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Thread: Petunia exserta: Bugs stick, red flowers, nearly extinct, indoor/outdoor, free seeds

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    Petunia exserta: Bugs stick, red flowers, nearly extinct, indoor/outdoor, free seeds

    Petunia exserta would seem to have a lot going for it:

    1) It's nearly extinct in the wild.

    2) It has red flowers--the only naturally occurring ones in its genus.

    3) It's hummingbird pollinated--also the only one in it's genus.

    4) Bugs stick to the leaves--it's not carnivorous, but at least they die.

    5) It's a perennial--at least in places where it doesn't get below 25 F.

    6) It's easy, and fast, to grow and bloom.

    7) It grows easily, inside or outside.

    Any finally, seeds are free, although the ones I have are about a year and a half old, and have not been tested for viability. That latter situation could be corrected in about 10-14 days... As tiny, almost dust-like seeds, they should avoid the USPS rollers and are easy and almost free to ship.

    So why aren't these more popular? Chances are because it's "just" a Petunia.

    Anyway, I decided to post this because I got my first accidental bloom of the year, inside. The pot was one that I brought inside for reasons I don't remember--it was for fatbunny (TF member), and contained a Bomarea salsilla plant. The Bomarea either went dormant given my 24 hr lights or died (probably there's still strong hope). However in the pot sprouted 3 seedlings. At first I thought they might be the closely related Nicotiana (and P. exserta flowers look more like a Nicotiana than do those of any other Petunia). However, it became clear it was Petunia exerta, especially when the first flower opened today.

    I've been surprised in the past how well this plant does under lights inside. Since there are not a huge number of plants that are trivial to grow under lights and produce bright red flowers, quickly, I think this feature of the plant is one that needs to be pursued further.

    Here's that first flower, along with the 2 other (temporarily) unbloomed seedlings that came up in the Bomarea's pot:



    A closeup view:




    A different view, which shows stuck bugs that are not meals for the Petunia:




    And finally, a better view of a larger plant (from Annie's Annuals) showing more mature, fully opened flowers grown in the sun:



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    anramitaco's Avatar
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    Thanks for this! What a fascinating--and beautiful--Petunia. I'll have to give these a shot on my balcony this summer.

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    anramitaco, if you want some seeds, message me your address and I'll pop some in the mail.

    From what I can find, Petunia seeds should be viable at least 2-3 years.

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    D_muscipula's Avatar
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    can I have some seeds for my mother?
    view my growlist
    http://grwlist.notlong.com

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    D_muscipula, of course! Message me your or her address (or both) and I'll get some in the mail. If your mom is not a hard core plant person she might appreciate a little guidance with these though. The seeds are tiny and need to be surface sown (in small numbers...), exposed to light, and then are prone to damping off. Once they get going they grow fast, though.

    I did start some seeds here yesterday, so I should know for sure in about 10 days if they are viable. Actually, come to think of it, I should check my mom's plant and see if it has any seed pods on it, and fresh seeds. The plants bloom 365 days a year here.

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    Interesting Petunia! My climate is too hot for Petunia, though they do great through the fall/winter seasons. I find the fact that bugs stick to it interesting, because plants that have that feature are usually quasi-carnivorous in some way- they may not feed on the insects, but something else might. Often this is a symbiotic relationship between the plant, and whatever feeds on the trapped prey, both providing some nutrients to the other. Wonder if this Petunia is like that, or if it's just purely coincidental?
    Last edited by Gigantea; 03-19-2015 at 09:31 AM.

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    The seeds I started on the 16th are already germinating, so they are clearly viable.

    Gigantea, I think a lot of relatives of Petunia exserta, including pretty much all Petunias, Nicotianas and I think Salpiglossis, have sticky leaves. In fact Darwin apparently investigated tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) for possibly carnivory, and decided that it was not. I was reading somewhere recently that many/most of the plants with sticky leaves have associated insects that "clear" the dead ones. Apparently killing a pest is good, but having it remain stuck to the leaf and get moldy is not.

    I agree completely with your point about symbiotic relationships, and I think these are not appreciated fully. It's useful in many ways to think of organisms as isolated, but that's not how nature works. To label a plant as being carnivorous because it can fulfill all steps by itself, yet exclude (or put in some gray area) another plant/insect pair because the plant alone does not fulfill every requirement seems a little short-sighted to me. I'm not suggesting that the two examples are equivalent. It's definitely worth noting those plants that meet all "requirements" of carnivory. However nature is a little more interesting than such a strict definition suggests.

    For example, people don't usually remove cows from a list of organisms that eat grass because the process requires bacteria. However, it's widely appreciated that other organisms help cows digest their food. Similarly, I see no reason why we can't think of degrees of carnivory, types of carnivory, or however one likes to describe it. I think the current labels suggest that there is something fictional about carnivory unless the plant by itself is responsible for all steps. A term like "assisted carnivory" would make more sense, in my opinion. If that is indeed what is going on with the sticky-leaved Solanaceae.

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    Here are the seedlings at 10 days (started on March 16) in a 2 3/4 inch pot. The largest one started (strangely) much earlier than the rest. It should be obvious how quickly these grow, even in the first 5 days. Again, these were from dust-like seeds, and so far these are just the cotyledons. If one looks carefully in several places, just sprouting seeds are apparent, and one can compare the size of the seeds to the still young seedlings.



    The problem soon will be that I will have far too many of these seedlings...

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