Learn when to water a leafy plant: once I found a bright enough area for this plant to live, I let it photosynthesize until it showed me some sign of dehydration: in this case, leaf curl (other signs: wilting, slight leaf discoloration). I lifted the pot to feel how light the soil was at this severely dehydrated point. After loosening (aerating) and fully saturating the soil (and doing this time lapse), from this point on, I will rehydrate the soil a FEW DAYS BEFORE the weight of the pot is as light as I just felt today. This is a heart fern, Hemionitis arifolia
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Calathea - don’t neglect me

Chances are you’ve seen a Calathea plant somewhere, as they’re immensely popular as houseplants. But don’t be fooled- this beautiful foliage with compositions that look almost painted on and near countless different variations has lived in obscurity until relatively recently. The symbolist trend of assigning meaning to plants had long since passed when it started being appreciated as a decorative plant outside of the American jungles where it had been growing in shadows, enjoying the moist air. The leaves are, in its native lands, commonly used to wrap foods in, as well as woven into rice baskets (which is what their name comes from: the greek kalathos, which means basket).

They’re pretty tough to take care of; used to tropical environments, these beauties need to stay moist and warm at all times. They’re not easy houseguests, and I’ve heard many city friends curse at their beloved, but wilting, calatheas. They’re commonly known as “Prayer Plants” for their amazing tendency to move their “palms” up for evening prayer, but also for how they inspire you to fervently pray for their survival. The leaves, luscious green on top and a beautiful dark purple on the bottom, certainly make it worth the work.

(writing and illustration by Mira Gryseels)

Botanical Exploration. Researcher Alex gazing into the dense foliage as he contemplates his tasks.

Hiking in the unique ecosystems of the Avon Park Air Force Bombing Range for specimens with Floridian researchers and botanists.