Plants Alive

Green Tree Pythons

Ep 161: Green Tree Pythons with Patrick Holmes

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Welcome to this episode of the Outer Fringes. I must say that this episode has been hotly anticipated. Green Tree Pythons fit the bill as an arboreal reptile with a dedicated community that surrounds it. This is important to us because they have studied there reptile as deeply as we have studied ours and we can both benefit from each other’s efforts. And, if there is one snake that would be a natural transition for us, Green Tree Pythons, (or their boa counterpart, the Emerald Tree), would be top of the list for many of us!

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Nepenthes and chameleons

Ep 160: Nepenthes Tropical Pitcher Plants with Jeremiah Harris

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The Nepenthes Tropical Pitcher plants are one of the most striking plants we can include in our chameleon environments. Their leaves sport ornate carnivorous pitchers at the ends and they add a flash of adventure to our plantscape. With me is Jeremiah Harris to share his expertise in this exciting genus!

Thoughts from the podcaster :)

Chameleon owners have long been fascinating by the Nepenthes tropical pitcher plant. Though there wasn’t much overlap between the two hobbies mainly because screen cages and our selected temperature ranges for chameleons weren’t a perfect match. But with the increased awareness and execution of naturalistic hydration cycles, solid side cage, and a little help from Nepenthes hybridizers, these carnivores are now hardy in our cage environmental ranges and easily found online or public nurseries. As we shift our focus from just caging. Chameleon to creating a sanctuary environment which includes a chameleon we are expanding our focus to include interesting plants. And, Nepenthes certainly are at the top of those charts!

To introduce us to Nepenthes, Jeremiah Harris, a lifelong carnivorous plant enthusiast joins me. His greenhouses are things of wonder and just looking through his social media accounts, which are linked to in the show notes, you can imagine getting lost for days just peering into all the nooks and crannies, so to speak. So I am going to bring him on and we are going to hear all about these fascinating plants from a man who loves his plants like we love our chameleons!

Well, it is time for me to expand some species in my chameleon environments! Now, I want to address the most common question once more.

Nepenthes send out long leaves that develop literal pitchers at the end. These pitchers contain liquid which digests insects, or any other animal that falls in. Now, the initial response from chameleon keepers is to ask why you would include a plant in the cage that will eat your chameleon. The answer is that we wouldn’t. If you get good enough raising up your nepenthes that it produces pitchers actually big enough to trap your chameleon then you are quite accomplished and, hopefully, have the common sense to remove one of the two from the cage. If the chameleon can fit in the pitcher then you have an issue. Although chameleons would not be attracted to the sweet liquid like insects and mammals I really don’t want to get an email from someone who put a baby chameleon in with a mature Nepenthes 'Miranda' and then one day couldn’t find their chameleon. For almost all cases, you will be fine, but discernment is required.

If the theme of this podcast of creating beautiful vibrant, living environments for your chameleons resonates with you then take a look at adding a Nepenthes. They are sold as Monkey Cups at home improvement stores so they are easy to get a hold of. Humidity is the biggest challenge in areas that are dry. But if you are embracing the naturalistic hydration cycles you have what you need to keep these common hybrids happy. They were developed to be hardier at easy to reproduce conditions! So that is right up our alley.

I highly recommend following Jeremiah on social media. If nothing else, just to be exposed to the rich variety of pitchers in Nepenthes. Like chameleons and all of these outer fringes, there is enough diversity that you spend your life studying them and getting to know the characteristics of each species. Check the show notes for those links!

Thank you for joining Jeremiah and me here today! What I would really love is for you to tag me and Jeremiah on cages that you add Nepenthes to! They may take some skill to get them in the area of your cage that has just the right microclimate, but this is the fun of what we do. I look forward to seeing the results!

So, go out into the chameleon world and make some gorgeous environments that make people’s jaws drop even before they see the chameleon!

N. bongso 900x1200S

Nepenthes bongo

Holding a N. truncata x ephippiata 900x1200s

Holding a Nepenthes truncata x ephippiata

Nepenthes edwardsiana

Nepenthes edwardsiana

Nepenthes veitchii

Nepenthes veitchii

N. veitchii ‘Geoff Wong’

Nepenthes veitchii ‘Geoff Wong’

Nepenthes edwardsiana

Nepenthes hamata

Nepenthes truncata 900x1200

Nepenthes truncata

Nepenthes veitchii K

Nepenthes veitchii K

Nepenthes veitchii x boschiana

Nepenthes veitchii x boschiana

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dew on chameleon plant leaves

Keeping Plants Watered

I’ll bring in experts to help us really dial in our plant skills, but I can cover one of the biggest killers of cage plants – dehydration. One thing that seems counterintuitive is when we look at our cage covered in water droplets from the misting we do every day and then our plants die. One thing to check off the top is whether any water is getting to the roots. Pothos is the biggest victim of this because they have such big leaves that are so beautiful at catching the mist! But they are so dense that the water does not necessarily make it to the soil. This is the main reason why a chameleon habitat can be perfectly healthy for chameleons, but deadly for plants. It may be that only the chameleon is getting a drink!

Check the soil moisture!

dry soil in goldfish plant

This GoldFish Plant gets misted every day and you can see the dew on the leaves. But a close look at the soil shows that there is no water that gets to the roots! This Goldfish Plant will die of dehydration while, all the while, providing water to your chameleons.

dry soil in pothos

The greatest victim of dry soil is our favorite chameleon cage plant - the Pothos. The reason why it is so effective as a chameleon cage plant is the huge leaves. Unfortunately, those large and dense leaves can easily shield the soil from any misting. This picture shows this exact dynamic. Notice all the dew on the leaves and the completely dry soil!

The Solution: Extra Watering For the Plants!

watering can

A simple garden watering can can be the solution to all the watering issues. Watering the plants thoroughly once a week with a watering can should solve most of the watering issues.

Dripper on top of cage

Sometimes with all the network branches in our cages it is difficult to reach the plants in back with a watering can. So a strategic placement of a dripper on top of the cage can reach those trouble areas. The slow drip is actually better for parched soil than the flow from a watering can. You can fill a dripper and put it above a different plant each day. That way you provide water for your chameleon and keep your cage green at the same time.

water squirt bottle

Another way to get at difficult plants is with a squirt bottle. This can go through branches or even a screen cage wall!

Conclusion:

If you are having trouble keeping plants alive check the soil. Too dry and too wet are both problems. If it is too dry then the above solutions can be used. If too wet, then you'll have to move the plant, increase the drainage in the plant pot, or decrease the misting sessions. There aren't always easy solutions. If you need help with plants dying then this is the post to hang out at!

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accent plants for a chameleon cage

Plants Alive!

Welcome to the Plants Alive! Challenge!

Our co-theme for 2020 is Plants Alive! which encourages the chameleon community to set up living plants in their chameleon cages. This is the first step towards creating environments for our chameleons instead of just cages. But plant keeping is as much of a skill as chameleon keeping! So it is understandable that many people have a difficult time keeping plants alive. So, this Plants Alive! Challenge is to pick a live plant based challenge commensurate to your skill to achieve by the end of the year!

How Do I Join the Plants Alive! Challenge?

Simple! Pick a goal and drop by the Chameleon Academy Facebook group where the group will offer their help so we all achieve our goals. The goal you pick should be challenging, but reasonable for your skill level. You can custom pick your own goal or else pick one of the following. Once you have decided which goal fits you then share it on the Facebook page and let's get started!

Step 1: Pick Your Challenge!

Beginner Challenges

If you are at the beginner level and just plain have trouble keeping a plant alive then your suggested challenge is to keep a Pothos alive. This is the hardiest plant we have available to chameleon cages and we will have plant counselors trained and ready to help you tweak your conditions to keep a Pothos alive in your chameleon cage! If you have struggled with plants then this is the challenge for you!

Chameleon in a plant

Intermediate Challenges

Specialize in a Special Plant!

Select an "exotic" plant that excites you and adopt that as your goal for the year. You will have that species of plant thriving in your chameleon cage by 2021! For this it is useful to have seen a certain plant that you are interested in. If you are not sure which plant to choose there is no problem with getting suggestions from the group! Here are some ideas:

NepenthesTropical Pitcher Plants: Carnivorous plants which hang down insect digesting pitchers

Maiden Hair Fern: A long time favorite. These delicate leaves bring a romantic touch to the cage. This is actually my choice for my 2020 Plants Alive@ goal! But you are welcome to choose this one as your's as well!

Satin Pothos: Not really a pothos, but has the same shape leaves. The leaves are a striking silver color!

Creeping Fig: This vivarium plant has a wonderful habit of covering a wall and provides a carpet of drinking surface.

There are so many to choose from. Pick a favorite or come by and ask for ideas!

Specialty Plants for Chameleon Cage

Get a Plant to Flower!

While getting leaves to grow is a huge milestone, getting your plant to flower is a sign you are doing something right. You can select a plant from the easiest ones below or else select one that is personally special. If you decide to take this challenge, make sure your choice is a reasonable one. Pothos will flower at about 40' long. I have never seen a Pothos flower and may never see one. I suggest you do not select Pothos for your challenge! So do a little research and make sure your plant will flower in indoor light and at a size that will fit in your cage.

Some fun ones to consider are Fittonia "nerve plants", Spider Plants, Maranta "Prayer Plants", or even a goldfish plant!

flowering plants in the chameleon cage

Advanced Challenge

If you are so skilled with plants that you yawn at making them flower and you are collecting obscure varieties of pothos then it is time for an over-the-top goal. I suggest researching the habitat of your chameleon and work on recreating the environment with the plants that come from their home town. This is beyond what I can guide so you are on your own independent study program. But please share progress on our Facebook page!

Step 2: Join the Chameleon Academy Facebook group and share your goal.

The Chameleon Academy Facebook Group

Head on over to the Chameleon Academy Facebook page, introduce yourself, and share what your goal is or ask for ideas!

I will also be posting on The Chameleon Forums. If there is enough interest there, I'll have two Plants Alive! groups going.

Chameleon Academy Facebook Page
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