Mussaenda are native plants of the Philippines. We have hybrids named after first ladies of the country as well as some prominent political and distinguished women, like the Queen Sirikit of Thailand. The flowers of Mussaenda species are not the most conspicuous parts of the plant. They are so minute about 1.0 cm in diameter, bright yellow, and hirsute. The five petals are at the tip of an elongated perianth. However, compared to the other parts of the plant, the flowers are forgotten. Only the insects visiting them see the yellow real flowers. The ostentatiously-flambuoyant parts are actually the bracts. In the case of the Mussaenda philippica 'Doña Luz' below, the bracts are orange in color, a bit curling at the margins, with very prominently deep white venation.
five petals elevated enough on top of the long hirsute perianth
the petals are velvety in texture with a ridge center in every petal
Only one tiny flower is borne by a big bunch of bracts. Maybe the role of the bracts is to attract the insect pollinators. However, this plant is not known to be fruit or seed producing. They are normally propagated through cuttings. But of course the hybrids fully used these minute flowers during pollination
the bunch of bracts become too heavy making them droop
A fully flowering tree will not be missed because of the showy bracts. We tend to prune all the branches at the end of the dry season for the new branches to develop, which eventually produce the showy bracts.
Whenever I am home in the province, which are normally once-a-month, I roam around the vicinity. Upon waking up in the mornings it is always my habit to walk our streets, clutching eyeglasses and camera. There's a lot of lovely subjects through that circuitous road from our house. Sometimes i have the wide angle lens mounted and suddenly i found some wonderful insects, or minute flowers along the roadsides. It is difficult to carry other lenses on these walks, much more a tripod. I always plan to make it just a leisurely walk, but it always end up very tiring. Most of the time the insects are near the ground, and i need to make body contortions to photograph it. My lazy body not accustomed to long stretchings react badly to these. Sometimes my legs suddenly get cramps because of muscle stretchings.
Our property is also a very good source of biodiversity. I find there many unusual plants, insects, mushrooms, ferns, flowers, etc. I don't know most of the things i see there, because mostly the unknown catch my attention. Last year i found an orchid, which i learned the ID only this year through some specialized Facebook groups. This month a plant again caught my interest. Maybe it's because i am now hooked on collecting hoyas, since i realized it has many species endemic and indigenous to the Philippines.
The flowers of this vine is so similar to hoyas, so i wont let the chance to document it. The expanded golden corolla is so attractive, with the corona also golden but a bit darker. The young flowers are shaped distinctly the same as the hoyas i am familiar with. The habit however is facing up or negatively geotropic, but some hoyas are like that too. I am so intrigued so i get a lot of angled shots including the position where the peduncles arise, the habit of the vine and the shape and position of the leaves in relation to the stem.
I am sure you will agree that the flowers are beautiful and interesting. However unlike most hoyas, the flowers in a single peduncle are blooming with a staggered maturity.
The vines have long internodes of more than one foot with half a centimeter diameter. It just creeps on the ground, which so happened to have piles of coconut husks left after getting the meat for copra production. I am not sure how to describe those leaves, but as laymen i will call it 'heart-shaped'. LOL. That means there is a distinct notch at the side of the petiole. There is also a distinct venation that meets at the tip, i suppose they call it 'anastomosing', I am just guessing that term here!
The leaves are opposite, meaning two leaves arise from the opposite sides of one node.
Immediately, i uploaded the photos to the FB group listing all the endemic flora of the Philippines. It led to my confirmation that it belongs to the hoya family, Apocynaceae. I also posted it in the international hoya group, which led me to its Scientific name, Heterostemma cuspidatum. Its photos in the internet are still not available, although old references already mentioned the provinces it is formerly found, which included ours. The main taxonomist-administrator of the Co's Digital Flora of the Philippines asked for these photos to be included in the compilation, he is a New Zealand scientist at the University of Canterbury. Now, Heterostemma cuspidatum, already has a face in the internet. At least one weekend provided some worthy cause, I am so elated to have discovered it in our property. And I am glad to have provided the photos, that otherwise are non-existent. I retained the copyright to the photos, by the way!
I've always been complaining of our tropical colors. It stemmed from their perennial presence here, mostly the orange and red. Somehow, if you are always seeing them all the time, anywhere, everywhere, I am sure you will understand. I hope some of you can relate with my craving for the blues and violets. But of course, we have a few of them, but they are not as conspicuous as our loud colors.
But i confess, these oranges and reds are trully very beautiful, like the bougainvillea and the rose.
This red Caladium bicolor has been with us for two years. Its growth is always curtailed by circumstances that normally goes with a biodiversity garden, at the same time a healthy organic garden. It is dormant during the dry season and jumps to life only during the rainy season. I love it because it is still small and I am eager to multiply it fast. In other words, I am inclined to watch it more than the others.
Here above is its happy stance with just four leaves, and might add 2 more leaves before the rainy season ends.
I displayed it in the most prominent spot in front of other plants to be vigilant on its growth and development. Can you imagine my consternation one morning when i saw it like this. The biggest leaf is almost totally consumed. Grrrrr! Last year it was eaten by 3 beautifully-looking pink-lavender caterpillar of a moth, which i haven't seen the adults.
I immediately looked at the suspect, and this is what i saw under the leaf, still happily and quickly munching on the leaf. Of course, i got the camera, prodded it with a stick to show its eyes before i shoot. It stopped a few seconds before munching again. I allowed it to almost finish the whole leaf, anyway the leaf will not be of much function to the plant anymore.
These creatures are normal residents of our garden during the dry season, they eat also the periwinkles and other colocasia species or taro. This is still very young, those eyes get so big and real scary in maybe 1-2 days more, and its body becomes so thick and real fat. BTW, those eyes are just to scare predators especially our chickens and birds.
I took it away and transferred it to a clump of the more common Caladium, which is more plenty. At least it will have a lot and it can it to its heart's content. I am sure it will not finish all these leaves before pupating.
I am not sure at first if this variety will also be palatable to its voracious larva palate. But look at its creation a day after transfer. Maybe its appetite needs some getting used to, adjusting to a new menu.
And this is the result after another night after its transfer, it devoured a total of 4 leaves already. I looked for it on all the underside of the leaves, but i cannot see it. I wonder what happened to the fat green larva of the hawksmoth. I hope it is just hiding nicely from predators including me, I hope it is not yet in the gizzard of our roaming free-range chicken.