dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Tag: T. bulbosa

Another Round…

…of battling with spider mites (it looks something like this). And once again, it’s the oft-beleaguered T. bulbosa and T. streptophylla (yes, that original piece from FEF that went through a miraculous revival).

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Above: T. bulbosa (with 3 pups) and T. streptophylla, when healthy and bug-free.

For a few minutes, while I was filling yet another tub with soap solution (not breaking out the poison yet because the infestation isn’t that horrible), I considered letting myself get angry and depressed about the situation. Why is it that time and again, it’s the plants that hold the most sentimental value for me that get affected by pests? Why is it that it’s the little ones that always get attacked? Why is it that the plants that have fought for recovery from the brink are brought down again and again, requiring repeat after repeat of the same old nursed-back-to-health story? Why is it that I generally give all my plants the same amount of care (I water them every one to two days, and look them over at least once every four to five days), and some are perfectly happy with that while others seem to scream for attention every now and then even though nobody is being neglected, damn it?

Then I realised a few things. And figured that there really isn’t any point in getting upset. Just deal with it and move on. God is (once again) using Creation to deliver warnings and lessons pertaining to the spiritual realm.

Bugs are opportunistic. It’s their nature. They’re predators, in a way, and just as big cats on the savannah watch for the youngest and weakest animals in a gazelle or zebra herd and demons prowl around looking for handholds on unsuspecting Christian psyches, them bugs are going to be on the lookout for the smallest and weakest plants in any garden or collection. Plants that are small (more surface area to volume) or have survived previous attacks are easier pickings than big, untouched specimens. The recent weather isn’t helping, because it’s searingly hot most of the time and too-dry plants attract spider mites. I just need to step up the watering schedule and stop worrying about whether there will or will not be rain, because the intense heat is clearly posing a bigger problem than the possibility of overwatering, right now.

The Enemy attacks the young and the weak of the Kingdom, too. And those of us who have struggled with certain strongholds and personal issues know all too well how these hot buttons can be targeted again and again and again, even though we’ve picked ourselves up and gotten patched up and soldiered on countless times. It’s never-ending; we’ll have respite when we’re dead or Raptured.

And about the non-neglect that still causes (or leads to) health problems? Some plants, coming from different climes and with different constitutions (xeric VS mesic, etc.), need different levels of care, just as some people are a little more fragile and need a little more care than others. It’s an important point to keep in mind, when you have children or mentees or members of a ministry group under your care.


Pups and Related Thoughts

I had a short conversation with one of the dance ladies yesterday, and somehow the topic wandered into parenting territory. And for once, the advice and warnings that I received were actually rational, logical, totally realistic, and also exactly what has been on my mind for months. But that’s for another post.

I’m not a parent (yet), but I do get the sense that God is teaching and preparing me for it in a very different way from what appears to be the norm—somewhat like how He gave me various insights and revelations about marriage in the one or two years leading up to my wedding. Those haven’t stopped, either; they are still coming every now and then. The problem isn’t Him (the source of wisdom), it’s my ability to retain/recall/apply what He shows me. I’m not the best student in the class.

In any case, it was a short conversation (10, maybe 12 minutes tops?), and it was hovering at the back of my mind as I let myself back into my home and proceeded to check on my tillandsias as usual. Someone had recently posted a photo of his newly-sprouted pups online, and I wanted to see how mine were doing. And as I looked at each plant, various thoughts came to me.

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T. pruinosa

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T. bulbosa

These two plants were bought on whim and both flowered unexpectedly. The pruinosa, admittedly, is pretty much the usual size for it, but the bulbosa was/is still rather small and I think it was a case of shock-blooming since it wasn’t sold to me in great condition. But the surprises were pleasant ones, not un-looked forward to, and it’s been a delight watching them grow. I suppose it’s not unlike (although on a much smaller scale) the feeling of finding out you’re expecting when you weren’t actively trying to conceive, but were ready and open for it to happen. I’ve been watching these pups’ progress quite carefully, to see when they’ll be ready to live life as independent plants.

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T. humbug (ionantha x paucifolia)

I was watching for the flower on this one—I bought it knowing that it looked like it might be blushing and therefore might be readying itself to start spiking in the near future. When it did, I was delighted, and then came the first pup… and then the second, pushing its way out from behind a parent leaf, completely unexpected. I’ve been watching them closely and my fingers are itching to separate them from the mother plant, but it’s too early still. And if you know me, you know that I’m reading and researching and getting advice from experts that I know and trust on what to do, and when and how to do it.

Which brings me to when I posted this photo online and said that I was tempted to “depup” them, but would have to wait a while more—and was instantly bombarded with unlooked-for advice from total strangers saying NO YOU CANNOT DO THAT, IT’S TOO EARLY and THEY ARE WAY TOO SMALL/YOUNG TO BE INDEPENDENT. Like, what gives, people? Number 1, I don’t know you, so why are you trying to tell me what to do when most of the community activity on the forum is positive mutual encouragement? Number 2, I said very clearly that I was tempted to depup, but was not going to do so since it was still too early, so why are you all jumping to conclusions without even reading what I said (it’s only a few lines, not a bunch of paragraphs!)?

It’s probably how parents feel when people they don’t even know (much less trust) just butt in and expect them to take all their sage advice when it’s thoroughly unwanted and in most cases, unnecessary.

So, anyway. We reach these other plants that are the last to be mentioned in this post:

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T. kolbii

This kolbii is somewhat special. Not because it’s an exceptionally pretty plant or that it’s a personal favourite species of mine, but because it’s one of the first batch of tillies I bought, right at the beginning of this green journey, and because it spent some months in the office with me, slowly languishing despite everything I tried to help it flourish (it turned rather yellow, and wrinkly, and the leaves started curling inwards), and because after I gave up and brought it home in the hope that it would somehow survive, it rallied, started looking loads better, and presented me with a totally unexpected pup.

The pup is growing way slower than the other pups from the other plants, and there are days when I wonder if it’s stagnant or even dead… but its colour seems fine and the mother appears to be doing okay, so I just shrug off the pessimistic thoughts and keep on looking after them as usual. I wonder if it’s in any way similar to how someone who’s been barren for years, or ill with a condition that supposedly makes her barren, or ill to the point where her life, much less her fertility, are in question, might feel when a sudden pregnancy is discovered. The going is tentative and slow and at times the progress is questionable, but there’s wonder and thankfulness all wrapped up in it…

I suppose one could also think about prophecies (or dreams/visions) that haven’t yet been fulfilled. Lots of “church speak” uses terms like “pregnant with a prophetic word” and suchlike, after all… I used to find it rather contrived, but now, I don’t know, it does seem to make sense. In a way.

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T. pruinosa

This little pruinosa isn’t mine, actually; it belongs to a friend but it just will not flourish under her care no matter what she does. In fact, it contracted a case of rot and we pulled off nearly half of its leaves before it looked clean enough to stand on its own. We hoped that it would rally if I took over its care—it did, and produced a tiny, fragile-looking pup. Upon that discovery it was decided that I would adopt it and take it home, where it seems most plants thrive, and then return it once it is strong enough for another attempt by its rightful owner.

The pup has doubled its size since it came home with me, and the mother has gained some “weight” and is looking much healthier. In the picture above it is already at that doubled size, and is a much better colour. When we first detected its presence, it appeared to be brown, and the mother had a worrying damp brown spot on the main leaf just above it. Both, clearly, are doing pretty well.

No doubt I will be sad to say goodbye to both pup and mother when both plants are finally large and strong enough to leave my makeshift “nursury”, especially since many long hours of careful effort would have gone into nurturing them. I can’t say it is fair to compare this to releasing a grown child to his or her independence, but surely this little experience is better preparation than none at all. At least I am now aware that it’s not that easy to set something free, or to release it into the hands of another (handing over a daughter as a bride, anyone?), as it looks on the outside!

So I saw another fond farewell to the T. ionantha pup that matured and flowered and had pups of its own, and which I have released into the care of a good friend:

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T. ionantha var. rubra

It helps to know that she loves plants and will find as much delight in their health and growth as I would.

Plant Sitting

A couple of close friends are heading overseas for about two weeks, and their small collection of tillandsias is now with me for safekeeping until they are home from their trip.


I’m confident that most of them will be fine, in fact might even flourish better, except for the two that are of species I’ve killed before: T. andreana and T. fuchsii var. gracilis.

Lord, help me keep them all healthy!

Am also set to thinking about the human tendency to take care of our own things more carefully than others’. Some of us (a minority) do the opposite and care for others’ property much better than our own. Wonder what makes us do that? Really, especially when it comes to things that God made and not man-made, we should stop thinking of them as “ours” or “theirs” but as God’s. And realise that we ought to do the best we can all the time because we’re just stewarding them for Him.