Big time links

We’ll we are playing in the big time now.  Besides our link from the Bay Area Carnivorous Plant Society (BACPS), the New England Carnivorous Plant Society (NECPS), and the Los Angeles Carnivorous Plant Society (LACPS), we now have a link to our little group from perhaps the most visited carnivorous plant site on the whole of the interwebs – The Carnivorous Plant FAQ.  At long last we have made it on the master list of carnivorous plant societies maintained there – right here.  Just scroll down to the North American societies and we are the last one listed.  Slowly, we are making friends all over the place.  Hopefully we’ll make a few more a the sale (see last post) and we hope to have our May meeting rescheduled and announced here shortly – so we can meet some new people then too.  See you next week at the sale!

Spring Sale!!!

If you have been meaning to pick up some carnivorous plants but putting it off because of the cold weather, do we have some good news for you!  On April 26th and 27th, just in time for spring and warmer weather to come, we’ll be participating in the “Exotic Houseplants – Gesneriads and More” plant sale.  It’s a great chance for the rare plant collector in the Twin Cities to get out and see what sorts of botanical oddities their fellow Minnesotans are growing – and then buy them for yourself.

It’s going to be a two day extravaganza filled with offerings from many plant societies in town.  In addition to plants, there will be people right there to ask questions about how to grow these photosynthetic wonders.  It’s going to be quite a range of plants – but of course we will bring the killer plants.  Don’t miss it!


April 26th and 27th at Bachman’s Heritage Room, 6010 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis,
MN 55419.  

Saturday – 9am to 5pm

Sunday – 9am to 4pm

Admission – Free, $0, gratis, the best price ever, so at least come down and gawk.

See you there!

Put a pin in it

So, our March meeting has been delayed.  We are very sorry for the late notice, but it couldn’t be avoided.  Our meeting will now be on Sunday, March 23rd at 4pm.  We’ll be meeting at Sunrise River Farms.  If you need directions or have questions please contact us at our e-mail address, username umcps.  We’ll be talking about a show we’ll be at in April, and catching up, as well as sharing our spring plans.  Come join us, and make some new friends!

Ring in the New Year – with CP’s!

This January meeting always seems to sneak up on us!  It must be from slow recovery from the food comma induced during the holidays.  No matter the cause, rouse yourself from your winter slumber because it is time to talk about carnivorous plants again!  This Sunday at 4pm, the 12th of January is our first meeting of 2014.  See how that creeps up on you?

We’ve got a lot on the agenda, so please make some time and come on out.  We are going to:

  • Hold the UMCPS presidential elections (sorry guests, only members vote)
  • Hear a talk on sundew diversity
  • Learn a little about home RO water systems (for mineral free water at home)
  • Collect membership dues for 2014 (still just $10)
  • And of course have a beer, grab some snacks, and catch up

We’ll be meeting at a member’s house, so that means we’ll see someone else’s collection of plants too.  It’s always fun to snoop on what other members are growing.  Isn’t it?

Come on out; it’ll be worth that icy drive.  Plus it’s supposed to be above freezing that day.  You read the correctly, above freezing!  So, start the new year off right and fulfill that “I need to talk about carnivorous plants more” new year’s resolution right away!  Any questions: as always send and e-mail to our e-mail address, username umcps

November in Review

Our November meeting was fantastic!  We got to see a collection of one of our members and had got to meet someone new.  Can’t beat that!  We also set an ambitious agenda for 2014.

One of of members, Tom, was kind enough to share his new pygmy sundews with us.  They are fascinating little plants with incredibly modified structures to help them form colonies.  Here are a couple photos of Tom’s plants:

D omissa pink

The species is Drosera omissa and it is a pink flowered form.  They are just starting out from the vegetative propagules pygmy sundews have called gemmae (singular: gemma).

D omissa pink close

They are tiny, but they are still killers!  Photo credits are for William Morison.

Our next meeting is also out first for 2014 and will be January 12th at another member’s house.  The same member will be presenting a general introduction to the diversity of sundews (genus: Drosera), and showing off their collection.  It should be a good time.  So stay tuned right here to get details about the meeting as it approached.  Until then, enjoy your holidays, and happy growing!

November Meeting Details

Well it is time for our last meeting of the year.  Don’t let the recent snow and ice stop you from heading out and talking about everybody’s favorite plants – carnivorous!  We will be meeting this Sunday, November 10th at 4pm at a member’s house.  Our agenda will be to schedule and set the agenda for next year’s meetings.  Well and of course, we’ll also talk about plants.  But if you’d like to see the UMPCS do something in particular next year this is the meeting to come to with all of your brilliant suggestions!

 We are hoping to see a few new faces, and of course all those familiar ones too.  See you this weekend!

September meeting: LED lights

As promised the September meeting was a techie dream come true!  We were able to check out the photosynthetically active radiation (or PAR – the component of light that plants can actually use for photosynthesis) as well as the spectra produced on not one but four different LED grow-light fixtures!  Don’t worry if you are not as techie though.  Not all of our meeting are this technical.  Mostly we talk about growing carnivorous plants, so if this level of detail is not your thing, don’t let it stop you from attending out next meeting in November.  Details to come.  Any questions, as always please feel free to contact us at our e-mail address, username: umcps

On to the details!  For those unfamiliar with what most of these LED fixtures look like, here is a picture:

LED grow fixture

You may, very reasonably, be asking yourself why you would want to use a light fixture with that sort of color to it.  It certainly doesn’t make the plants look very nice.  These bulbs are not lights for admiring your plants under.  Nope.  They are meant to make them grow while using as little energy as possible.  They are “tuned” to your plants not your eyes.

Let’s explain what that means.  Our eyes make use of a very different part of the light spectrum than plants leaves do for photosynthesis.  While we are very tuned into yellow and green (baring types of color blindness), plants don’t use green very well – which is why they look green to us.  Plants use reds and blues best.  Below is a spectrum image of the wavelengths of light plants use, which we have borrowed from here (which is a really great site talking about photosynthesis in general!):

Photosynthetic Pigments

You can see that light in the green bands, around 550 on the bottom axis are used pretty poorly.  Whereas, the blues at about 420, and the reds, about 650 are what plants absorb best.  So if you wanted to target the lights to use as little energy as possible while getting plants to absorb as much as possible, you would want to use red and blue lights.  See where that magenta color is coming from now?  That’s the idea behind the production of LED grow lights.  They are tuned to me as useful to plants as possible.

Now we know what light plants use and the type of absorbency they are trying to produce.  So how did the four LED fixtures do?  Here is the spectra from the first one.  It is a generation 1 (or Gen 1) fixture, and early type that only used 3 bulb types.  Blue, red, and orange.

Gen 1 LED spectra

You can see that it really just has peaks on the red and blue with a little orange near 625.  So that’s pretty good right?  Well it turns out plants get information and collect light from the other parts of the spectrum as well, and so it helps to have a little light in those regions as well.  The next spectrum is from a Gen 2 fixture, that includes a white LED as well.  This fills in some more of the spectra as you can see.  Oh and don’t worry about the intensity on the vertical axis – we had to adjust them at different distances to get the highest peak to fit on the graph, so these graphs are of relative intensity between fixtures.

Gen 2 LED spectra

On the Gen 2 graph above you can see that the addition of the white LED bulbs fills in that saddle between the red and blue parts of the spectra better.  But it still doesn’t replicate the curve of the light that plants absorb quite correctly.  And that why people developed Gen 3 fixtures, of which we tested two.  This first spectrum is from the first one we tested, which we’ll arbitrarily call “type 1″.  This one includes 9 types of LED bulbs covering a range of the spectrum, including one infrared (IR) bulb type.

Gen 3 type 1 LED spectra

You can see the IR bulb’s influence as the small bump to the right of the red peak.  The shape is a rather impressive approximation of the absorbency curve for photosynthesis.  The last spectra is from the other Gen 3 fixture, here called “type 2″ because we tested it second.  It also has 9 types of LED bulbs.  This is the curve from that fixture.

Gen 3 type 2 LED spectra

Interestingly this one is a little peakier, if that can be a word.  And the general consensus was that it didn’t match the optimal as well as the type 1 fixture did.  Despite it supposedly having IR bulbs too, we didn’t really see a signal for those.  Unfortunately because the fixtures are individually made and purchased on e-Bay there is not a lot of assurance about which exact spectrum you might get.  Once these sorts of fixtures become more common and produced on a larger scale, there might be more standardization.

The last thing, and if you’ve read this far you can consider yourself very techie, is the PAR readings.

in (µmol m-2 s-1)       @12 in                                   @24 in

Gen 1                          354                                            92

Gen 2                          250                                            74

Gen 3, Type 1             260                                            65

Gen 3, Type 2             178                                            51

Given how bight these bulbs were to the eye the PAR readings seemed at first very low, with numbers no too different from T5 or T8 fluorescent fixtures.  But those fluorescent bulbs throw off a lot of light plant’s aren’t using.  Those of you paying close attention may object to that last sentence.  PAR is supposed to measure the photosynthetically available light!  So how can the same PAR mean different efficiency coming from different fixtures?

It’s a good question and the answer is in the details of how PAR is measured.  The short answer is that PAR weights all wavelengths of light equally between 400 and 700 nanometers.  But as we can see from the photosynthesis absorbency graph earlier that’s not how plants work.  So why was PAR designed that way?  PAR was meant to measure light from black body radiation, things like sunlight and light from incandescent bulbs.  For those things it is very good metric.  For LED bulbs that produce a very narrow band of light, it becomes more problematic.  This means that with the same PAR reading a well tuned LED might allow a plant to photosynthesize at a higher rate than a fluorescent bulb with the same PAR reading.  So, it becomes difficult to compare directly.  Someone is going to have to come up with a new metric if we all move to LED fixtures.

That’s it!  Hope it was interesting for those who read this far.  Please feel free to leave comments if you have any thoughts on this topic.