Sunday, 6 November 2022

Stephanotis updates

I have added some updates to my original article on Stephanotis floribunda (warning: Too Much Information, now over 19,000 words). The pictures are from the first re-flowering of my Stephanotis since I got it.

Most of the updates come from this Open Access article that expands the genus Stephanotis. Previously Stephanotis was only found on the island of  Madagascar. Some of the new species now included in Stephanotis are found across Africa and Asia. Some of the authors are recognised internationally as the experts on the family Apocynaceae.

Liede-Schumann, S, Reuss, SJ, Meve, U, Gâteblé, G, Livshultz, T, Forster, PI, Wanntorp, L & Rodda, M (2022), "Phylogeny of Marsdenieae (Apocynaceae, Asclepiadoideae) based on chloroplast and nuclear loci, with a conspectus of the genera" Taxon (2022) 71(4): 833-875    Accessed 6/10/2022

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Apteranthes (Caralluma) tuberculata type specimen


Apteranthes (Caralluma) tuberculata
Herbarium sheet from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew¹ 

The herbarium sheet above is the holotype specimen that was used to define the species Caralluma tuberculata when that species was first described by the Kew Gardens botanist Nicholas Edward Brown in 1892.² The plant was renamed Apteranthes tuberculata in 2002 but this herbarium specimen still decides what plants are included in that species. If a plant is too different from this herbarium specimen it must be a different species.

When I saw this specimen I realised I had seen the handwriting before and it did not look like the handwriting or style of label used by the plant collector it was supposed to be. The collection was credited to Dr John Ellerton Stocks and given the collection number 596.¹ 

I believe it should be credited to Dr Andrew Fleming, a less well-known collector who also worked for the English East India Company in what is now Pakistan. He collected far fewer plant samples than Stocks but his main job at the time he collected this plant was a geological survey.

When referenced in botanical articles, a herbarium sheet is called by the name of the collector and the collection number. NE Brown referred to the Kew Herbarium specimen as Stocks 596, so it must have been misfiled at some time before 1892. This one should be called Fleming 78. I believe I have some convincing proof.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Ceropegia bulbosa

I first read about Ceropegia bulbosa over 30 years ago and have finally got to eat the tuber. Of course, I could have visited India and found it there but I am too fussy for travelling long distances. The tuber becomes bitter soon after harvest and, as far as I know, it is not generally exported as a vegetable. So, I grew it from seed. 

Monday, 11 April 2022

Alpinia formosana


This plant was sold to me as Alpinia formosana and I have no reason to doubt that. The usual common name is "pinstripe ginger" because it has very smart thin pale stripes on the leaves. It is a member of the same plant family as ginger, the Zingiberaceae. It is in the same genus as the galangal, another spicy root used in a lot of east Asian cooking. This species does not appear to be used in cooking, though it does have slightly smelly tubers that, like ginger and galangal, run parallel to the surface of the soil. The leaves smell very nice if crushed, a woody, resiny fragrance that is not quite like any others I have smelt.

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Hoodia hybrid

I have been growing this plant since I received it in October 2020 under the name Trichocaulon flavum. That is an old name, that plant is now usually called Hoodia flava. It flowered last week and I now know that it is definitely not Hoodia flava. It appears to be a hybrid between two species of Hoodia.

Monday, 3 January 2022

Huernia hystrix


The photo above was taken last Saturday, the first of January 2022. I am immensely pleased that it flowered so soon.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

A Citation


Ceropegia bulbosa, with edible leaves and tubers
much sought after in India. My photo from September.

I was looking up some descriptions of new species of Ceropegia on Friday night. I found one on Researchgate from 2015 for a species called Ceropegia terebriformis. The specific name terebriformis means "drill shaped" and refers to the tightly spiralled top of the corolla looking like a modern drill bit. It was only found once. The living plants they had collected grew very well for a while but all died. No uses were recorded.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

The origin of the name Caralluma

Stapelia adscendens, from Plants of the Coast of Coromandel ¹ 
Picture file from the BHL Pro Flickr albums.

What is the origin of the name of the genus Caralluma? In short, we don't know. That will not stop me writing about it.

First, I will quote from Wikipedia. I wrote this part of the entry, so I think that it is allowable.

In 1795 William Roxburgh published the name Stapelia adscendens for a plant found in India. He commented that the name for the plant in the Telugu language was Car-allum and that the succulent branches are edible raw, though bitter and salty.¹ The name Caralluma was coined by Robert Brown for a new genus in an article published in 1811. At the time he only described one species in the genus, the plant that he renamed Caralluma adscendens

In 1996 Helmut Genaust published the suggestion that it was sensible to conclude that the generic name is derived from the Arabic phrase qahr al-luhum, meaning "wound in the flesh" or "abscess," referring to the floral odour. Genaust was unaware that the genus Caralluma existed east of Palestine. He specifically ruled out its existence in India, where it was first described and named. Genaust presumed that the name would have first been applied to Caralluma europaea in North Africa.³

So, it is clear that the name is from the Telugu language from southern India, but what does it mean? Neither Roxburgh nor Brown seem to have recorded that and did not give the spelling in Telugu script.

Friday, 16 July 2021

The origin of the name Ceropegia

Linnaeus named⁹ the genus Ceropegia in 1737 in his Genera plantarum.  Linnaeus referred to the description and picture of a plant in the Horti Malabarici as the plant for which the genus was created. In 1753 he named this as Ceropegia candelabrum.

Downloaded¹³ from the Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Open in a new tab to enlarge.

Above we have the iconotype of the Indian plant that Linnaeus named as Ceropegia candelabrum in 1753, as depicted¹³ in the Horti Malabarici of Henricum Rhede (or Reede) tot Drakestein published in 1689. The candelabrum bit gives it away when you see the way the flowers are arranged. Of course, some of you born after the invention of electric light may not have seen any candelabra or chandeliers.

There have been two possible explanations of the origin of the word Ceropegia. Linnaeus never explained it, as far as I know. 

Monday, 24 May 2021

Little fluffy flowers

I received this Hoya carnosa from Italy last September as a stunted succulent with a little bundle of roots that fitted with plenty of room to spare in a 7.5 cm (3 inch) pot. A bargain for €3. It has obviously appreciated being watered and fed a lot more with high humidity and a constant temperature of 23-26°C. It now has one metre of vine with several branches. These first flowers opened yesterday.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

New Duck

I found a much larger original photograph of the Star Carr pendant. I decided that I wanted to make a new version of the coloured one I made in 2018 to show why I think this piece of jewelry from 11,000 years ago represents a duck. So I spent this evening colouring and modifying it to make the 19 megapixel image previewed above. I don't know why most of the images of this pendant have it upside-down.

It really is worth right-clicking on the image and opening in a new tab to get the full image. I like that it is a bit glossier, like a real duck.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Shindal Makudi - Part Two

Continued from Part One 

Cultivation in India

One of my two plants, again. Growing in Manchester.

We don't know whether Shindal Makudi was cultivated deliberately in the region where it now occurs. It is possible that the plant was deliberately introduced to some of the hill forts. It is odd that more than half of the locations where it grows have been associated with old military forts or ancient Buddhist monasteries. A plant that provided both medicine for wounds and an edible vegetable would seem to be useful to have around in a military fort.

Though it is true that many of the high hills in Maharashtra have old hill forts on them. 

Shindal Makudi - an odd stapeliad

Shindal Makudi is the local Marathi name of an unusual little succulent found wild only in the state of Maharashtra in western India. It is one of the stapeliad group of flowering plants. Stapeliads are a part of a larger group called asclepiads.

The stapeliads are mainly stem-succulents with leaves that are reduced to tiny scales, completely absent or converted into thorns. They have adapted to hot, dry areas and would lose too much water through large leaves. As you can see from these pictures, Shindal Makudi is unique among the stapeliads in having full, large succulent leaves, though only during the very wet monsoon season.

This article is mainly about the social history of the plant. The stories of the locals, plant hunters and growers fascinate me. There will be some of the science as well, of course. However, if you want to dive more deeply into the ecology⁹⁹ ¹⁰⁰, botanical description,⁴⁰ Crassulacean Acid Metabolism⁴⁶ and taxonomy,⁵⁶ I would recommend looking at the articles linked in the References section. 

Obviously, this has been a bad year for finding people in their offices and I haven't been able to pop down to my local University library. So, a few things remain as mysteries for now.

(on a separate page)

Sunday, 11 October 2020

The Beautiful Hoya

Hoya bella, the Beautiful Hoya

This beautiful plant is still the most cultivated Hoya, 174 years after it was first collected by a European. Since the naming of the genus Hoya more than a hundred Hoya species have been made available for the amateur grower, out of 520 species now known. Other species of Hoya may be more spectacular but this one is beautiful, delightfully fragrant, compact and relatively easy to grow. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Orbea variegata

This Orbea variegata flowered today and is a spectacular, peculiar and interesting flower. That does not stop it being an intense disappointment to me. I was sold it as a Huernia hystrixOrbea variegata is the commonest and easiest to grow of the group of plants to which they both belong. I could have bought it from many shops that sell ornamental houseplants. 

Huernia hystrix is far harder to find and is a much sought-after and endangered herbal medicine in South Africa. 

I only spent £5 on it and a part of the postage costs. The other plants that came with it were the correct species. So it goes.

Edited to add: I have mentioned a little about the history of Orbea variegata in a new article on Huernia hystrix.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Lemon Curio

My Curio just flowered. The flower is 12mm (½ inch) across and 22 mm (⅞ inch) tall. They don't flower very often but are widely-grown for their decorative succulent leaves and trailing habit.

The yellow pollen is produced first, by the purple anthers. A day later the stigmas, the white ramshorn-shaped structures with pink tips, burst out of the column of anthers and become ready to receive pollen. If you right-click the photo and select "open image in new tab" (or the equivalent in your application) the photo should be detailed enough to see that.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020


The first flower on my Frerea indica (or Boucerosia frerei) was badly placed for taking a photo. This was the best I could get. The flower is 2.5cm (an inch) across.

I am writing a long article on the plant so, hopefully, by the time that is finished there will be better photos from flowers that aren't on the underside of a horizontal stem with other stems in the way.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Mayflowers and some flowers, in May, Part 1

Hawthorn or Mayflower

Yesterday, I went for my first recreational stroll since being locked down. I took one hour and a little under 20 minutes. Hopefully I will not be prosecuted for this infraction. In my mitigation, this was my only journey that was not shopping or going to work for the last six weeks. I put the photos of horse chestnut flowers in a post yesterday. Some of the others I am including here and the rest in another post that I will hopefully complete in a few days.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Horse chestnut flowers

I went for a short walk today on a mission to get photos of horse chestnut flowers. I thought they would complement the article that I composed last September which touched on the history, seeds, uses, disease and chemistry of the plant. I managed to get a few nice flower photos.