Those oblong nodules on a spider plant

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Q In repotting my pot-bound spider plant, I found many oblong nodules (one to two inches), crunchy and filled with moisture-packed tissue. I think I made a mistake when I removed all of them and sawed off half the roots. I almost lost the plant, but it is beginning to revive.

What are these structures? Do they serve a purpose?

Spider plants (Chlorophytum) are rhizomatous herbs. This means they have rhizomes, and these have varying definitions, such as (1) specialized stem structures, (2) enlarged underground storage structures, and (3) an underground stem often enlarged by food storage.

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Removing all of them, plus so much of the root system, gave your plant a difficult time. The top part (leaves and any plantlets) remained as large as before you disturbed the roots, thus giving off more moisture than the roots could take up. The emergency storage was also destroyed.

You could help the plant recover by cutting back some of the leaves and removing any plantlets, which could be placed in a pot of soil or in water to root.

Q While traveling in New York State last May we noticed a small tree with delicate white blooms in wooded areas. We were told it was called ''shadblow.'' Would it be hardy here in Kansas? What other name might be used if area nurseries have it?

The tree you refer to is Amelanchier, but it is also called shadbush, Juneberry, and Serviceberry. It is one of the earliest bloomers. The fragrant blossoms are numerous and almost cloudlike at a distance.

Nurserymen have rediscovered this gem, and it is now offered in many areas of the United States and Canada.

The tree will tolerate temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero F. and grows as far south as the Gulf states; thus, it would be suitable for your area. If you cannot find it locally, there are many mail-order nurseries that handle it.

It will grow in sun or shade, has red berries in late June or July (edible for birds and people), and turns a beautiful shade of red in the fall.

The term ''shad'' refers to the bloom period, which coincides with the time that shad fish start to run in the Northeast.

Q Early last spring we wrote to you asking for the name of a low-growing blue flower that could be used for edging in a semi-shady spot. You suggested lobelia , and we bought some started plants of the Crystal Palace variety, with deep-blue flowers and bronzy-green foliage. They were beautiful! This year we would like to start our own plants. How soon should we start them?

You should sow seeds indoors about 10 or 11 weeks before you want to plant them outdoors. Do not cover the seeds with soil mix, as they need light for germination. Keep the medium moist and at 70 to 75 degrees F. (21 to 24 degrees C.).

Germination may take up to 20 days, so be patient. Lobelia comes in several shades of blue as well as in magenta and white. Some blues have white ''eyes.''

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