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Interview with Siddharth Nc – Admin of Planet Discussion groups on FB

Interview with Siddharth Nc – Admin of Planet Discussion groups on FB

Siddharth Nc is a plant lover and connaisseur and was an admin on the plant-related Planet Discussion Groups on Facebook. He is often consulted and highly esteemed for his vast knowledge and plant identification skills specifically in the Araceae family. We had the pleasure to interview Sid and get to know more about him, his respectful obsession (his own words) and his plant-related knowledge:

Interview with Siddharth Nc – Admin of Planet Discussion groups on FB

Interview with Siddharth Nc – Admin of Planet Discussion groups on FB

 

Contents

 

Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? 

Most plant people have known me as the of Planet Philodendron and Monstera page and Planet Aroid – Araceae page on Facebook. Some know me as @garage.aroider on Instagram. Hopefully, soon you will know me as the admin of a new community format that we are building for aroiders.

 

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I am an IT software consultant by profession. 

 

What started your passion for plants?

I had a phase in my life when I was spending a significant amount of time at home versus out in nature like I usually like to do. This ended up in me pursuing means of bringing some of the jungle indoors. It worked!

 

What does best describe your relationship with plants and why? (eg. hobby, passion, addiction, profession…)

A respectful obsession.

 

Do you have other topics/hobbies you are equally passionate about? And if yes, what are they?

I’m an avid traveller and reader. I love photography as well and make considerable time for all of these in my life. 

 

You are known for your detailed in-depth answers to questions posed on Social Media and are often asked to ID plants. How did you acquire this vast knowledge?

Most of whatever I know came from spending a lot of time following the experts and their past discussions on the Planet pages on Facebook. This often gives me some clues that I can use to investigate further in other academic sources. 

 

Would you mind giving us an Aroid morphology brush-up. I see many of us struggle with coming up with the correct terms when trying to describe our beloved philodendron / monstera plants?

Just like any field of arts or science, it is often useful to familiarize yourself with the vocabulary of it. It helps immensely with conversations about it and makes it more efficient – lesser words to convey an idea by using the right words. I can list a few that I often use. It should be easy to look up what they mean.

Parts of a leaf – lamina, petiole, petiolule, midrib, primary lateral veins, lower order veins like secondary and tertiary, posterior lobes, anterior lobe, margin, apex, sinus, cataphylls (persistent vs deciduous)

Growth habit – scandent, repent, caulescent, acaulescent. 

Leaf shape – cordate, sagittate, peltate, hastate, lanceolate, oblong, elliptic, pinnatifid, pinnate, palmatisect, palmatifid

Petiole characteristics – scaly, sulcate, terete, subterete, tuberculate, warty, with or without wings

Inflorescence – spathe, spadix, peduncle, ovule, locule 

 

On that topic. What do you look for/at when trying to identify a Monstera / Philodendron? 

For any species identification, the first question is provenance. Knowing where a plant is from helps significantly in narrowing down possibilities because a lot of species are endemic to specific regions and there are publications available for these regions which makes researching a little easier. 

When looking at vegetative characteristics for Monstera, it is helpful to see juvenile growth because there are a few species (section Marcgraviopsis and Echinospadix) that are shinglers and having this information helps narrow down quickly. Beyond that it is a combination of petiolar sheaths being deciduous or not, how the terminal leaves are held (fanned out versus exserted or pendent), size of the largest leaf, number of veins, shape of the leaf lamina base and apex. Inflorescence is obviously a big factor though I have limited ability to interpret it other than the obvious characteristics like color and shape of the spathe or how the peduncles are held. 

For Philodendron, it’s helpful to determine subgenus first. Meconostigma is easy to spot with the presence of trunk like stems, squamules and leaf scars. Most Pteromischum (especially section Fruticosa) species do not form cataphylls. Philodendron subgenus forms cataphylls and can be easily identified with that. Next question is growth habit – scandent (climber) vs stem repent (scrambler) vs acaulescent (rosette). Then vegetative characteristics like petiole shape, leaf lamina shape, number of veins, leaf lamina length to width ratio, cataphylls persistent or deciduous can be considered. 

 

What is your favourite plant genus/family/species and why?

Favourite plant family is easily Araceae by a long shot. The favorite genus is Philodendron because of their ease of growing in the conditions that I can provide it but in a more tropical setting, it will almost certainly be Anthurium. Having said that, I have a major attraction to rheophytes (aquatic plants that usually live in fast-moving water). Which means my favourite species will be Cyrtosperma hambalii for the leaves and Lasimorpha senegalensis for the inflorescence. 

 

Has your taste in plants evolved and if yes how?

I started with general houseplants but quickly got interested in a few families in particular namely Begoniaceae, Piperaceae, Marantaceae and Araceae. Over time Araceae captured all of my attention and shelf space, lol. 

 

What would we find in your personal plant collection?

A splattering of aroids. Mostly Philodendron and Anthurium with some Monstera and Asian aroids. 

 

What is your favourite Philodendron and why?

Favourite Philodendron species will be a tie between Philodendron lynamii and Philodendron gardeniodorum, one for the color and beauty while the other is for size and ease of growth. 

 

Is there any plant you despise?

Not really but some of the “trendy” plants feel gimmicky to me.  

 

What sources (books, internet, podcasts, people to follow…) do you recommend to someone who would like to get to know/understand more about plants/aroids? 

There are plenty of folks to follow. Thanks to the power of social media it is a whole lot easier to connect with them than it used to be and there are several experts that we are thankful for being generous with their time. Dr. Tom Croat’s publications, Peter Boyce’s Facebook posts and his publications, Alistair Hay’s Facebook posts and publications, David Scherberich’s posts and his website www.aroidpictures.fr, Marco Cedeno’s collection adventures that he posts on Instagram, Marcus Nadruz’s posts and publications, LariAnn Garner’s posts on Facebook and her website Aroidea.org, Facebook interactions with long time growers like the Rotolantes, Enid Offolter and Brian Williams are some of the best to follow.

When I say publications it refers to keeping an eye on research sites like researchgate.net or jstor.org for their publications. International Aroid Society’s Newsletters and Aroideana are also excellent publications to follow. 

 

What is the worst and best plant care tip you have ever heard?

The best advice would be the one about using a backpack sprayer to foliar feed your aroids. Considering that significant amount of aroids that we grow gather their nutrition from their foliage and adventitious roots, this makes perfect sense. This goes hand in hand with another wonderful advice that I’ve received about feeding weakly-weekly. Instead of having a scheduled routine to fertilize, just make it part of regular watering. Adjust strength based on the frequency of watering. 

Can’t think of any particularly bad advice. In my experience, most plants can tolerate a lot of conditions and usually what is perceived as bad advice might work for someone else, as confounding as it might seem to me based on my knowledge and experience. 

 

Everyone seems to have their perfect recipe on rooting cuttings and propagating plants? What is your secret sauce?

In most cases I like to pot the cutting in a 70-30 mix of Perlite and Sphagnum moss. Then place the pot in a plastic translucent storage container with some holes for ventilation and place in a warm spot that gets moderate light. It’s watered when it appears dry or, more effectively, kept in a shallow pool of water from which the perlite can draw up the water when it gets dry. 

 

What is your opinion on tissue culturing (TC) plants?

It’s a wonderful use of technology in horticulture which helps meet the growing demand of plants while reducing the dependence of it from forests. I think it is a key aspect of what I like to call “crowdsourced conservation” where everyone gets to participate in protecting species with no or limited impact to primary forests. In a perfect world there will be enough genetic diversity available in the hobby with adequate supply of seed grown plants sourced from specimens of plants collected from different sources but that feels like a pipe dream now.

However, one needs to be aware of some of the quirkiness exhibited by tissue-cultured plants often because of the levels of hormones used during the process. Leaves might emerge a different shape than what we are used to seeing, like with the recent deluge of Rhaphidophora tetrasperma that we saw hit the shelves. In most cases, they seem to grow out of it over time though.  

 

Do you have a plant wishlist and if yes, what is on it?

My top wishlist item is a Cyrtosperma hambalii or a hybrid involving it. With a highly exaggerated pair of posterior lobes and a diminutive anterior lobe, it has one of the most remarkable leaf shapes for any plant. Another incredible plant is Alloschemone occidentalis. Philodendron malesevichiae and findens are also high in the list. P.findens is an interesting species with entire leaves that turn pinnatifid when it’s torn in the wind. It’s a cool adaptation. 

 

What are some of the next plant-related projects you are about to do?

Considering the winter climate that I receive where I live, I am hoping to make an enclosed growing space that can be effectively heated in winter and be well ventilated to handle the extreme temperature of summer. If not that, I am hoping to at least fully set up my garage for good growing conditions. Meanwhile, I am building an effective misting system for outdoors. 

 

What are your thoughts reg. the recent trend of more and more millennials getting into houseplants?

I think growing plants should be a natural part of life for everyone. Crowdsourced conservation is an important factor but there are enough studies out there about the positive effects on mental and physical well being of humans in the presence of plants. As much as I hate the rocketing prices because of increased interest, it will hopefully sustain more nurseries and introduce new species to the hobby without uncontrolled poaching from the wild. 

 

Do you go to plant-related events such as the international Aroid conference?

I try to attend them if they are accessible to me. I attended the IAS event in 2019 and it was an absolute blast to meet the botanists, long time horticulturalists and so many folks that I interact with a lot online. 

 

If yes (relating to question 21), what are your favourite events?

I don’t have a lot to compare with but the IAS show is awesome and the lineup for the Munich show looked incredible until it was unfortunately cancelled because of the global pandemic we are dealing with.

 

Who should we interview next in the plantspace?

David Scherberich, Barry Schwartz, Brian Williams, Ron Weeks, Enid Offolter,  Steve Tannenbaum – just so many wonderful people that we all need to listen to!

 

What’s one interview question we should ask the next interviewed person?

What plant family deserves to be in the limelight after Araceae had its moment?

 

Any wise last words to our readers?

Grow plants that truly give you joy. Don’t be afraid to pass on that plant if it no longer sparks joy. 

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