Saturday, 2 May 2009

A Hoya there

I know, and I've used this awful title before too, which makes it worse.

Anyway, as you can see, the Hoya australis we have growing at home is in flower. And a lovely flower it is. What I hadn't noticed before, but Lynda kindly reminded me was well known, was that the flowers are produced on last year's flower stalks. See following image...
This means, as Lynda then noted, that it's not a good choice for cut flowers (if you want more flowers the next year).


This also means that Hoya macgillivrayi, will be in flower soon in the Royal Botanic Gardens Tropical Centre. I spoke to Simon Marnie about this last year in our regular weekend chat. I said:

It’s from the very top of Australia, on Cape York, where it climbs to the top of the trees into full sunlight. So in our Pyramid glasshouse, it clings to the glass panels soaking up as much Sydney sun as it can.

The waxy flowers are deep burgundy and up to 6 cm across, one of the largest blooms in the genus. They have strong fragrance, apparently reminiscent of ‘expensive perfume’. We’ll ask man of taste, Simon Marne, to be the judge of that.

Some flowers have slightly unpleasant odours to attract flies and beetles, but most are pleasantly perfumed, often in the evening. It’s said that Geckos wait by the flowers to catch the many night-time insect visitors.

Variants from different locations will have different coloured and sized flowers but at least some of these differences are environmental induced and won’t be retained in garden conditions. There are also hybrids with other species available in horticulture.

In case you were wondering, the species is not after a cricketer, but Dr William Macgillivray, a doctor and naturalist who first collected the species on a trip to northern Queensland.

There are 200 species of Hoya, found in mostly tropical regions from Australia through to India and China. Seven species occur naturally in Australia but others are popular garden plants, particularly in the north but also in sheltered positions south of Sydney.

Hoyas are in the milkweed family, the Asclepiadaceae, along with Stapelia, a well known succulent with the stinky brown flowers, and Dischydia, one of the Ant House Plants we talked about last year. They all have a milky sap which can irritate skin.

Irritating, impressive and sweet smelling, that’s Hoya macgillivrayi.

And I expect it will be in flower soon.

2 comments:

roybe said...

Nice Hoya australis. I visited your great RBG hothouse last february and saw the native Hoyas. Some good examples of Vireya Rhododendrons too.

Tim Entwisle said...

We are about to revamp the collections soon but rest assured there will always be Hoyas and Rhodos.