Shimai Variant? Part 2-Tissue Culture

I wanted to post a  photo I took of the stem culture from last months blog on the Shimai variant plus the concurrent stem I took of the standard Shimai.

The test tube on the left is the variant  (or the suspected variant) and the tube to the right is the standard Shimai.  You can see the plantlet forming just above the junction of where the leaves of the flower stem meet the flower stem. (You can click on the image to enlarge.) The standard Shimai plantlet appears to be growing far faster and appears rather robust (B) as compared to the first tube where the plantlet is just starting to take shape (A).  But it is very early and we have another 1-2 months in culture and another 5 months in a pot before the plants will be ready to flower and reveal the answer.   We shall see.

Also I found on the web a 7 page summary  on African violets from how they are described, some nomenclature, about soil types best for growing and how to make them, insect pests and on and on.  I think it is one of the most concise and comprehensive summaries out there.Give it a look.  Click Here.  It can also be found on the far right column under “General Educational Information” and at the bottom of that category you will see “~African Violets Missouri Botanical Gardens”.  Just click on it to be taken to the paper.

Shimai Variant?

One of my Shimai plants bloomed for the first time today.  Only one bloom stalk and only 2 blooms.  I happen to be setting up some tissue cultures today and removed the stalk to propagate.  I should have taken a photo when it was on the plant.  After I pulled the stalk and blooms I took a sheet of paper and photographed the image with the paper as the background.  The bloom came out true to color but the background was less than appealing for me.  As with Shimai, you can observe green stripes on white petals.  But what is different, purple runs through the green stripe and the slight purple edging on Shimai is a bit bolder and noticeable on this bloom.   Concurrent with this bloom was another standard Shimai blooming (nice green stripes only).  So I set that one up in tissue culture also.  Now I have them both in culture.  We will know in about 8-10 months if in fact the above image is a true variant of the color or as I suspect, in some cases, a variant in color is due to environmental factors.  This point opens up an interesting discussion as how much are the characteristics of a bloom impacted by, soil moisture, humidity, light intensity, length of light duration and temperature, specifically in African violets.  I have no answers on this point, just questions.

Pythium or Phytophthora?

Pythium or Phytophthora?  Does it really make a difference?  The outcome is the same, loss of the plant.   I recently purchased three different chimera African violets from a reputable seller on e-bay.  I have purchased other plants from this grower in the past and the plants were healthy, disease free and grew well.  But since I lost about 3/4 of my collection to Pythium or Phytophthora about one and a half years ago, I have started isolating the new plants for at least 4-8 weeks from the rest of the collection to assure no issues insects or disease was spread to the collection if the  newly acquired plants were infected.  Well guess what?”  About three weeks after I unwrapped my new plants and place them in the isolation area and all seemed to be going well, I removed the flower stems for propagation (they were all flowering).  I prepared the culture tubes, sterilized the stems and set them up in the culture tubes.  Within 5 days ALL the flower stems of one of the plants (Neptune’s Thunder) were covered in a fungus.  None of my other stems were impacted and seemed fine.  Subsequently the other stems went on to form plantlets.  Now I figured no problem with Neptune’s Thunder as there will be other flower stems from this plant.  A week later I noticed some of the outer leaves were drooping.  I took a closer look.  I cut them off at the base and  observed the below.  Notice the base of the stem which is blackish/brownish in color and the area that is discolored was soft. (All images below can be enlarged by clicking on them).

Pythium or Phytophthora or some other fungus?  I do not know and what difference did it make?  Below is the plant right after I took the leaves off.  Note the circled area and the darkened stens although the plant looks like it can be saved.  I immediately treated it with a fungicide. 

The below image is the outcome just 5 days later!

Yes the plant is lost.  But I am so glad I kept these plants in isolation.  But an interesting consideration was that perhaps the reason I lost all the tissues cultures on this plant (Neptune’s Thunder)(Click on link to see image) was that systemically the plant was already infected.  The disinfection that occurred is only on the surface and not internal.   To end this month on a positive note one of three plants in this batch was a Yachiyo and continued to grow and bloom during this entire period. 

Propagation Of A Chimera African Violet With A Potato? (part 4-Conclusion)

As you can see in the above photographs NONE of the seven chimera African violet flower stems survived or will survive to produce a plantlet.   The entire experiment ran from the 4th week in July to the 4th week in October.  The one thing that stood out was that the stems with no plant hormone lasted 1 to 2.5 months longer then the stems that were dipped in plant rooting hormone.  Actually all four of those that were exposed to a rooting hormone died the fastest.   Those that were not exposed to the rooting hormone, in reality, looked promising into the second month.   Actually I held out a little hope (just a little) in the 2nd month.  But this month (month 3) the remaining stems deteriorated quickly making it clear that this experiment did not work and no plantlets will be developing.

So lets end  this three month experiment that did not work with a nice Kilauea, I am referring to the below image and not the drink.  Click on the image below to enlarge it.

Propagation Of A Chimera African Violet With A Potato? (part 3)

After 2 full months of this experiment (and maintaining the orientation of this potato and the stem cuttings), you will notice 3 of the 4 stems in the front row have all died off and totally succumb.   Interesting to note stems that were in point A, B, C and D were all dipped 1st into Clonex rooting hormone.  The four stems in the back row did not have any rooting hormone, they had nothing.  The stem in the E position also had no hormone prep.

The next stem cutting to succumb will most likly be E.  Unfortunately it looks like it has some bud formation in the area indicative of producing a new plant.   And if you look closely,  as you can see in the image above, the fungus around the stem is overwhelming.   In  a few of the other stems there is some very preliminary bud formation also.  At this point the biggest takeaway,  if I was to repeat this experiment is to not use any rooting hormone supplement and to have cleaned the potato and the stems in 10% clorox prior to starting this experiment.

Nothing To Do About Chimera African Violets (Eclipse)


Last month (Aug 21st), I went to Gallatin Tennessee to observe the total eclipse of the sun.  As this post has nothing to do with chimera African violets, people that grow African violets, generally speaking, have a respect for nature and general interest in it.  Hence this post.  I took this photo with no filter using a 1000 MM lens.  I hope to experience this most amazing sight at least one more time.  It was truly remarkable. (Click on the image to enlarge it).

Propagation Of A Chimera African Violet With A Potato? (part 2)

So last months post was a semi-serious try at producing chimera African violets from stems using a potato (as I was inspired or made a fool of by YouTube videos.  Well one month into this odd  odd experiment, only 1 of the 8 stems died  as is evident from this image.  So I opened the bag for the first time in a month and using 90% ETOH and a paper towel cleaned out the one dead stem and inspected the potato with the flower stems.  

Perhaps not the best photos but “B” and “C” in the above images have very small plantlets forming.  Yes this is actually working despite my disbelief and my belief that by next month all the stems will be dead.  

So after I inspected the potato and stems I returned the potato back into the bag and sealed it again.  Lets see what happens in the next 30 days.  I cannot believe I have gotten this far with this rather unusual experiment.

Propagation Of A Chimera African Violet With A Potato?

Perhaps this is one of the more odd posts I have done on this site, or maybe experimenter I have done in an effort to propagate a chimera Africa violet.  The inspiration  (if you want to call it that), comes from watching numerous (perhaps too many) YouTube videos on propagation of roses, zinnias, fruit trees, (you name it) and a variety of other perennials using a potato.  That’s right,  a potato!  Despite the myriad of such videos showing how to set it all up, I have never seen a follow through video showing you a well rooted cutting ready for transplanting  months after the original video.  So that missing piece alone tells me that more then a little skepticism surrounds this experiment.  But in all honesty these are the ones that are most fun.  So lets begin.

As we already discussed in earlier blogs we can use only flower stems or suckers to produce true chimera African violets.  In this case I am using flower stems produced from Neptune’s Treasure, from last months post.  And instead of using soil, we will be inserting it into a Potato.  I started by taking a fresh potato.  Fresh being defined as a firm non-soft of wrinkled potato.

Next I washed a 1/8 inch drill bit and dried it with a clean paper towel.  The diameter of the drill bit you will use should equal the diameter of the stem of the flower stem.  Then using 91% ethanol I soaked the bit for 1 min.  Attached the drill bit to the drill (without touching the part that will cut into the potato) and allowed the ethanol on the bit to dry by evaporation.   I then wiped with ethanol the area on the potato I will be making the holes.  Again allowing it to dry by evaporation.   Drill down only 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch deep.

I then drilled one hole for every stem I will be inserting into the potato.  In this case it is 9 holed as I have 9 stems.  The flower stems are mature in that they have fully bloomed.  I have used this type of flower stem in tissue cultures with considerable success so will use them here.   Four of the flower stems I dip the end into “Clonex” rooting solution and the other four I use no rooting media at all.  On the ninth stem I dipped it into water.  Sort of a control to a degree to the “Clonex”.  The stems are then inserted into the potato.

This is an image of how it looked after the process was completed.  I will now insert the entire potato with inserted stems into a bag to prevent dehydration (below image).

I will watch it carefully for signs of any mold growth.  And unlike the YouTube videos where there is never any follow up, you will see it here, for better or worse (I suspect worse).  I will post it.


Neptune’s Treasure X 17

As I have had enough of the posts on the fungal infestation and as I have only a few blooms at this time I thought I would take this opportunity to work on my weak macro photographic skills.  The above image is actually 17 different images with different depth of focuses with the idea that the observer would see the image in focus as if you were viewing it live.  I used Helicon Focus 6.  Click on the image to enlarge.

Fungi Infestation (Part 2)

The above image is what was typically seen on the shelf after shelf in my growing area of African violets.  After I applied what I believe is the fungicide that stopped the infestation, Dithane M-45.

Once the problem appeared arrested on a few, just a few of the plant’s new signs of life appeared (above).   Now if these newly forming crowns will be true to the parent plant chimera remains to be seen.  But never the less I will take what I can get.  I will remove these tiny crowns in a few weeks and will see what the outcome is.

On some of the plants that were not as severely damaged, where the main infection were the leaves below the crown, they will fair much better.  In this above image you can see the yellow green deposits of the fungicide that have accumulated on the leaf.

I had about 5 plants I had just rooted from tissue culture and my standard operating procedure is to invert a plastic bag over the pots with the tiny plant and wick water until the rooted (above).  That was just prior to the first small infestation that impacted a few plants.  I just underestimated the seriousness by spraying some Neem oil them.  Next thing I realized it was a raging outbreak that appeared to impact every single plant to some degree.  In 3 months the damage was so great I felt I had nothing to lose and sprayed heavily the Dithane 45.  Now, these plants (below image) that were covered the entire time were totally unaffected.   Not so much as a single leaf  was impacted.  An indication the fungus is airborne and spreads that way, either by insect or air. The Image below is of one of the plants that remained covered, now 7 months since this infestation, covered the entire time and it is blooming, yes it is a Yukako.
And to end this month’s blog on a positive note, on a shelf all by itself sat Neptune’s Treasure (below), unaffected and as if it was indifferent with the infestation that took most of the plants.  I noticed it when I went down to start cleaning up the carnage of the infestation. I took it as a sign of survival and defiance.



Sport of Granger Sugar Frost

As I contemplate what to do next as I clean-up the carnage from the fungal infestation (see last post), I had two plants bloom, both were Granger Sugar Frost.  The image above was obviously a sport and the below is what one would expect.  The sport was a bit more “purple” and about the same size. Leaves were identical in type and color.  Not a particularly attractive bloom, but in the context of all the dead plants I have discarded, it was frankly a most pleasant and maybe hopeful sight.  Click on the images to enlarge. 

A Fungui Among Us? Botrytis?

The title may make light of this but I have a serious issue.  I first noticed some thing was not right  in November.  Some of the plants showing increased and premature death of the peripheral (bottom) leaves.  First it started with them going limp yet the watering schedule remained constant.  Also I noticed the containers with the plants affected appeared no not need watering.  They were heavier, as if absorption levels of the water were reduced.  Then it hit hard and fast.  First, almost over night pots of plants took on this look.  What appeared to be healthy leaves mixed in with dead or dying leaves.  The The dead leaves would be removed and the other leaves died.  The absorption rate of the plant was markedly reduced.  

Concurrent I had a number of suckers that I have been propagating that frankly were not progressing at all.  As if they were stalled.  For example here is a Shimai that I put in to root in late Oct.   I apoligize for the image not being in focus but I never planned to post the image (as this plant is no more) but the purpose was to give you the idea after 3 months in a 2 1/4 inch pot.  It just did not grow.

I then removed the cutting and to my grim surprise discovered  literally no roots after 4 months!   See image below.

As the weeks progressed the situation worsened. see the below examples. 

At this point I lost 60%+ of my collection and a couple of plants that I had for nearly 30 years.   There is a point when one starts to seriously think bout walking away.  I have been growing African violets for 30+ years and frankly was totally discouraged.  Now that said I decided all was lost why not research the issue and see what if any can yet salvaged something and maybe some thing positive can be taken away from this (no idea what), but who knows. I searched the web getting more discouraged as I read as most of the advice was just pitch the entire collection and start over.  I did find an interesting YouTube presentation how in a hydroponic situation when a rot fungus was active he added some 38% hydrogen peroxide to a gallon of the hydroponic solution.  So I started watering the plants with hydrogen peroxide.  Nothing positive was happening. So I started umping the concentration.  At one point OI was watering the plants with 32% hydrogen peroxide.  To my sheer amazement the plants were unaffected, yet they did not seem to improve and the infection spread.  A possible solution to halt the spread?
After the hydrogen peroxide did not work or appeared to not work quick enough, I did find a product on the web called Dithame M-45 which was a broad spectrum fungicide (as I was uncertain exactly what fungus I was dealing with).   It was a fungicide that was obviously made for agricultural purposes and the directions for preparation was if reference to making a batch of 50 gallons at a time.  After some quick calculations I needed 1.8 grams per liter of water.  

This material had in its direction packet that it can be used to control Botrytis blight in African violets.  It was used as a spray.  So I got a spray bottle and was set to give it a try.  

One a week now for 3 weeks I have strayed and watered with this material.   Literally drenching the plant.  So far the outcome has been a bit positive.  Plants with the early stage of this fungus appear to be stable and not progressing into the death spiral, but plants that were too far along the path we literally consumed and died.  As time progresses we will see.  But this entire experience has been most frustrating and really took the joy out of growing chimera African violets.  I will have more information in the months to follow as I am concurently tring to save certain plants that I really do not want to lose, mainly for sentimental reasons.

Sport of Shimai -Update

I just received this image today from Ms. Liz Shaffer.  This is what I was hoping it would be.  Stunning! White with green stripe, petals appear to be edged in purple.  Fingers are crossed that a new chimera can be derived from this flower stem.  Thank you for sharing. Click on the image to get full impact.

Sport of Shimai

The images this month come courtesy of Liz Shaffer.  She is growing a Shimai and one of the bloom stalks appears to have sported as the rest of the bloom stalks continue to generate normal Shimai blooms.  What is interesting is this not yet fully opened bloom, has a unique pattern.  It seems to have regressed a bit back to the original Yukako  bloom, but only partially and doing so leaving green and white as the stripes.  This may very well make an interesting and new chimera African violet if the stalk can be propagated into a plant.    

The image above shows the Shimai pattern of the other bloom stalks and the sport.  The image below is a nice side view of the unfurling bloom.  I look forward to seeing the bloom when it is fully open.  We look forward for Ms Shaffer to share more images with us as the bloom becomes fully opens.