Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hoya caudata

This is an endemic hoya to the peninsula: Malaysia and Southern Thailand. It is a fairly common species throughout the peninsula in lowland forest. The flowers are borned on a geotropic (pointing downward in direction of gravity) concave umbel. So it is unavoidable that we always get a backlitted bunch of flowers; it is pretty isn't it (above). The leaves are very succulent and thick, with very strong undulating and rough margins... and the marbled or lichen/mold/fungus-like irregular patch of white makes it very attractive. The leaves (below) are around 15 cm long.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Rare Dischidia cochleata

This is a very beautiful ant associated Dischidia species is described by Blume with Type specimen from Java. In The Peninsular Malayan species of Dischidia by R. E. Rintz, it has been recorded from lowland and hill forest of southern 2/3 of the Peninsula; seen once in Selangor; Reported from Malacca, Pahang and Singapore. This species is an "intermediate" ant-plant, with round-convex leaves clasping branches and twigs. Intermediate ant plant in the sense that it does not have well develop ant-housing pouch structure as D. major a native or D. pectinoides from The Philippines but possesses just simple convex-shelter for ants or other insects while many other species like D. nummularia does provide any ant shelter at all.

We were very fortunate to chance upon it on a fallen branch in a recreation stream/waterfall area in Southern Johor. The area has since been destroyed by a flash flood about 2 years ago. This specimen has exceptionally bright red flowers and capped bluish-white lobes; the leaves are covered with small random conical projections, giving it a rough and bumpy texture. So far, this is one of the most best clone ever found; more red versus orange and more textured leaves. It does reasonably well for me, enjoying intense light...some light fertilizing and grown on a stick. This clone has been introduced to a couple of friends in Thailand, Taiwan, Europe and US... but for most is challanging to difficult.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Water Clover

There is always something new when you go on vacation. I went on a 4 day trip to Thailand in mid-January 2008 to visit friends, plant market and orchid show at Chantaburi. We stopped by a friend's fruit orchard and found in a drying up pond a patch of beautiful Marsilea crenata or water clover. Typically, the leaves are well spaced out and carried on runners on inundated muddy flats. In this photo, it covered the muddy ground with a unusually tight mat of leaves together with a few arrow shaped Ipomoea aquatica* leaves sticking out.

It may not occur to a plant enthusiast that Marsilea is a fern. Unlike other ferns, spores are not borned on the underside of a frond but inside a bean like structure. The spore-bearing leaf has evolved into a special structure called sporocarp:

Just the day after i saw M. crenata in drying-up pool, i found another species M. drummonii growing in a plant enthusiast's collection. This triggered a recollection of Moran's essay**. He wrote of early Australian explorers sustenance on improperly prepared meal of nardoo (M. drummondii) sporocarp which resulted in poisoning and death. The photo below shows M. drummondii with silvery white hairs on its new leaves together with M. crenata. The hairs on top of having underground rhizomes may be an evolutionary adaption to protect young leaves from intense sunlight as M. dummondii is found on harsh seasonally climate that alternates between drought and floods. Interestingly, i found out that M drummondii is native to Thailand and absent from aseasonal Malaysia & Singapore.

*By the way, i. aquatica is 'kang-kong' a staple vegetable in found in south east asian cooking. And a popular dish is sambal kang-kong.

**The Natural History of Ferns, Timberpress by Robbin C. Moran is a wonderful read. It contains an unparalleled collection of highly readable essays on different aspects of fern life, evolution, cultural history, interesting facts and adaptations.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cylindrical leaf Euphorbia

This species with 2 subspecies parallels E decaryi with its 2 subspecies decaryi and spirosticha. It possesses leaves with a cylindrical cross section and a distinct center groove. The 2 subspecies are cylindrifolia and tuberifera. Subspecies cylindrifolia does not possess a center-caudex, but seed grown plants spread radially from a center growing point and it also spread through underground stems like E. decaryi. It can therefore forms a mat. Subspecies tuberifera froms a caudex if it is seed grown. The stems spread and branch out from the caudex but does not possess the underground stoloniferous habit. In time it can form a large caudex covered with a neat dense mat spread of linear leaves.

Above is the subspecies tuberifera with stems radiating from a center-caudex.

It is also a species from the dry Alluaudia-Didierea forest in southwestern Madagascar on limestone substrate. E. cylindrifolia v. cylindrifolia can easily be started from cutting and given time will grow true to form with stems radiating from a point. However, it is necessary to start E. cylindrifolia v. tuberifera from seeds to get a caudex plant. So far, i've not tried taking leaf cuttings of v. tuberifera to root but it should be possible. I did recall that one of my v. cylindrifolia stem cutting was rotten all the way to the base and only a rooted leaf was left. A new plant did eventually grow and forms a nice mat.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Another Euphorbia decaryi variety

I got it as a cutting and it was introduced here from a Indonesian who made a donation of an assortment of succulents to our local botanical garden. That's as much history that was traceable. It is a very beautiful clone with dark purplish green leaves which is very constrasting. In cultivation, it less robust and slower requiring more shade and less water compared to the type E. decaryi v. decaryi. It also spreads with underground stems which points to either a form of E. decaryi v decaryi or a new species with an affinity with E. decaryi. So far it has not flowered. So far, i have not located photos of this clone on the web.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Euphorbia ambovombensis

Another distinctive species from the Alluaudia-Didierea forest around the small town of Ambovombe in Southern Madagascar. It superficially resemble E. decaryi var spirosticha, but differs from having a large caudex and does not spread via underground stems. The branches are thin and roundish while those in E. decaryi are thick and angular. The photographed clone is unique amongst the few other clones from different sources in my collection. The leaf margin waviness depends on intensity of exposure to sunlight. The top leaves are sheltered while the bottom leaves are exposed. My other ambovombensis does not have this reaction exposure. It enjoys some shade. Strong exposure slows down growth but encourages flowering.

By the way, after some experimentation it is possible to root and start this plant from leaf cuttings. Nonetheless, it forms a caudex in time.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Euphorbia capsaintemariensis

E. capsaintemariensis is another ally to E. decaryi. The deep emerald green leaves and erect cyathia distinguish it from E. decaryi. The above photo is of a seed grown plant. It has a branching and low spreading or prostrate habit; remains a single specimen and does not spread via underground stems. It flowers freely like E. francoisii. This species has a more restricted distribution coming from Cap Sainte Marie, the southern most point in Madagascar. The vegetation consists of low bushes and has the wind swept look. As its habitat lack dense shade, it is may explain why it is more sun loving compared E. decaryi. Also it enjoys a drier treatment too. While young seedlings can be pushed with more water to accelerate growth, at some point of maturity watering must be reduced or it will suffer from root loss or collapse from rot.