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Orchid Expo a Delight for Students -looking forward to California Carnivores Visit!

March 6, 2013

            Our annual visit to the Orchid Expo at Fort Mason was great fun. The miniature orchid and pleurothallid displays were full of evolutionary marvels as usual. No new acquisitions were made for the GH this year (as we are low on both money, space, and staff) but several beautiful plants were acquired by participants. One of our group is a photographer (Rachel Aston) and took this group shot:Image

I need to hear from those interested in visiting California Carnivores, a nursery devoted to carnivorous plants in Sebastopol. We will pick the date best for the greatest number of those who would like to go. Please let me know ASAP, so we can get there before spring break!


February 17, 2013

The Pacific Orchid Exposition is coming up Friday, Feb. 22, and FOTGH is planning to attend. If you are free that afternoon and would like to go, contact Martin at and let him know so he can arrange free admission for the first 10 people replying:

FOTGH will also be making a field trip this semester to California Carnivores Nursery in Sebastopol before March 15. Martin would like to know who would like go along and see a vast collection of carnivorous plants. He would like to book a day when the most people can attend:

Recent Postings, A Difficult Time at the Greenhouse

December 21, 2012

We have more plants flowering this Winter Break that usual, as you will see from postings below. It’s a bit of an irony, as it is an unintended consequence of our gas line being crushed 3 months ago due to the growth of a poorly placed, but wonderful tree: Agathis robusta -still quite a youngster- but already pushing in one wall of our Headhouse. No repair is slated, so we are using the lights to help with the heat, keeping them on 24 hours and this is encouraging the extra flowering. Some money from FOTGH was used to put up an electric space heater. We figured out how to link to the environmental controls, but the heater is inadequate on its own… The purchase of another heater for the workspace should follow.

All the motors for our cooling system vents have long since died and must be opened and closed manually. I was told new ones were in hand 6 years ago and have never yet seen them! I can’t get new ones installed through an outside service because any service that operates on campus has to have 6 million dollars in liability insurance! A bit much for one $500 job.

In one of the storage closets there has been a large, nonfunctional water heater for many years. As anyone who has visited could tell you, we need every bit of storage, so we asked for its removal, but this was not provided… until a volunteer turned up to help. Unfortunately, we discovered that the drain line for our sinks is open in that storage space floor and due to the weekly washing of recycled pots, the line is blocked and floods the room with sink use. A repair backlog is likely to be extended on this one.

Our doors are melting! Yes, against code, particle board doors were used in our GH and one door can no longer be opened, the other closed! We are looking into using plant sale money to replace the doors, as SFSU will not, but metal doors are expensive.

Our wood benching outdoors was recycled from the old rooftop greenhouse built in the 60’s and is collapsing around us. I have brought in some plastic benching from home and have used FOTGH funds to buy new, recycled plastic bench tops, but it is a big job to get these in place and save money by making our own legs. A lot of volunteer help will be needed with the re-benching project. This could happen later in Jan., or as soon as I can get a group of 3 or 4 people involved. If you are interested, contact me now!

And despite all these failings in our Science Building Greenhouse (which the powers that be disparage as “old”) it still provides a far superior growing environment than that of our New Greenhouse!

We always have plant losses over the break because there is no funding for student employment during that period, nor during the summers, and a collection as diverse and complex as we currently have cannot be fully automated. There is no backup should I get sick or take a vacation…

Flowering Dec. 20 at SFSU’s Bio. Dept. Greenhouse, Spiloxene capensis

December 21, 2012


Flowering Dec.20 at SFSU’s Bio. Dept. Greenhouse, Rhododendron konori X leucogigas

December 21, 2012

RhododendronSib of 'Karen Morebeck'LQ-Modified

Chile’s Garra de león, or Lion’s Claw, at SFSU’s Greenhouse

November 9, 2012
Bomarea (=Leontochir) ovallei

A photo from last year’s flowering, but our plant will be flowering again soon!

Plant lovers know this marvel of the Chilean desert as Garra de león, or Lion’s Claw. It’s found in just a few valleys in the Atacama south of Copiapó. Until recently, botanists placed it in the monotypic genus Leontochir of the Peruvian Lily family, Alstroemeriaceae. Molecular work has provoked botanist Anton Hofreiter to transfer this plant to the large and diverse genus, Bomarea, centered in South America. SFSU has a distinguished collection of this genus, part of which can be seen in flower much of the year outdoors above the Bio. Department’s New Greenhouse. Bomarea ovallei is grown in a cool greenhouse with supplemental light. It needs to be kept completely dry from May or June, until October or November. With cool temperatures and a bit of moisture the root system becomes active. Soon the  first shoot springs up and rapidly elongates from underground stems connected to swollen storage roots. Plants produce numerous stems that scramble along rocky substrate in nature, but in the Greenhouse, the stems are trained on a wire form for better viewing of the extraordinarily beautiful flowers and an appreciation of their heady honey scent.

Our Venus Flytraps are starving! (First Fall Semester Meeting Tues., 9/4/12 1 PM at Science GH)

September 1, 2012

Open traps are reaching in all directions! We need to have a Dionaea muscipula Feeding ASAP -like the Lion Feedings that used to be held at the SF Zoo, but a lot safer for all involved. (Except for the insects!)

Traps big enough to nibble a thumb!

Traps big enough to nibble a thumb!

Flies are preferred, of course.

Flies are not necessarily preferred -earwigs are nice too and make a more substantial meal!

These plants will snap at anything!

These plants will snap at anything!

You are invited to contact FOTGH to find out how to help with this event, or simply to express interest in attending. There will be a meeting at SFSU’s Science Building Greenhouse this coming Tuesday (Sept. 4) at 1 PM where our Venus Flytraps’ nutrition and other club concerns will be discussed.

(All photos by Nichole Roether)