Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The gloriously yellow Aeschynanthus flavidus

A striking lipstick vine that I initially thought was a very fine hybrid, but had my doubts when I verified the origin of the plant. A possible ID was suggested by experts from an institution - a plant first described by Mary Mendum in 1997. Besides the shocking colour, it also has a very tall and flaring calyx.

I wanted to get the publication to confirm the ID but there were always more pressing issues. Eventually, I obtained a copy from an acquaintance. I cannot verify the presence of glanduular hairs inside the flower but the other characteristics matched very well with this plant - the leaf shape, flower colour right down to the "crimson central line and the broken dots and dashes either side" of the lower corolla lobe. According to Mary's paper, when her specimen first flowered, the calyx was short (1.5-2 cm) but subsequent flowers had longer calyx of 2.7-3.4cm, as my series of photos also showed. The shrub also appeared to be rather rare, being found in only 3 localities in North Sarawak.

Just for the record, I had attached the published line drawing from Mary's paper for comparison. What the paper failed to emphasise is the very unique leaf colour -velvety purple-green hairy at the top and brighter green at the edge and pink at the bottom, very pretty even when not in bloom.

This is a treasured gift from my gesneriad friend from Borneo.

Addenda (28 May 2010)
Scroll down this emag for an interesting article by Dr Anthony Lamb
Lipstick flowers of Sabah and Sarawak

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hoya nicholsoniae from Australasia

One of the earliest Hoyas I grow, having acquired it from a nursery in Cairns more than 12 years ago. It is naturally occuring in Northern Queensland, Australia and New Guinea. According to D.J. Liddle and P.I. Forster (1992), H. pottsii, H. hellwigiana and H. sogerensis are conspecific.
The spicy scented flowers occur around Dec-Apr, its smell being most intense in the evening. The vine, with its pinkish veined leaves, is calmly attractive even when not flowering, although if given the right condition, that is, hot and humid jungle-like atmosphere, it will run riot in the garden, which can be untidy.

Now, to catch my late flight ......

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bulbophyllum blumei

This lowland Bulbophyllum is the type species of Section Ephippium, (in layman terms means it is the species from which the characteristics of the section is based upon). The plant can be very robust, forming trailing chains up to a metre long and has an endearing tendency to flower en mass - triggered by some unknown climatic stimulus, perhaps a storm or temperature drop similar to the pigeon orchid. The plant is reputed to grow wild in damp places like mangroves so a dryish windy high-rise balcony is not welcome.

I am including closeups of a form from Indonesia (most likely Java) and another from PNG to illustrate the subtle differences. There is even a totally red/white form without any yellow colouration which I am seeking....any leads are welcome ! Mass flowering of the PNG plant.
Closeup of the PNG form, showing elongated petals
The Indonesian form with short petals.

It has a wide distribution from SE Asia to New Guinea, so confused scholars have allocated different names to the same plant over time. It has been called Bulbophyllum masdevalliaceum due to its resemblance to the totally unrelated Masdevalia from the New World as well as Bulbophyllum ciliatum, probably of its fine hairs on the sepals. Its most recent name change is Bulbophyllum maxillare - such is the fickleness of taxonomy that can have non-academics like me going in circles like a headless chicken....I am sticking to blumei because this is the name I have known for along time.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Variations of Begonia bataiensis

Mr Truong Quang Tam's kind contribution showing this Begonias' variation in the wild is an eye opener for me. He is the discoverer of this species which was subsequently named in a joint publication with Ruth Kiew and JJ Vermeulen (the orchid expert). If anything, it demonstrates the need to protect species in the wild to preserve the biodiversity - all too often, the horticulture trade results in unnaturally bias selection.

This fascinating Vietnamese Begonia described very recently in 2005, is restricted to the limestone hill called Ba Tai mountain. A closeup of the leaf was posted previously.

Ref: Gard. Bull. Singapore 57:119–23.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spring fever

The sedated winter ferments and foments a coup d'etat in the biological world that unleash upon the North East USA once the ice melts and air warms. The drumbeat of spring plays like speed-metal - hormone-charged new shoots ooze from the ground and bare branches in tempo of 200 beats per minute.

The fertile stems of the primitive Equisetum punch purposefully into the warm air, looking as they had looked for the past hundred million fact, looking more like rattler's tails rather than the common name, Horsetails....

....the toxic bridal veil of Amianthium muscaetoxicum, adventurous ruminants had been known to be rewarded with supreme enlightenment no less than rigor mortis....

.... the alluring guise of Trillium erectus belies a noxius smell due to its penchance for flies and its tendency to cut your tongue with tiny calcium oxalate crystals.

Elsewhere .....

.... Jack-in-the pulpit unpacks an uplifting sermon ....
.... Mountain Laurel summons an unrestrained cheer ....

....a trail of pink slippers were left by some maiden ....

.... to bait and ensnare a prince or emir ....

One of the many victims of this uprising, my little romp in the wild resulted in excessive inhalation of the pollen laden air....and a wretched paranasal sinusitis which lasted til' late summer.

How can something so good feel so bad ?

ps: Accordingly to some taxonomists, there should be only one species of the variable Arisaema triphyllum although completely green forms were also sighted. The encounter of the Cyrpripedium acaule occured in Virginia and was highlight of the trip. And thanks to the good people of defunct UBC forum for identifying the horsetail, which I had initially thought was a fungus, ha ; and Beth from Firefly forest for id-ing the Fly Poison.

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