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 yahoo.com 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 yahoo.com 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 yahoo.com 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.

Meeting Date Change & State Fair Picts

There has been a last minute change to the meeting.  It is not tomorrow, Sept. 8th, as originally scheduled.  The meeting has been postponed for one week and will now be on Sunday, Sept, 15th at 4pm at Sunrise River Farm.  We are very sorry for the last minute notice, but it is going to be worth the wait.  One of our members will be bringing new LED grow light tubes and talking about where this technology is headed.  We will also be testing the LED bulbs against more typical fluorescent tube bulbs for the plant usable light (photosynthetically active radiation – PAR) as well as quantifying the difference in the spectra produced by the two bulbs.  It’s a techie’s dream meeting!  So, if you are into plants and electronics this is a must attend meeting.

The other reason we have decided to delay the meeting is to give the hardworking members who worked our booth at the Minnesota State Fair a chance to catch their breath.  Our dedicated members setup a great table to display the wonders of plants that consume kill animals for nutrition.  We didn’t win anything big, but it was a great display, and they did an incredible job, as some of you who chatted with them there recall.  They made some new friends, and had a great time too.  We could go on about how great it all was, but perhaps it’s better to let the photos speak for themselves.

CP at MN State Fair native CP of MN State Fair Bladderworts State Fair Dews State Fair Pings State Fair Pitcher State Fair VFTThere was a little of everything.  If you want to hear a recap of the events from the Fair come join us next Sunday.  If you have any questions of need directions please contact us at our yahoo.com e-mail address, username: umcps.  Hope to see you next week!

State Fair is Coming

And it’s something special.  So please join us at the Hort Building on August 22-23.  If you aren’t familiar with the location of the Ag/Hort Building it is at T-29 on the map.  We will have people there all day Friday, but only after 1pm on Thursday.  But we’ll see what we can do to get someone there Thursday morning!

Though we’d love to talk to you and answer any questions you may have about carnivorous plants, come by any time and check out some of our plants in our new and more exciting display.  We’ll have information about our website – this one – and how you can get a hold of us if your interest is piqued by the plants you see there.  And why wouldn’t it be?!  All the plants you’ll see will have been grown by members of this very club!

Of course if you have questions please get a hold of us at our yahoo.com account, username: umcps

See you at the Fair!

Our new e-mail and the State Fair

Well finally we have the e-mail address we have wanted for a while.  It’s much easier without all of those underscores too:


So please direct all future correspondence to this new address.  Also we will be at the Minnesota State Fair again this year!  The Minnesota Horticultural Society has been nice enough to let us participate again this summer.  Who, incidentally, has honored us by listing us on their website under the plant society listing.

We will be in the horticultural building the first two days of the Minnesota State Fair (Thursday and Friday, Aug 22-23).  So please come by and see us there!  If you are planning on being at the Fair this year plan to be there the first two days, after that we are gone.  We’d love to meet you and answer any questions you might have about carnivorous plants and growing them in the Upper Midwest.  See you at the Fair!

July and Chili

Well it is the middle of summer and time to meet again.  We’ll be headed to our usual hangout Sunrise River Farm.  Because it is summer, and time for it, we are doing a chili cook-off this meeting!  What does chili have to do with carnivorous plants you ask?  Nothing.  But that doesn’t make it any less tasty.  So if you are a member, bring your best chili and be prepared for some fierce competition.  If you want to see what the UMCPS is all about, then come by, talk about carnivorous plants, and maybe even pick up a freebie, who knows.  Plus chili!  So there’s that.

Please join us at 5pm on Sunday, July 14th.  Any questions, feel free to contact us at our yahoo.com e-mail account, username : umcps  See you there!  Did I mention the chili?!

We’re on Facebook now too!

For those of you facebookians out there who were hoping for a more interactive forum to talk about carnivorous plants in the upper Midwest, we now have a page on The Facebooks.  On the face of it, it seemed like a good idea but it will only succeed if we get people interacting face to face.  So if you are a facebooker and want to get some face time with each other to discuss the face of carnivorous plants head over to our Facebook page.   Facebook!

Enough of that silly writing.  Our next scheduled meeting is July 14th, but we are hoping to schedule an extra meeting in June.  One of our members has kindly agreed to share his experiences with LED lighting on his carnivorous plants.  There has been a lot of talk about LED lighting as the future of indoor pant growing and plenty of disparaging comments against it as well.  We are hoping to have the meeting so people can see for themselves.  Another of our members is planning to bring some equipment to quantitatively assess the LED lighting.  It will be a great opportunity to see LED lighting and form your opinion.  LED lighting: the future of indoor plant growing, or a technological dead end.

Stay tuned for the meeting details, time and place, etc.  And if you have questions, the best way to get an answer is to e-mail us at our Yahoo.com address, username umcps