Learn the value of plant adaptability experiment

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Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture
Learn the value of plant adaptability experiment

I've been inspired to create this post by my own experiment of having a mini garden growing in pots on a concrete footpath. These potted plants are on the west side of the flats I live in, and receive sunlight from about lunch time onward. Its been something like 4 years now that my pot plants have been in this location where surface concrete temperatures reach up to 60 degrees Celcius or more. They get mimimal watering by me and only when they begin to flower or go to seed. After that, nothing except natural rainfall which could be 6-8 times a year if the wind is blowing it the right direction.

To get a better appreciation for the versatilty of plants being able to adapt to harsh conditions try growing some pot plants, especially natives, on concrete which will receive the full blast of the hot summer sun wherever you live. Or just some perennial flowers or onions.

You'll find getting the plants to grow will be tricky but by the time they've been there for 2 years they're fully adapted to those conditions. My recommendation, start the plants when they're tiny and in autumn to the middle of winter, or whenever frosts occur, if any, in your area.

For best results, DON'T REPOT THE PLANTS INTO BIGGER POTS and DON'T MULCH except for using sticks and twigs to cover the top layer of soil, and USE PLAIN ORDINARY DIRT FROM YOUR GARDEN. 

Here are some pics of my extremely adapted plants in their full glory. The succulent in the first pic, on the red brick, began turning red about a year and a half ago. Its supposed to be green. I have a total of 13 different plant species (5 which are cacti and succulents), including 1 grevillea and grass, minus any weeds that pop up by themselves.

What can you grow in pots?

zosterops
zosterops's picture

nice growing. 

the red succulent is Sedum rubrotinctum (rubrotinctum = red-dyed) as it's supposed to be red in the sun (it's commonly seen in the shade and indoors as a green plant). 

last is Echinopsis chamaecereus, 'peanut cactus' from Argentina where it is a mountain plant receving very high light intensity, so is well suited to your project.  

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

So much for this experiment. It was short lived because last summer I found a handful of red-back spiders nesting between two of my pots here, along with about 20 egg sacs. All spiders and egg sacs were destroyed and all the plants removed from the area. Most were put out into the front garden. I lost a few plants in the process. I hope I got all the spiders. Here's a pic of just one of them.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

soakes
soakes's picture

Why destroy them?  Redbacks are basically harmless unless you sit on one.

soakes
Victoria, Australia

Woko
Woko's picture

I have a Red-back Spider living under a plastic pot which covers a plastic valve in a pipeline. Every time I turn on the valve I check its well being. Not once has it said Boo!

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

I don't exactly know why I kill them. I have, I believe, a subconscious fear of these spiders that borders into sheer terror of them. I have nightmares of these spiders biting me. My skin crawls for months on end after seeing pictures of these spiders. I just have to kill them to reduce my nightmares, skin crawling, and terror of these spiders. It is only these particular spiders that I'm terrified of and their webs. When I killed them I was shaking like a leaf. 

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko
Woko's picture

You seem to have a very conscious rather than unconscious  fear of Redback Spiders, Shirley. Since killing them seems to have made no difference to your fear how easy would it be for you to see them as part of the environment, to live & let live, secure in the knowledge that you're doing your bit for Nature? 

jason

Yeh Shirley got to be bigger than that.  The poor spider suffers misunderstanding like the poor shark, poor snake, poor stick insect and poor many others.  Human responce to fear or being threatened is to kill it when it come to nature. But the animal knows it can't eat you, and may suffer life threatning injuries from you, so plays it cool and avoids interaction generally or runs away.  I often paint around wasp nests. I play it slow and steady and they seem to figure out I'm no threat. Bit of mutual respct I guess.  Not totally fool proof though, say somedays those yellow and black wasps have a human like rush of blood and go on an attacking frenzy and I do the running away bit.  

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

I know, I know. Bad, Shirley! I think it is a conscious fear I have of them, Woko. I can tell you both (Woko and jason) that there are only 3 creatures on Earth I have a distinct terrifying fear of: Black Panthers/Jaguars; Red-backed spiders; and all black coloured snakes (no specific snake species though). I also know that this fear of these creatures is NOT a generalised fear created by "the media and people talking about how dangerous these creatures are". If that were the case I'd be terrified of all spiders and all snakes but I'm not. I put my fear of red-backed spiders and black coloured snakes down to a childhood experience involving these creatures. I'm thinking a red-backed spider bit me as a child that's why I can't remember what caused the fear of them in the first place as I was too young to maintain that memory. Its a fear I cannot shake even if I want to. Its like the time I had a fear of having a shower for weeks on end and having the water run over my head - the fear was triggered by an event back in High School when my PE teacher tried to drown me in school. I thought I'd gotten over that fear but apparently not. Its exactly the same type of fear, along with the same type of panic attacks I get with them. Its a momentary fear based in the moment with the object that I'm terrified of - from the past. It is intense, unusually random, and I don't see it coming but overcoming the fear (with me) can only be achieved by becoming aware of where the fear originated from and what event caused the fear to occur in the first place. That awareness is the starting point for me, and the end point of stopping myself of fearing the said object, whether spider, snake or something else.

I am not terrified of spiders in general, nor of snakes but they do startle me from time to time. If confronted with, let's say, a snake that suddenly slithers across my path and I didn't see it coming, I tend to freeze on the spot and let it continue on it's way. I give snakes the "right of way" every single time, even if I'm in mid stride. I love both species with all my heart, even if they are venomous, and I see them for what and who they are not how venomous they are. I respect them and exist side by side with them. I see value in them as a species, and as predators. And as such my fear of red-backed spiders and all black snakes makes no sense to me at all. It doesn't make sense to me because it doesn't feel natural to me to be so terrified of them. The only sense I can make of my terror of these creatures is something happened to me as a very young child involving these 2 creatures that scarred me for life. Perhaps I backed into a red-backed spiders web and a spider bit me as a result? Who knows. But the fear exists and it's real and it is not "a fear of them impressed upon me by anyone else or by something that I've read about them". I'm actually not that gullible and tend not to believe in such garbage anyway. I learn about creatures by experiencing them and hanging around them and getting to know their behaviour, personalities, etc - whether spider, snake, frog, bird or human.  

I also have a fear of being in the ocean and did have (but overcame it) a fear of the ground/dirt/sand dunes. Some of my fears (the ones I've overcome) were brought about because of past life experiences. I'm not even sure if I believe in that but it is the only explanation I have that could cause a small minority of my "other fears".

Jason, I have never felt fear of being threatened by an animal. Humans yes but never an animal. Well, maybe except for Bull ants in South Australia. I have encountered a few aggressive animals in the past but never felt threatened by their aggression toward me. Some dogs do make me nervous because I sense fear in them but that fear is not coming from me. The dogs have either been abused by humans or are just being protective - I tend to know the difference as I can see it in their behaviour toward me and in their eyes. I prefer animals to most people actually. I just have an affinity/connection with animals, and I think most people I encounter who have pets get jealous of my connection with their pets. Those people see me as a threat. Don't get me started on domestic cats though. I'm not a domestic cat lover but I'd never harm one either. What I'd like to do to all domestic/feral/non-indigenous cats would probably get me banned from the internet and locked away for good, so I don't do any of it. 

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko
Woko's picture

Traumatic childhood experiences of any kind can have a huge impact on us throughout life. Fortunately, there are teachable strategies which can help people to overcome unrealistic fears.

Your behaviour when you see a snake seems entirely reasonable to me. The startle response which most of us give when we unexpectedly see a snake is probably evolution's way of enabling us to survive. Long may we give such appropriate responses, especially when they're accompanied by respect for the snake & an understanding of its role in the environment.

And thank you for being part of what I hope is Australia's developing cat free culture.

jason

Shirley I know where you are coming from feeling at home with animals or nature more than humans.  These days I almost have gone into a self exile as I just don't seem to have much in common with humans, or seem to eventually wreck the relationship due to morals and believing in them.  Most humans seem to sway like kelp with whatever suits them at the time regardless of write or wrong. I feel at home in the scrub with it ocupants, maybe because they don't talk or ask me to sway.      

I think this killing things is socialised into most of us, could be a bit flight or fight responce as well in parts.  Reading a bit on native bees recently I was not surprised how people wanted bees for their honey, their polination skills, or to just have.  However people were also keen to kill any wasp that came by once determined it was not a bee, even if it were not a threat to the bees.  Paper wasps in particular are a pretty passive insect if left alone, like most thing that can harm a human.  But because a wasp has a potential threat better to kill it and remove the threat.  Live and let live, particularly if it's native is rarely mentioned if at all.  

As for cats, well I found a pile of feathers in the back yard upon my return from a holiday.  I see no harm is speaking for wildlife, when owners and authorities will not enforce cat enclosures.  Could you imagine the outrage their would be if a pile of fur was found in kitty's back yard, and it was not a possum.  But who be bothered with that, just take pictures of the feathers or the kill, and then of the cat out of it's yard and complain to the council about kitty killing wildlife.   You are anonomous and council can be the bad guy, because the owners sure won't be because thay aren't paying for an enclosure.  But they all love their cats.....

See why I run out of friends.  

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

I know what you mean, Jason. All life on this planet has a purpose to serve, and is a part of nature to create a balance or harmony of and/or within the balance of it all. Domestic cats, feral or otherwise, serve no purpose whatsoever in nature. All they do is kill whether they are hungry or not. They do far more damage than what even us humans do. Okay, we destroy habitat after habitat but we don't target the wildlife. The wildlife at least has a chance to escape our destruction of nature. With cats there is no escaping. There is only death. Birds, frogs, lizards, mice, rats, bugs; rabbits, other small mammals; its all fair game to cats. 

I do see why you run out of friends, Jason. I have the exact same problem but mine is because I suggest to people to grow native plants in their garden, and plant things to prevent erosion and to improve their soil, and to stop wasting stuff. Even when I don't say anything at all, I just can't seem to maintain friendships with people who are so anti-environmental. I do try but it never works out though. For me, now, its just a waiting game. Nature always wins. I'm waiting for nature to catch up and for plants to rule the world. Like planet of the apes but with plants instead, I guess. I'm waiting for plants to adapt so they can get out of the ground, start walking around and start slapping every human they come across with their branches. I hope they don't slap me though! 

But I do like it very, very much when trees get back at people even at the cost of their own lives. One tree stump and one other alive unchopped tree took it's life to destroy a logging truck and trailer recently. The truck was fully loaded. Only in nature would and could that be possible. Nature always has a way of fighting back but sometimes it is done in vain and humans continue regardless of what nature throws at them. Nature needs to up its game to stop humans and to get them to change their ways. We, as humans, cant do it alone as no-one is listening.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

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