Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's durian season!

Durians! by you.

See also:
Myth of the "durian bird" finally cracked!

These durians are of the famous (to Kuching people) Singai variety. Probably one of the best tasting varieties. The fruits are small but the flesh is very good and this is the ONLY kind I would eat as I am not a fan of durian.

Durians! by you.

Squirrels have damaged two of the fruits, gnawing away at the tough spiky skin to eat the soft flesh inside even before they ripen.

The fruits on this tree should begin to drop in a couple weeks time, assuming the pesky squirrels do not destroy them all.

Durians! by you.

This tree is quite old, and is about 30 meters high.

Durians! by you.

There's a local folk tale about durians and the "durian bird", a certain species of bird which is believed to "cause" durian trees to flower and fruit. I've never ever gotten a good look at this bird but it's about the size of a pigeon and dark in colour. It sings a repetitive tune nonstop when perched on a durian tree, "kang kang kang kuk, kang kang kang kuk" over and over again till it flies off, sometimes still singing while in the air.

Can't remember the folk tale now, but I'll update again when I have it.

Update, see:
Myth of the "durian bird" finally cracked!

One for the myth busters to crack, does this bird really cause durian trees to bear fruit? A few months ago, one bird visited this tree and look at it now! It seems to only fruit or produce a good number of fruits when visited by this bird species. This belief arose from observation by kampung people over the ages.

Vanda seedlings

Vanda seedlings by you.

I finally got around to tagging my vanda seedlings. Before this, I used only a code for each seedling but the permanent marker isn't really permanent. The writing on the pot fades after a short time (due to rain and watering). Thankfully, I had also written the ID codes on the leaves. So before the old leaves wither and fall off, along with the ID, I thought I'd better place a proper tag on all of them.

The smaller hybrids such as vascos and mokaras have reached flowering size but need more light to flower. The larger vanda hybrids such as Robert's Delight will need 2 or 3 more years before they reach flowering size.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Snails and not fruit flies?

This could be the real culprit that's been damaging my precious phals, and not the fruit flies as I previously suspected. A very tiny snail species!

Tiny snails - the real culprit? by you.
The one above was found under a leaf. Below it are minute snail and spider faeces along with other small debris trapped by gossamer.

They could be small juveniles of a larger species or they could be a totally different species which grow to only about 2-3mm across.

Tiny snails - the real culprit? by you.
The tiniest that my naked eye can see are less than 1mm in diameter.

I began noticing them on every damaged phal or under the damaged leaves recently. They are so small that they are easily obscured from view, hidden in nooks and crannies, between roots, fern fiber and under leaves. Few days ago, I found quite a few hidden from the day's heat one one phal mount.

Tiny snails - the real culprit? by you.
Something this small can easily find lots of places to hide on an orchid plant. They also find plenty of hiding places on the orhcid mount or in the potting medium.

Tiny snails - the real culprit? by you.
The largest ones measure 2-3mm while the tiniest, less than 1mm. Some are so tiny that a magnifying glass is needed to see them clearly.

I found another one of my phals, a P. corningiana with a damaged new leaf yesterday. Just as I suspected, I found one of these snails lurking under one of the leaves.

The damage to my phals range from mild to severe. They mostly attack new, tender and succulent leaves as well as the flowers and buds.

Tiny snails - the real culprit? by you.

Tiny snails - the real culprit? by you.
Flowers are also attacked. Unopened buds may abort and drop off, or they may be resistant enough to survive but open as a damaged flower.

The worst kind of damage is when a leaf gets infected and the infection spreads like wild fire from within the leaf, turning it translucent and mushy inside. Rot then spreads and in the worst cases, the crown will be destroyed. If the plant is resistant enough or the damage isn't too serious, the leaf will continue to grow but severely disfigured.

Tiny snails - the real culprit? by you.
The leaves are attacked on the underside. It could bacteria present in the snail's mucous that causes the rapid damage and spread. The leaves of my large hybrid phals are tough and leathery yet they too are easily damaged as pictured above.

DSCF2203 by you.
Sometimes the damage extends to the crown and destroys it. If the phal is resistant, it will later put out a new side shoot or keiki after several weeks or months.

Tiny snails - the real culprit? by you.
To combat snails, i use snail poison/pellets. The pellets swiftly kill slugs and larger snails but the tiny 1-3mm ones usually are not affected, possibly because they are so tiny that they cover less ground compared to the larger species. Hence, they have a lower chance of encountering the snail pellets.

Lastly, other pests also cause damage to the succulent leaves such as sap sucking insects and their larvae (one particular kind looks like tiny black mites and they can quickly suck and turn a leaf green-white with tiny overlapping pale dots) so really, it's quite a challenge to keep the phals perfect, shiny and healthy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fruit flies, bellinas and leaf/flower damage.

Phalaenopsis bellina by you.

It has been quite some time since I last updated my blog. I need to clean out the cobwebs in the corners! The above is a wallpaper I made of some of my Phalaenopsis bellina blooms from the past to present.

My bellinas are blooming nicely right now and the fruit flies are back in huge numbers. I arm myself with a water-based mosquito spray when I am in the orchid house to spray at mozzies as well as these bothersome fruit flies.

Here are some pictures:
Fruit flies and bellina blooms by you.Fruit flies, bellinas and leaf/flower damage by you.

This particular plant has 4 blooms open right now and it attracts dozens of fruit flies per day, tricked by the fragrant fruity smell. Thankfully the leaves have suffered no damage and there are now new succulent leaves emerging at the moment. The flies do not seem to be attracted to my Phalaenopsis violacea blooms at all, those are equally fragrant (but lack the lemon fruity smell).

Fruit flies tricked by a bellina flower by you.

I am actually trying to determine if these flies are indeed responsible for stinging my Phal plants (leaves and petals).

I isolated two plants growing on the same mount and flowering to a snail free nursery area. The flies are free to visit the flowers however. Here's what happened so far...
DSCF2223 by you.

One of the flowers show significant damage which appear to be triggered by sting "wounds" - tiny puncture holes tiny dots of fluid on them. I cannot be sure if the liquid is plant fluids oozing from the plant or excretions by whatever did the damage.

DSCF2224 by you.

However, the other plant's flower on the same mount which is also visited by the fruit flies has not been damaged. This of course is no scientific experiment. I am still unable to pin point for sure the culprit as there may be tiny little snails in the mount, although it is sprinkled with snail bait.  It's probably both the snails or slugs and the flies doing the damage. The flies sting the flowers, causing the puncture holes which then get infected and the snails devour the soft petals. If so, snails and slugs I can deal with but the flies are a different story. I read that the fly bait (methyl eugenol) apparently attracts only male flies. This would mean the females are left to sting the flowers to lay their eggs. The idea of the fly attractant is to kill the males which mean no second generation as the flies no longer can mate. So far it hasn't work too well as the flies come in ever increasing numbers each "season."

I guess the other alternative is to cover the entire orchid house with netting and see what happens to my phals when the flies can no longer enter. At least I can isolate the plants from the flies and see if the problem of my phals suffering from damaged new leaves continues. See my next post for this very frustrating leaf damage problem!

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