Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Gardening Rants

A few weeks back I received a small packet of “Aloe polyphylla” seeds acquired via Ebay on the cheap. Fresh from China, a cheap supply perhaps? Why not give it a shot. Shipping took a little longer than normal but arrive they did. As soon as they arrived I setup to get growing. Sterilized cactus soil check, humidity chamber, uh huh. I sowed the seeds, and began to wait. A few days later little sprouted seeds all came to life. Success was mine. Of course as they started to grow it became pretty apparent these weren’t aloe seedlings. Come to think of it, any aloe seeds I’ve sown before didn’t look like these either. I’d been dooped, swindled and made a fool. Ebay quickly refunded payment after this photograph.

Seed hoax

Good for a laugh. I just ordered some more seed from South Africa to give it a go again.

Aloe polyphylla
Aloe polyphylla profile

Aloe polyphylla spikes
My oldest seed grown specimen planted out in the garden for the season.

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What an awesome year for growing strange plants. Weather in Victoria has been so nice this season. Sunny days with intermittent rain tossed in throughout. Today its sunny with a nice coastal breeze, t-shirt weather in the temperate. Just amazing.

I’ve had a rather successful season in growing weird and rare plants. It’s so satisfying growing plants from parts unknown. One plant in particular that continues to amaze me and is one of my pride and joys this season is Dendroseris litoralis. Syn. The Cabbage Tree.

Here we have a plant that was nearly brought to extinction in the 80’s by the hand of man and his pet goat. Grazing escapee feral goats decimated this plant’s population. Said to have been down to the last 3 specimens in the wild before conservation kicked in. Thank goodness they did, it’s an amazing plant, more people should try to grow. This plant is still considered critically endangered.

Native the Juan Fernández Island in Chile this plant grows perfectly well in our climate here in Victoria B.C. I started my crop by seed mailed north from a South American grower, the seeds germinated with ease (90% success). Once they get going they grow like a summer annual, from seedling to a small tree within one season if treated nicely. They benefit from regular feeding and frequent watering. Mine grows in dappled shade in a 5 gallon pot. I have also grown it in bright sun with essentially no problems either, some light scorched leaves perhaps. I mist the leaves when I think of it. It seems to enjoy a jungle lush environment without being soaking wet. I don’t have the heart to leave it out in the winter and expect it to need protection. I have read it can handle light frosts as low as -3C but why risk it. I’m not convinced. The specimen below is perhaps 2-3 years old now, stored in a cold greenhouse in the winters and kept moderately dry in the off season. From my original crop I had a few smaller plants parked in the back greenhouse and they succumb to a rat eating their growing tips off and then thus fading away. On occasion some aphids have made a home on the center growing tip. Other than that I haven’t had much trouble. For those in deer territory I do suspect it to be deer caviar, best to tuck away somewhere safe.

I have also read in lean times people have survived by eating this plant’s large luscious leaves. Said to be edible but don’t quote me. Seems logical enough, South American salad greens.

This season I grew 10 of these and distributed them to various locations. If you bought one in Victoria/Vancouver you may have one of my kin. If you did snag one of these I’d love to see how yours is doing. Send me a photo.

Mine has yet to flower yet. A bright drooping marigold orange colored senacio-esk flower is expected. I will keep growing mine on until success is achieved.

dendroseris flowers
Photo above borrowed from Plant World Seed’s website

I will be growing a small availability of these for next season if you’d like to be on the waiting list don’t hesitate to contact me.

dendroseris litoralis Rare dendroseris litoralis  dendroseris litoralis  dendroseris litoralis  dendroseris litoralis leaf

Such a cool plant. Until Next time.

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Mr Nat. Gardener, Plant Nerd
Tips and tales about gardening in one of the most mild climates in Canada. Specializing in rare and strange plants from far out destinations, this is the story of an obsessed young gardener in Victoria B.C. Let's create more tropical gardens in the garden city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.