1. Life & Culture

Ask Dr. Hort: the mystery plant, the metallic bee and cucumber pollination

Basket plant, Callisia fragrans
Basket plant, Callisia fragrans
Published Aug. 28, 2012

Mystery plant is identified as 'Callisia fragrans'

Q: I have a plant that no one seems to be able to identify. I brought a couple of "puppies" back from northeast Georgia a number of years ago. I planted them in a hanging basket (much like a spider plant), and they grew. I put the baskets on the ground in the shrubbery to protect them while I was away. A few started to grow, and I let them multiply to become like a ground cover.

After many years, they started to bloom this year. They have bloomed over a period of two-plus months. They bloom for a day about every three or four days. They all bloom on exactly the same day. They have a strong fragrance and very delicate clusters of white flowers. Not all of the plants bloom — perhaps some are still too young. They come out on a stalk about 2 feet long. Susan Canning

A: Your mystery plant in question is Callisia fragrans, with the common names basket plant and golden tendril. It is in the Commelinaceae family, along with wandering jew, Zebrina pendula; oyster plant, Rhoeo spathacea; spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana; purple queen, Setcreasea pallida; and many others used for hanging baskets and ground covers. All are tender to cold, and many can become weedy if not controlled.

Cute little buzzer is a metallic bee

Q: Found this green bee sitting on my potted raspberry bush. Do you have any idea what kind of bee it is? I had no Idea they existed. We live between Dunedin and Palm Harbor. Anita Rohrdanz

A: The cute little bee that you have pictured is called a metallic bee, Agapostemon spp., which are either blue or green, in the case of your bee. Metallic bees are also called sweat bees because they are drawn to the salt in human sweat. They are good pollinators and are quite docile. Many are solitary or live in small groups in the ground.

Pollination is key when growing cucumbers

Q: I would like your help with cucumbers. I planted an organic seed and used large containers and Miracle-Gro soil. I'm feeding them the 10-30-20 fertilizer. Some of the cucumbers are deformed. Why? I put up a wire trellis for them to grow on. The plants have many blossoms. I put blossom rot on them every other week, just like I do the tomatoes. I appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks. Gerri

A: The primary cause of misshapen cucumbers is incomplete pollination, meaning that bees and their friends are not transferring pollen sufficiently from the male flowers to the females, and often early flowers on young vines produce inferior fruit shapes compared with fruit as the vines mature. Male flowers occur in clusters, with each flower on a slender stem housing three stamens (structure that houses the pollen). Female flowers occur singly and are distinguished by the large ovary just under the flower (resembling a baby cucumber). Both male and female flowers produce nectar, but not a rich source of either pollen or nectar, so bees quickly switch to more attractive flowers nearby. It takes numerous bee visits to completely pollinate a flower. To aid the bees, pick a couple of male flowers and dab the pollen on the females in the early morning, when they are most receptive (like rubbing noses).


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