July 7, 2011

Pricks-The Joys of Thorns

SOLANUM PYRACANTHUM HAS ATTRACTIVE GOLDEN THORNS, THIS ORNAMENTAL TOMATO RELATIVE IS AN UNUSUAL CONVERSATION STARTER FOR A SUMMER CONTAINER, IT'S FLOWERS AND FRUIT ARE EVEN MORE INTERESTING, MORE ON THIS PLANT AND OTHER ORNAMENTAL SOLANUM SPECIES IN A FUTURE POST.
People act funny around thorns. You may freak out at the thought of picking berries in a thorn-infested blackberry patch, or scream when you accidentally grab a black raspberry seedling while weeding, or even wear gauntlet gloves when pruning your favorite rose bush, but thorns on plants aren't all bad, and some thorns on plants are the specimen's most intreagueing feature, making them ornamental. 


Some of the ornamental tomato relatives known as Solanum's have amazing thorns, Solanum pyracanthum has firey toned thorns that are much more interesting than it's average purple blossoms. Many of these Solanum's are now trendy container plants, found at upscale nurseries and in designer collections, but others are being selected for not having thorns, such as the Solanum quitoense below. I much prefer the thornier variety than this new thornless one, for this is a plant that had row after row of devilish thorns both on the top of the leaf, and below. Now, it's practically a fuzzy eggplant.
NOT ALL ORNAMENTAL SOLANUM'S ARE THORNY, THIS IS A THORNLESS S. QUITOENSE, NEW TO MOST MARKETS FOR ORNAMENTAL CONTAINERS AND SUMMER PLANTINGS. (I MISS THE THORNIER SELECTION, BECAUSE THE THORNS ARE WHAT MADE THIS PLANT SO INTERESTING).

Some thorn plants, like cacti and those on other desert plants define their species, and agave are often grown for their radial form and symetrical, yet deadly, thorny leaves. I believed that I would never cut these off, and sometimes even selecting the prickliest vartieties to grow, like 'Meat Claw'. I don't really care if I get tormented by 'Meat Claw' or any Agave for that matter, that is, until you step on one by accident, or shove your hand into it without looking. But now with a puppy who likes to hunt, with eyes at thorn level, I have a different outlook on such attributes. Rather than shoving foam peanuts onto each leaf tip until the plants are relocated back into the greenhouse for the winter, I have decided to trim the very point tips off of some of the Agave. Although an eye-patch on a dog has its cool-factor, I'd rather not take that route right now. Our vet bills are just too high as it is.

AGAVE 'MEAT CLAW', APTLY NAMED.


Some thorns are just too dangerous, especially the ones found on many species of Agave. Since we keep many in our Agave collection on the steps of the deck, or on the ground in containers where the dogs wander, we have started snipping the tips off. I know that the thorns are some of the best features on Agave, and the snipping them off many equate with declawing a cat, but after seeing a dog at the Tuft's Vet Hospital with an eye patch, and after two nose incidents with our dogs ( not to mention a nasty infected long Agave thorn in Joe's middle finger joint last year), I am taking precautions and simply snipping the very tip ( not the whole thorn) off of the most dangerous Agave plants in pots.


EUPHORBIA MILII, OR CROWN OF THORNS, IS A COMMON HOUSEPLANT, BUT ALSO A LOVELY THORN PLANT TO KEEP ON A WINDOW SILL. OUR GREENHOUSE IS TOO COLD AND WET FOR THIS SPECIES IN THE WINTER, AND THEY PREFER TO GO DORMANT, OR ROT.

A YELLOW FORM OF CROWN OF THORNS, ALMOST GLOWS WHEN IN BLOOM, SINCE THE THORNS ARE GLAUCUS BLUE AND THE FLOWERS LESS OF A HORRID SHADE OF RED.



3 comments :

  1. I didn't know so many solanums were thorny! I just started growing a solanum mammosum from seed this year, it's been really interesting to watch the crazy thorns develop all over

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  2. I feel a little like you wrote this post just for me! I do love the spikes. When we started looking around for a pug to adopt my husbands main concern was the agave spikes. Bulging pug eyes and agave spikes are not a good combination.

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  3. I love my thornless Solanum quitoense, it's such a juxtaposition with Solanum pyracanthum. I wish I could keep them both over the winter, sadly, I'll have to let them go with the frost, as they cats will constantly try to eat them and they're no good for them :(

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