Dendrochilum filiforme Lindl.

The plant of Dendrochilum filiforme in the tropical glasshouse.

The plant of Dendrochilum filiforme in the tropical glasshouse.

This diminutive orchid is commonly known as the Golden Chain Orchid, a name it shares with a few close relatives.  The plant in our glasshouse was donated by a keen plantsman who grows a range of exotic species and is now flowering for the first time.

The small plant arrived  in late summer 2013 and was potted in a mix of equal parts Seramis: Orchid Bark: Sphagnum in a clay pot, and stood on capillary matting watered with rainwater.  Glasshouse temperatures range from as little as 8C on winter nights to highs of 30C on Summer days.  The plant is said to be an easy orchid species to grow and it has certainly survived well with us so far.

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More on bananas

We grow two types of banana in the tropical glasshouse, the pink, seed containing, Musa dasycarpa, and the much larger edible banana with small yellow seedless fruit for which we do not know the cultivar.

Our yellow fruited banana cultivar on show at MERL Villagae Fete

Our yellow fruited banana cultivar on show at MERL Village Fete

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Welcome Richard Higgins, our latest BSc researcher in Tropical Biodiversity

Richard getting to know the plants in the glasshouse

Richard getting to know the plants in the glasshouse

A new round of BSc research projects have just started for 2014/15 academic year.  Richard Higgins will be working with Paul Hatcher and Alastair Culham on the monitoring and management of Mealy bug in the tropical glasshouse.  Continue reading

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Horse tales: all about Equisetum myriochaetum

This gallery contains 26 photos.

What’s named after a horse, older than a horse and can keep you warm in winter? So-called because of their bristly appearance, the horsetails are an intriguing group of early plants that have existed since the Devonian period [1]. Fossil … Continue reading

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Persea americana: Anachronistic Avocado

Avocado growing in the Reading University tropical glass house. Notice how variable the size of the leaves are and the much lighter colour of the newer growth.

Avocado growing in the Reading University tropical glass house.

If you’ve ever bought an avocado, you’ll know it’s one of those fruits which seems to take forever to ripen. Botanically, the fruit of the avocado is actually a berry with a single (very large) seed. Both of these facts are connected to an interesting evolutionary relationship….



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The bitter sweet story of sugar cane Saccharum officinarum

Cane-inflThe dramatic story of sugar cane is a somber reminder of human greed, exploitation and slave labour. The events continue to unfold today, as sugar cane is implicated in contentious issues such as human health, addiction and fair trade. However, behind the drama is a rather intriguing member of the Poaceae (grass) family, Saccharum officinarum L. that is intimately intertwined with our everyday lives.

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Indicator species – early warning for pest attack

Any IPM plan should incorporate a monitoring scheme that allows the size of a pest population to be guaged, over time. By understanding the state of a population it’s then possible to make more informed decisions about whether to act and how to act.

Not all plant species in the display acted as hosts to pest insects, in fact 26 species never had any pests on them at all. The significance of this is that the species which had the most pests on them can then act as indicators for the state of pest populations in the glasshouse as a whole.

The figure below provides data on how many different plant species were host to pests and at which dates.

number of plants with pest type present

The range of plants on which pests insects were found

Pseudococcus viburni – Glasshouse Mealybug

Mealybugs were on a total of 33 plant species and thrived in the glasshouse during the sample period. Species on which mealybug were found at the highest densities were: Okra  Abelmoschus esculentes, Perennial peanut Arachis glabrata, Coffee Coffea arabica, Tea Camellia sinensis, White lead tree Leuceana leucocephala and Avocado Persea americana.

The flowering heads of Papyrus Cyperus papyrus acted as ideal nesting material for the egg sacs that the glasshouse mealybug produce. Papyrus grow from the pond in the display and the water acts as a physical barrier, preventing pregnant females from reaching the plant. However; one papyrus head in particular dangled in to the white lead tree, providing access for the mealybug.

Trialeurodes vaporariorum – Glasshouse whitefly

I found whitefly on 20 different plant species during sampling. Lantana camara, Chaenostoma cordata and Cuphea ‘Tiny mice’ had the highest densities of all whitefly stages on them and acted as breeding grounds for T. vaporariorum. Interestingly parasitized larval stages were found on these species. I have calculated the percentage of parasitized whitefly to healthy ones and shall post them on the profiles of these plants.

Aphis fabae - Black bean aphid

The two aphid species Aphis fabae and Aulacorthum solani occupied similar plant hosts, however the black bean aphid Aphis fabae was much more abundant and densely populated.

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