Houseplants – more palms


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Chamaedorea elegans, known as the neanthe bella palm, good luck palm, miniature fish tail dwarf palm, or the parlor (parlour to Europeans) palm, is claimed to be one of the most heavily sold houseplant palms in the world. This sale takes two forms: whole plants and cut palm leaves known as xate (pronounced ‘shatay’). Note that leaves from Chamaedorea ernesti-augusti and Chamaedorea oblongata are also used in xate. Xate is used in flower arrangements, for funeral decorations and for Palm Sunday services. An estimated 400 million stems are exported annually from Mexico, Guatemala and Belize to North America and Europe. In many liturgical calendars Palm Sunday will be April 14 this year. Presumably, prior to closing the border with Mexico, the United States government has carefully checked that sufficient xate has been imported for Palm Sunday.


Houseplants – clapping


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A lame reference to putting your palms together.

Readers have mentioned three palm trees as productive indoor plants

The first is the bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifritzii) – also known as the reed palm. There are over one hundred species in the Chamaedorea genus


The above image would be a typical young bamboo palm at the beginning of its residency. Readers noted that larger specimens can be purchased but that this is not strictly necessary as bamboo palms can grow quite rapidly.


It was claimed that the specimen above was 9 feet (108 inches) tall. I did ask for a re-shoot with a tape measure to verify.

One reader mentioned that his bamboo palm had gotten too large and too heavy for continued indoor residence so he had re-planted it outdoors.  He says it has prospered there (see below) and is now 12 feet high and 18 feet across. This is also unverified but another reader casually mentioned that such palms are “short – for palms: that means under 20 feet tall”.


According to NASA, the bamboo palm is effective at reducing benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and trichloroethylene. Good news: according to the ASPCA, not toxic for dogs, cats or horses.


Master Bing – schedule changes


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Location: 3015 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702
beginners and advanced alike are welcome!

Master Bing is also known as Zhong Xuechao
1. Friday, May 24 1 – 4 pm: 8 Immortal Staff Part I
2. Friday, May 24 5 – 8 pm: 8 Immortal Staff Part II
3. Sat, May 25 12 – 3 pm: Taiyi Five Element Form
4. Sat, May 25 5 – 8 pm: Taiyi Five Element Form
5. Sunday, May 26 10 am – 1 pm: Wudang XuanMen Sword, 武当玄门剑
Required equipment for this workshop: long sword
6. Sunday, May 26 2:30 – 5:30 pm: Wudang XuanMen Sword, 武当玄门剑

“There is a plan to have Master Bing and students gather after the Sunday Workshop. Make sure schedule extra time on Sunday evening to hang out with Master Bing.”

7. Monday, May 27 9 am – Noon: Five Animal Qigong
8. Monday, May 27 1:30 – 4:30 pm: Tai He Dao (Taichi broadsword review)
Required equipment for this workshop: 22” Light Wushu Broadsword
For more details on these workshops check our Adult Workshops Schedule at
Cost: 4-day all-inclusive workshop $550, One day $150, a half day $75.

Houseplants – suggestions from readers


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Flamingo Lilies (Anthurium andraeanum) have red or pink blooms (*) and prefer areas without drafts,  with lots of bright indirect sunlight and with regular watering. Flamingo Lilies will filter formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia, but contain calcium oxalate and are toxic to pets.


The Anthurium genus contains over 1000 species.

  • = I am informed there are also white, yellow, blue (these looked dyed or Photoshopped to me), purple (also skeptical) and “black” flowers, although it is not always clear which of these are hybrids. The Black Queen and classic red varieties are shown below


Houseplants – English Ivy


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Real name: Hedera helix. Also known as common ivy, English ivy, European ivy, or just ivy. There is quite a variety of strains as far as adding yellow and white accents to the leaves. Ivy genetics is, so as to speak, a tangled tale. The basic diploid number of chromosomes is 48, while some are tetraploid with 96, and others hexaploid with 144 and octaploid with 192 chromosomes. There is some disagreement about the number of species of Hedera: the most common estimates are 12 and 15. There are three generally agreed subspecies of Hedera helix:

H. h. helix – from central, northern and western Europe; usually has no rhizomes; features purple-black ripe fruit
H. h. poetarum – from southeast Europe and Turkey; usually has no rhizomes; features orange-yellow ripe fruit
H. h. rhizomatifera – from southeast Spain; has rhizomes; features purple-black ripe fruit

Note that the closely related species Hedera canariensis and Hedera hibernica are also often treated as subspecies of H. helix although they differ in chromosome number. This makes hybridization difficult.

Note that if one has students with an allergy to carrots (well, strictly, a type IV hypersensitivity), ivy usually has falcarinol. That would be unfortunate as ivy was noted by NASA as effective at removing benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, xylene and trichloroethylene.

Oregonians take note: sale or import is ILLEGAL

I believe ALL the various Hedera species are defined in California as invasive. In fairness, from the point of view of a redwood tree or a spotted owl, Homo sapiens is an invasive pest that devastates environments and is seemingly impossible to eradicate. Other hominids in California: zero. Other primates in California: zero. Other large mammals: elephants: zero; camels: zero; horses (9,000 wild; 700,000 domesticated – down from 10 times that number a century ago); wolves (I believe the Shasta pack is gone and only the Lassen pack MIGHT survive – I doubt they have ten animals); mountain lions (hard to tell – maybe 4,000 to 6,000); black bears  (probably between 10,000 and 15,000); grizzly bears (the last known brown bear in California was shot in the 1920s. It is at the very least ironic to note that the brown or grizzly bear is the featured symbol on the state seal and flag); buffalo (there is a herd of about 200 animals on Catalina Island – they are bison-cattle hybrids; I am not sure about the genetics of the very small herd in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco; nationally, well down from the 60 million in the 19th century); bighorm sheep (maybe 600); and elk (4000 now if MAP does not wipe them out; were essentially extinct by 1870). Domesticated cattle are doing fine: almost 100 million in the US.



Houseplants – Spider Plant




Real name: Chlorophytum comosum.  Also known as airplane plant, St. Bernard’s lily, spider ivy, ribbon plant, spider plant and hen and chicks. There are almost 200 species in the Chlorophytum genus. According to the ASPCA and others, not toxic. According to NASA, effective at reducing formaldehyde, xylene and toluene, but a lot of plants are needed.

Houseplants – Ficus


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Real name: Ficus benjamina. Sometimes known as the weeping fig, Benjamin fig or ficus tree. There are well over 800 species in the Ficus genus. According to the ASPCA toxic for dogs, cats and horses. This is somewhat offset by NASA”s claim for effective at removing formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.  While tolerant of poor growing conditions, the plant has a tendency to drop many leaves when the direction of the dominant light source is drastically changed (usually by rotating or moving the plant).

Actually, I would be inclined to recommend AGAINST having a weeping fig on the premises as it has a bad reputation for causing allergic reactions, especially among people who are already sensitive to latex.

Houseplants – Chinese Evergreen


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Not to be too critical of the efforts of breeders to produce dramatic-looking plants but the cladistics of the Aglaonema genus are chaotic because of so much cross-breeding, frequently with an unknown ancestor. Pictured above (left to right) are plants commonly known as A. commutatum, A. marantifolium, A.modestum, A. nitidum, A. Siam Aurora and A. simplex. Opinions vary considerably as to whether the genus has 11, 17,  20 or some other number of species. There isn’t really much agreement on which plants actually are a species as opposed to a hybrid.

Generally, the Chinese Evergreens do not do well in cold temperatures or in bright light. As far as I know, all contain oxalates.

In the NASA study A. modestum reduced benzene and formaldehyde levels.