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P. S. The Hoyan
Vol. 1, #1 - October 1, 2002
This little missive is later than I promised it would be. The reason is that my computer was down most of the summer. I could have purchased a new one for what it cost to fix it but the new one would not have all the files that I'd have lost had I not put the money into this one. Computers are like men -- we can't get along with 'em and we can't get along without 'em!
Hoya multiflora Blume
Photograph by George Slusser
This species has been covered many times in The Hoyan - so many times that some of you may think it boring. As a matter of fact, it was covered in the very last issue. I decided to repeat it here because I've received so many letters (with pictures enclosed) with requests that I identify this species. I normally get at least one such request a week but during the week that began on 8 September 2002 I got seven.
Even more people (those who saw Ted Green's spring 2002 catalog) wrote and asked if it is true that this species has been removed from the Hoya genus to the Centrostemma genus, as Mr. Green claimed. The answer is, "No." To move it to a different genus, Mr. Green would have to follow the steps one is required by the Code to follow for publishing and republishing. Saying so in his catalog doesn't make it so, but this wouldn't be the first time Mr. Green has attempted "catalog publication."
When I first met up with this species, I too thought it must belong to a different genus. That was before I got a microscope and was able to compare all of its minute reproductive parts with comparable parts of other species. I am now convinced that Dr. Blume was 100% correct in classifying this species a Hoya.
This species was first published as Hoya multiflora Blume in 1826. Prior to that (in 1823) Blume listed it in a catalog of Bogor plants. Then, in 1838, Joseph Decaisne moved it to a new genus, calling it Centrostemma multiflorum (Blume) Decne. It has also received publication as a Cyrtoceras and as a Crytoceras. It was once published as Asclepias carnosa Blanco (beautifully illustrated so we know it was this species). This should not be confused with Asclepias carnosa L. f., which we know is the true Hoya carnosa (L. f.) R. Br. This species has been moved out of and back into the Hoya genus more often than Mr. Green has changed wives. When/if Mr. Green moves this species to a different genus, I am sure that someone, looking to make a name for himself (probably his accomplice, Mr. Kloppenburg) will move it back. You can make book on it.
Hoya multiflora is easy to find and to grow. Many non-plant related mail order dealers, such as Carol Wright and Walter Drake, frequently offer it at about 1/100th the price most mail order hoya dealers charge. I also frequently find it in the plant section of our local supermarket. People who bought at these places are the ones I hear from most often, seeking an identity, because the labels on them when they get them are "cutesy-made-up" names. That kind of name, for some unfathomable reason, sells more plants than good, reliable scientific names.
It is almost as easy to grow as it is to find, although I did have trouble rooting it when I first got it. My first attempt at rooting it was to just stick the cutting into a soil based mix and then treat it exactly as I did Hoya carnosa, which will grow and thrive in anything from our hard as bricks, red Georgia clay to "kitty litter." That was a big mistake. No matter how many times I tried to root it, I failed, until I finally struck it in a pot of very fine redwood chips. We can no longer get redwood chips but I've found cypress chips a good substitute.
John Lindley, writing in Botanical Register in 1840, reported that a plant grown by the Messrs. Loddiges (British Nurserymen) in their greenhouse was growing on "the block of wood upon which it was imported." He said that the entire block of wood was placed into a pot and surrounded by a light soil. He added, "It will grow in any light soil, the chief thing in its cultivation being a warm and moist atmosphere."
Hoya multiflora is definitely not a succulent plant even though it roots easiest and grows best in a very light mix. Once it matures it becomes a water guzzler in hot weather. High humidity, however is more important than frequent watering.
Letters & Replies
Letter #1: " I recently purchased a small hoya. I don't know the species. The new pink leaves are shriveling and falling off. I moved it to a sunnier window and it continues. I live in NJ so it is indoors. The leaves are not dry, just shriveled. The soil is rather sandy. I don't water often, but due to the sandy soil, the soil always feels dry. It is in a clay pot with drainage. Any thoughts on what I should do to curtail the drying, shriveling, dropping leaves, and promote growth!? -- Joyce M., NJ
Reply: Water the poor thing. If the soil feels dry, it is dry. Your potting medium (sand), clay pot with drainage and your infrequent watering contribute to the dryness. No matter what you've heard, most hoyas are not succulent plants and you can't treat them like cacti and expect them to thrive.
You are doing everything wrong that could possibly be done for your plant. It is obvious that you have one of the variegated Hoya carnosa varieties or cultivars but which one I don't know. All have the same requirements though. First of all, hoyas with variegated foliage need less light than those with solid green foliage. Too much light could result in them losing their variegation.
Variegated hoyas sometimes put out solid white, cream or pink leaves and are probably what attracted you to the plant in the first place. Those solid white, cream and pink leaves (even whole branches of them) should be pruned out and composted as fast as they form. If they are allowed to remain on your plant you will soon lose the entire plant. A plant needs chlorophyll in order to thrive. Variegated leaves already have a lower than is completely desirable amount of it. Those white, cream and pink leaves don't have any at all. They depend on the reduced amount of chlorophyll manufactured by those partially green (variegated) leaves to support them. Those partially green leaves can't do it and continue to survive themselves. They are already on "overload." Florists and nurserymen don't care if the plants they sell live or die once they sell them. They know that those leaves are unhealthy but they also know that they'll attract a lot of novice growers so they leave them there. The health of the plant after it leaves the nursery is not their problem. Sorry to be the one to burst your bubble but you got took!
On the same subject, after you prune away all that pretty pink foliage, if your variegated plant puts out a branch of solid green leaves, prune that branch out too. It would be healthy for your plant but its vigorous growth will quickly shade out the weaker variegated foliage and you'll end up with a solid green leafed plant.
Letter #2: (Via e-mail): "I just got your name from Google on the internet. This has been the best year for one hoya. Two clusters in bloom and still more on the way. Noticed for the first time that it weeps. It is the most perfect flower. This plant sits in a north window. The other one sits in the dining room but doesn't get direct sun. The windows are also coated with plastic to keep the draperies and furniture from fading. The plant never bloomed. Should it be moved?" -- Norman C., ID
Reply: I think you've answered your own questions. If something doesn't work, it is time to try something else. Plastic coatings designed to keep curtains from fading block some of the colour spectrums needed by plants to produce blooms. You have a choice. Move the plants or get rid of the plastic. I'd get rid of the plastic. The curtains in my sunniest window are 20 years old and have never faded (at least not enough to be noticeable. I'll tell you one thing! I'm getting mighty sick of looking at them. Do your plants and your family a favor. Get rid of the plastic and buy some new curtains. Both family and plants will benefit!
Letter #3: "I asked a local hoya dealer if he would recommend a book on hoyas. He recommended Kloppenburg's book and then described Kloppenburg as 'the biggest fake in the business.' " - Name withheld to protect the honest.
Reply: That doesn't surprise me. In public, when both are face to face, they profess to be lifelong best friends, but I've been privy to the back-stabbing remarks made by each when either's back is turned. Although I agree 100% with that dealer's statement, I think it very sad that he'd recommend a book written by someone that he thinks is a fake. It says as much about him as the person he called a fake." More on that book later.
Letter #4: "Is there a Hoya balinese (or batinese)? It sounds like a Hoya carnosa 'groupie' to me. The new leaf is a light green and rather fat, but the mature leaf looks rather Hoya carnosa-ish." -- Carol, HI.
Reply: No, there is no such hoya species. What I suspect you have is a misspelled name. I believe that the correct spelling may have been intended to be Hoya balansae Costantin, which was published in LeComte, Flore Generale de l'Indo-Chine in 1912. As far as I've been able to determine, this species is not yet in circulation but that has never stopped the "name-sellers" before. I will certainly ask Dr. Thaithong, the most likely person to have collected it recently and see what she has to say. If it turns out that it has been collected and is circulating, I'll report that here later.
From Costantin's description, I'd expect this species to be a fairly small grower, though certainly not a miniature. Leaves are glabrous, ovate in shape and a light grayish-green and are occasionally speckled with darker green. They are about 1.50" to about 2.75" long by 1 to 1.50" wide, with 2 to 4 rather inconspicuous pinnately arranged veins on each side of the costa. Flowers are described as about 0.50 to 0.75" in diameter (that's about the same size as Hoya carnosa flowers).
An interesting note on this species: In The Dictionary of Kloppenburgese (my name for the book Kloppenburg wrote and called a dictionary of hoya terms and hoya names --- 99% of his definitions are wrong), he said that Hoya balansae was named for an acorn. Friends, I'm here to tell you that IS NOT true. Any halfway knowledgeable person needs only to read Costantin's original publication to know that it was named for Benjamin Balansa (Costantin cited the type specimen as B. Balansa #598). Benjamin Balansa was an Englishman of Italian descent. While it is true that the word "balansa" is the feminine form of "balansus" which, in Latin, means "acorn," it was the man, not the acorn that Costantin honored when he selected this name.
There is no way to identify your plant without flowers. After seeing your leaf picture, I can only guess. As my daddy used to say, "I won't betcha but I've got a brother who'll betcha, I betcha!" His bet is that what you have is another cutting of Hoya australis subsp. tenuipes. That seems to be the commercial growers' "universal hoya." By that I mean that whenever you order something from a dealer list and the dealer doesn't have it, the dealer will take some cuttings of this one and put the label of whatever you ordered on it and send it off to you. I've bought it at least 20 times (each time with a different name label). The dealers figure that before it is mature enough to bloom and prove to be mislabeled that you (being ignorant and inept) will have killed it so the mislabeling will never be discovered.
I actually heard a dealer of hoyas (a mid-westerner who is no longer in business) brag about doing just that. He had the nerve to say it in front of more than 100 dealers and garden writers. I give you three guesses (first two don't count) as to who it was that reported him to the authorities! I also sent (with that report) a box of plants ordered from him. The weight of the slugs in it was greater than the weight of the plants). He was out of the mailorder plant business in less than a month. I was told that I was not the only one to report him. That was in 1980 but things (as I've observed them) haven't changed much, at least not for the better.
Letters #5, 6, 7, & 8: "Please tell me what you know about Hoya cystiantha?" -- Gloria, FL; Joline, WA; Naomi, GA & Carol, HI
Reply: The name, Hoya cystiantha has never received valid publication so, officially, there is no such species. It is what is called a "nomen nudum." A literal translation of "nomen nudum" is "naked name." Translated into understandable English, that means, "It is a name dropped, in passing, by some author who never bothered (or never found the time) to write a description in the prescribed format and have it published." It could also be a name found on a herbarium sheet (those are often guessed at by the collectors). It was R. Schlechter who did this particular "name dropping" (in Botanischer Jahrbucher 50: 127 (1913)).
This species was published as Cystidianthus laurifolius Blume in Museum Botanicum Lugduno-Batavorum 1: 57 (1849). King and Gamble "sunk" it into synonymy with Hoya campanulata Blume in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Bengal Branch 74: 578 (1908). As noted there, the flowers are slightly smaller than the type but all other features appear to match perfectly.
In Fraterna 13 (2001), Ed Gilding wrote an illustrated piece that he called, Hoya sp. aff. Cystiantha. I believe he was correct to write it that way since he wasn't sure of its identity. It is a pity that the editor of Fraterna felt compelled to jump into the act and "exhibit" for us his "superior knowledge" by elaborating upon what Mr. Gilding wrote (and thereby, sticking his foot in his mouth one more time). An editor who knows less than the author whose work he is editing is a tremendous liability to any author. This is a perfect example of that.* It is my opinion that the hoyas pictured on page 3 of that same issue of Fraterna are: Left, Hoya campanulata and right, Hoya wallichii. I presented proof of this in The Hoyan 18(1): pt. 2, pgs. 2-6. Any wanting copies of those pages should send $2 and an SASE to me and I'll send you copies.
*While on the subject of the Fraterna publication that inspired the four letters to me, I feel I must correct a grave error made by the editor (Kloppenburg, I presume). On page four of that issue, Mr. Kloppenburg said, "The first description of Cystidianthus was by H. Zollinger and F. Miquel in Flora India (sic) Bataviae (sic)2: (1856) 516." Besides the two spelling errors in the title, credit of authorship is wrong. Miquel (without Zollinger) did write a small, 4-line description in Flora Indiae Batavae 2:516 (1856), but that WAS NOT the first publication of the name. I do not know or care when the first occurrence of the name Cystidianthus was. I do know that Miquel's was not the first. Blume's publication of 17 lines in Museum Botanicum Ludguno-Batavorum 1: 57 (1849) preceded Miquel's by seven years. Also there was another short description of this species in Annales Botanices Systematicae 3: 53 (1853) that beat Miquel's by three years.
I guess I ought to cut Kloppenburg some slack. Anyone who can't spell probably can't read very well either. He really ought to stop pretending he knows what he doesn't. He reminds me of the fellow Brother Dave Gardener told us about. He was always bragging about how much he knew and one day someone asked him, "Well how much do you know?" The bragger said, "I know everything that's in every dictionary in the world." The inquirer said, "What's that?" The bragger said, "Words!" Like Kloppenburg he'd probably define the word "congenital" as " Parts fused together from the beginning of development." I kid you not! You'll find that definition on page 13 (1st word on page) of the above mentioned Dictionary of Kloppenburgese!!!!!
KEEP THE QUESTIONS COMING
The main topic of the next newsletter will depend on the questions in my mail between now and the first of the year. I've already had a lot on the subject of Hoya bordenii so I'm leaning toward it being the main subject. That could change if your questions lead me in another direction. Although the content of this site will change frequently, I will preserve copies of this and each that follows so that if you miss one, a hard copy can be purchased for a small fee in the future.
Send all questions to: Christine M. Burton, P. O. Box 80156, Conyers, GA 30013
AS A READER SERVICE
Any seller of hoya plants or cuttings who'd like for me to list them here and in the snail mail version of this newsletter (no charge) should let me know via snail mail or e-mail before the first of the year. Most of the letters I get request this information but I am reluctant to give it out without permission. To be listed you must assure me that you have at least 24 different hoya species to sell, unless your list or catalog is free. People write to me expressing utter disgust with some dealers who advertise that they have hoyas when they have only a half dozen common cultivars. They say that allowing them to deduct the price of the catalog is not compensation unless you have something to sell them. It's just taking their money and giving them nothing. Warning: Being listed here will not guarantee that I'll not criticize your mislabeling so, please, try to get it right!
Links to other sites relating to hoyas:
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