’ve had in weeks!

During my daily walks, I’ve been trying to identify all the leaves along the sidewalk. I’m getting much better at distinguishing the oaks after initially deciding they were impossible. Many of them hybridize readily which means you might have trees that look like more than one species — frustrating! It doesn’t help that there are 45 species listed for the Southeast in Weakley’s flora, and though not all of them are likely to be found in my area, most of them are. So I’ve had to study my guides and then compare quite a bit.

Now I know that my neighborhood is full of willow oak (Quercus phellos), water oak (Q. nigra), post oak (Q. stellata), and white oak (Q. alba), but there may be just as much Spanish oak (Q. falcata) as any of those. There is also plenty of red oak (Q. rubra) and scarlet oak (Q. coccinea). I found a swamp chestnut oak leaf (Q. michauxii) along the road today, which was pretty exciting. It’s the first time I’ve found one around here. It was probably planted, as were these live oaks in a median along another part of my walk. And yesterday I found these:

Guess which oak …

Any guesses? I’ll let you think about it and tell you at the end of the post. Or maybe you know right off the bat? I had to look it up. Hint: Click the picture and check out the leaf edges in the big version. And the leaves are around six to eight inches long.

Aside from the botanizing lite going on, I’m not doing much of anything outside right now — we’ve had so much rain that everything is a muddy mess!

But the indoor garden. Love! My houseplants are all starting to bloom — now that the deciduous trees have decided to gradually shed. How convenient that they do that every year, letting in more and more light with every lost leaf.

Orange Holiday Cactus
Orange Holiday Cactus, Schlumbergera truncata

My pink twinkle orchid has a few blooms now, and smells so good that I sniff it several times a day! The twinkle oncidiums are tiny-flowered sweethearts with a chocolatey scent that is just divine. All the African violets are either blooming or full of buds. My favorites, Hiroshige and IsaBelle are still going strong. The holiday cactuses are blooming, too. Caribbean Dancer still has flowers and a no name light orange one is going nuts. I have a white one with no buds, and a magenta one in the same shape, but I still have hope that they’ll rise to the occasion soon.

Excitement of the morning was the new butterfly amaryllis bloom, which just opened up today! I bought the plant as a very small but leafy bulb at UNC Charlotte’s winter orchid sale one year, and kept it green for a couple of years before finally letting it go dormant late this summer. In October I repotted it and it wasted no time sending up some leaves and a big fat bud. My thumbs may be slowly turning from brown to green!

Cypripedium reginae model
Showy Lady’s Slipper model, photo via

A link I ran across this week that I thought you might like to see –

The U.S. Botanic Garden and the North American Orchid Conservation Center are working together to produce a series of punch-out models of native orchids. The thought is that they will be used for various educational activities, but anyone is free to use enjoy them. You can download the Showy Lady’s Slipper printable here: Orchid-gami

Cool, huh? It will be fun to see what else they come up with!

By the way, the mystery leaves are sawtooth oak (Quercus acutissima). Sawtooth oak is from Asia, but according to Weakley, it was often planted here for wildlife. He finds this amusing given the great number of native oaks we have. It is a conundrum.





sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) graphic

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