Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pot Culture

When I talk about pot culture, I’m referring to the practice of raising plants in pots. Contrary to what some seem to think, this topic has nothing to do with the growing of marijuana. Growing plants in pots gives me the opportunity to observe growth on a daily basis. It’s amazing what you can learn through this type of continuous monitoring. One of the first things I learned was the fact that many rare plants are highly palatable to wildlife and need protection if you are going to keep them around long enough to make observations. These pot covers were originally doors on rabbit hutches, but they serve quite nicely as animal guards.

Pots set into the ground give the plants more protection from fluctuating temperatures. Plants from these pots will be set into an exhibition bed which, for some reason, hasn’t yet been constructed. I’ll have to talk to the staff about that.

This pot holds my rare mustard collection. Leavenworthia uniflora, Draba cuneifolia, and Draba reptans all thrive here. Three-fourths of the pot was filled with clay subsoil to mimic the typical soil in the shallow bedrock areas. Two inches of pulverized limestone went on top of the clay. The limestone came from my excavation for the water garden and is a close match for the gravely surface deposits in the barrens. Several years ago, I collected ripened seed and scattered it into the pot. The population has been self supporting since and produces loads of extra seed to scatter around different places.

The Potato Dandelions, Krigia dandelion, have again filled their pot. They grow in three inches of a sand-loam mix over a clay base. This pot was planted with seven tubers collected from the wild and now produces many hundreds of new tubers each year. I’ve had little success in creating a self sustaining population outside of the pot, primarily because everything with a mouth seems to enjoy eating Krigias.

One disadvantage of pot culture is the tendency of plants to grow to proportions that you would never find in the wild. This False Aloe, Agave virginica, is a single plant that has a dozen different tops. It’s a great seed producer, but it’s not a good example of what would be happening in more natural conditions.

Some Nodding Wild Onions, Allium cernuum, have sprung up in this pot of compost-sand mix. I had a few seeds last year, and stuck five or six into several different pots to see what would happen. These are the only plants that developed. Maybe they’ll do well enough to give me more seed to experiment with.


  1. It's aggravates me to come back to a site i am studying to find a deer has made off with one of the subjects. Or a catapillar has chewed one up. I'm watching a T.sessile in the woods,that took along time to find so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.At home I thought I was safe with plants in large tupperware tubs..but slugs still seem to visit at night.Do you really feel that 3mils is much of an insulator though?

  2. I know what you mean, Michael. I once had a deer eat a grape fern in the hour it took me to make a round trip to the house to get my fern book. When I got back to the fern, there was nothing left but a stump. I could see the deer tracks in the depressions left earlier by my knees. This happened with several plants and I began to wonder if my touching the plant caused it to be more noticable to the deer. I've since gotten in the habit of manipulating the plant with a stick and not touching it with my hands. I don't know if this really makes any difference, but I'm not losing as many plants as I once was.

    I've found that many of the native plants don't need much in the way of insulation. Many of my exposed tubs become solid frozen blocks during a cold winter, but the plants always seem to come back strong in the spring.

  3. Haha! You crack me up. I wondered what you had up your sleeve when i saw the title of your post on my blog. I learned all about Draba and Leavenworthia when I took the field trip to Adams County this spring!

  4. Hi, Kelly. Adams County is certainly the place to visit if you want to encounter the rare mustards. I think they all did exceptionally well this year.