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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Plant Selection - Mudbrick Vertical Garden

I've been working on an apparently different kind of vertical garden concept that uses a natural moist clay surface as a rooting/growing media instead of synthetic fabric panels or containers with soil media. A few months ago I started a thread explaining the construction and some preliminary observations and here is the link...

Design Test - Clay Panel Vertical Garden

For my first couple of tests I used straight artist's red clay pressed into Epiweb horticultural fiber (GlassBoxTropicals.com). The Epiweb holds everything together, while also checking the cracks that form in clay with wet-dry cycles. In this way it functions like the straw component of adobe bricks.
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Here is the panel + clay with enclosure ready for planting. This frame is 11.5" wide by 21" high and the removable clay panel, with its own frame, nests inside.
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I've started this discussion to share additional observations and ideas, especially for plants that might grow well in this kind of setup. Anybody who has traveled in Southern Mexico, Costa Rica or other humid tropical areas may have observed that, rather ironically, some of the most interesting kinds of plants grow on exposed clay in road cuts through forest areas. These may include bryophytes, Selaginella, ferns, tiny Angiosperms and more.

Tonight I got around to planting and here is the panel with a couple of NOID volunteer greenhouse mosses along with small pieces of Ficus, Lemmaphyllum, Peperomia and Pyrrosia.
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Another interesting thing that I "planted" were a few drops of liquid Tolypothrix Cyanobacteria culture. This organism has grown very well, albeit slowly, as a biocrust on red clay in my previous tests. The Tolypothrix biocrust resembles a very fine, deep green moss.
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I put the liquid culture on the upper area of the panel that looks empty in the photo. I'm just hand watering this panel in a casual way and it's possible for that upper part to dry out between waterings if I miss a few days, but as a biocrust-forming Cyanobacteria, the Tolypothrix can tolerate wet-dry cycles and continue to grow.
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I'll post updates as this develops. I'm also working on a second enclosure + panel with similar proportions, but somewhat larger in size. I would like to use a different plant combination for that project.

I would be interested to hear any suggestions for mini plants around in the hobby/trade that might grow well here or represent the exposed clay habitat. These observations may also be instructive for plantings in Dart Frog enclosures incorporating natural clay backgrounds, a concept described in this discussion...

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Micro Sinningias might work. They are all lithophytes from a small area of Brazil, and they handle longer wet/dry cycles via dormancy, but they might be able to handle regular drying out due to their tubers. You’d probably want to start with specimens that have mature tubers already, rather than seedlings, and muscicola is the most floriferous and tolerant of the micros (muscicola, pusilla, concinna, minima).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Micro Sinningias might work. They are all lithophytes from a small area of Brazil, and they handle longer wet/dry cycles via dormancy, but they might be able to handle regular drying out due to their tubers. You’d probably want to start with specimens that have mature tubers already, rather than seedlings, and muscicola is the most floriferous and tolerant of the micros (muscicola, pusilla, concinna, minima).
Those would be neat to try. The other day Matthew Schwartz had some pictures up of a super micro mini Brazil Sinningia with blooms. I wonder what the root system is like(?). That clay surface is pretty hard and I've only seen roots grow across it. It might be possible to carve out a little hollow that could hold sphagnum or other finer substrate.

I would love to see something like this but for Lichen. Lichen is cool but I've never seen anyone grow it indoors before.
Yeah that would be pretty neat, but a challenge I'm sure. If a Lichen could establish at all, it would have the best chances with very even and steady conditions. Maybe it would be worth trying with a more common, weedy Lichen.

The Cyanobacteria biocrust is an interesting idea to test some more. So far the Tolypothrix has grown the best on clay. Nostoc also seems happy enough, although it develops as a more subtle, finer crust.

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Those would be neat to try. The other day Matthew Schwartz had some pictures up of a super micro mini Brazil Sinningia with blooms. I wonder what the root system is like(?). That clay surface is pretty hard and I've only seen roots grow across it. It might be possible to carve out a little hollow that could hold sphagnum or other finer substrate.
As lithophytes, their roots can’t be very deep, but in the in situ pics I’ve seen there is some amount of moss and maybe detritus on the surface of the boulders.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
New update for this thing! I built a frame finished with this bright yellow-orange to bolt onto the front of the enclosure.

The moss has not responded very well. I'm going to try some more different kinds, but I suspect the environment here is just too dry for this particular moss.

Rhaphidophora pachyphylla and Peperomia emarginella are growing slow & steady and clinging to the clay surface nice & tight.

The Tolypothrix sp. Cyanobacterium is the most interesting result. It is developing as a textured biocrust resembling a very fine moss. I would like to get it to spread to cover more of the panel. I've noticed it only growing in the spots where I specifically planted it, so I might add some more of the liquid culture.

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