Vol. 12, #1

January 1, 2012



A Hoya with a Lot of Names



The picture was given to me by David Liddle, many years ago.  It was labeled  Hoya bilobata – IML-228 – Same as IML-846.”  These two IML numbers are listed as Hoya bilobata in his Accession catalog too.  It was listed in his sales’ catalogs as Hoya bilobata from 1998 through 2007.   In 2008 the Liddle catalog  listed IML-231 (DS-128) as  Hoya bilobata and the IML-228 & IML-249 numbers were identified as Hoya panchoi.  I hope that this example will convince all who read it the importance of keeping all labels associated with the plants they own and check their sources frequently to see what changes may have come about.  If you don’t you’ll find yourself wasting your money buying what you already have over and over again.

Although they don’t look it in the picture, the Liddle catalogs described the flowers of IML-228 as having red corollas and orange coronas. Sometimes cameras don’t see what we see and photographs sometimes fade over time.  Those are the only explanations I can come up with to explain the difference in the picture and the photographer’s description.


So now to the account of what I know about the hoya that was published as Hoya panchoi Kloppenb.:

         Once upon a time there was a wee little Hoya which a fellow by the name of Adolf Daniel Edward Elmer (universally referred to as A.D.E. Elmer but in name publications abbreviated as Elm.) collected in the Philippines. 

         Elmer was from Wisconsin.  He spent his young adult years as a working botanist in California, Idaho and Oregon but migrated to the Philippines in 1908 where, for a time, he was employed by the Bureau of Science.  While there he collected scores of specimens and distributed them widely.  One of the Hoyas that he collected is the subject of this piece.  It is Elmer’s specimen #15937, which he found on Mt. Bulusan, Province of Sorsogon, on the Island of Luzon in May of 1916.

         Elmer labeled that specimen Hoya diversifolia.  Apparently, he didn’t know that Carl Blume had already published a Hoya diversifolia in 1826.

         This specimen, along with a lot of other specimens collected by Elmer during his years at the Bureau of Science didn’t get published and I suspect that was a cause of discontent to Elmer.  I don’t know if he and his boss (E. D. Merrill) had a falling out and Elmer quit or if Merrill fired him.  I knew Merrill’s twin brother personally but he wasn’t a gossip.  I just got the impression from what I’ve read that both gentlemen were happy to part ways.  Elmer started his own publishing  enterprise in order to publish his own species but he waited until 1938 to do it. He published all of his species in English.  By then, the Code required that all species name publications be written in Latin, because Latin, being a dead language, would never have its meanings changed.  This provision in the Code made all of Elmer’s publications invalid.

         I read in Fraterna a piece by Kloppenburg which said that he waited until 1938 to publish because it was too expensive to publish during the depression. That was pure conjecture.  Since Elmer had gone off on his own at least 11 years before the 1929 disaster that started the depression, I doubt that the depression was what held him up. My scientist husband theorized that Elmer was part of a movement that swept across the US when the Codes for naming plants, rocks, fish, chemicals and everything else were altered to require all scientific publications be in Latin.  That movement said, “There ain’t no gol-darned European going to dictate to us what language we are going to use in our publications.” US scientists refused to go along with it until after WW-2.  By then, they’d smartened up and realized that they needed to join the team.  Elmer, like my scientist husband, was from Wisconsin.  I lived in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin for 5 long miserable years.  I can attest to the fact that “them thar folks” (at least those I met) were a stubborn bunch.  They’d make the New Englanders whose motto in the Revolution was “Don’t tread on me!” seem like a bunch of pacifists!  And proud?  Let me tell you a true account.  When my husband got transferred to South Carolina, not one of his Wisconsin relatives said, “We’ll miss you!”  Everyone of them came up to us and said, “You’re going to miss US when you leave.”  I resisted the temptation to say, “It will be a good miss!”

         Whatever his reason, all of Elmer’s publications were invalid.  I’d have liked to have had them republished with the same names he gave them, in order to save a lot of confusion by having all  of those holotype specimens bear the same names as the valid publications. What I’d have liked hasn’t happened.

         Elmer, finally, in 1938, realized that his #15937 could not be named Hoya diversifolia so he published it in his own publication, Leaflets of Philippine Botany. Vol. 10, Article 131, page 3575.  He gave it the name of Hoya bulusanensis Elm.   The publication was entirely in English.  Being in English, it was not a valid publication.

         Seeing an opportunity to make a name for himself,  Robert Dale Kloppenburg published it as Hoya panchoi to honor  Dr. Juan Panchoi whom he had met in Manila.  Kloppenburg’s publication was invalid too, at first, because he failed to cite a holotype.  This publication was later validated with the Elmer #15937 housed at US (Smithsonian) as the holotype.

         The holotype specimen consists of a long stem with only a couple of leaves attached and an envelope with 17 leaves in it.  There are no flowers anywhere on the sheet.  An isotype specimen, which I found at Harvard is in a little better shape.  It has a longer stem with 7 leaves attached and an envelope containing 8 leaves, but not a single flower.

         So, how do we know if the little hoya in circulation as Hoya panchoi is really that species?  We don’t and, in fact,  when not in bloom the leaves of  both Hoya bilobata  and Hoya heuschkeliana appear identical to it.  I’ve also seen specimens and living plants of other genera  with leaves that look the same.  Could be it isn’t even a hoya so, unless we can find another isotype specimen with flowers attached,  there is not, at present, any way to determine just which hoya in circulation (if any) is Hoya panchoi.



DS-128.  The above picture was taken on 11-11-11.  It is just a tad larger than life size.  The umbel is no larger in diameter than a US dime. The colour is exactly the same as the actual flowers.  As you can see, the flowers are entirely pink except for anther appendages peeking out of the centers of the flowers.  Those appendages are white.



WARNING:  I got two more inquiries about that book I wrote about in the last issue, Hoya Catalogue by Nikolai Bilenko.  Don’t waste your money on it!!!!!

         The book isn’t a catalogue.  It is a very sorry attempt to list all the names of all hoyas by someone who doesn’t know correct terminology and doesn’t have a clue as to how to record names.  It’s just a list of names with what appears to be his guesses as to native habitats.  Those guesses are often wrong.  He attempts to tell you the authors of some of the names but inserts what he thinks is native habitat between the species name and the author’s name.  He obviously doesn’t know that the authors’ names are officially part of the species name.  For example, he wrote “Hoya callistophylla (Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra T. Green 2000).”  The correct name is Hoya callistophylla T. Green.  He was also incorrect is attaching this species to Thailand and Sumatra.  It’s native habitat is Sabah, Eastern Malaysia.  It is possible that it also is known in Peninsula Thailand or even Sumatra (though the latter is doubtful), I could find no record of it in those places. 

           Incorrect notations are plentiful. Several of R. Schlechter’s Philippine publications were credited to someone named “F. Rudolf.”    Example:  He wrote, “Hoya benguetensis (Philippines, F. Rudolf. 1906).”  The correct citation should have been, “Hoya benguetensis R. Schltr.,” not F. Rudolf.  Schlechter’s and all other author’s names are abbreviated in botanical publications.  His full name was Friedrich Richard Rudolph Schlechter.  He went by the name of Rudolph Schlechter.  Throughout the book, Bilenko calls Schlechter either “F. Rudolf” (no last name cited) or F. Schlechter and once F. Schleicher.

           How far off can one get?  Let me see --- ummm..  This fellow listed a Hoya ariadna and credited Kloppenburg and Gilding with authoring it in 1844.  Kloppenburg wasn’t born until about 65 years after that and Gilding at least 100 years later.  I don’t think traveling back to the future is possible any place but in Hollywood.  Hoya ariadna which is a synonym of Hoya sussuela (Roxb.) Merr. (1917) was, of course, published by Decaisne (correctly abbreviated Decne.) in 1844.

           This book is not without humor.  The funniest thing in it is the author’s listing of a hoya that does not exist.  He called it Hoya annotating and said it was native to Himalaya and authored by R. Wight in 1837.  Then he listed a second Hoya annotating and said it was native to India and Burma.

           The errors abound.  It would take a book many times longer that Bilenko’s book to record all of his errors and cite the corrections.. Very few entries are correct.  THE WORLD DOESN’T NEED THIS EXPENSIVE PIECE OF GARBAGE! 

           Every hoya name, plus others (minus Bilenko’s fictitious ones) can be found at the following place and it’s completely free:  This site also tells you where the name publications can be found, which is something that Bilenko omitted in 99% of his listing.  Those citations are abbreviated but every botanical library I’ve visited had a book which told its readers what those abbreviations stand for.  Also you can find the publications by entering the abbreviated titles in the library’s computerized index.  You don’t have to rely on a KNOWNOT like Nikolai Bilenko nor pay a cent to IPNI.  At the library you’ll have to pay for copying but only if you want a copy.  Looking is free!  You should check those sources frequently as they are added to from time to time.

           There are numerous illustrations, mostly of single leaves, many of them damaged.  There are only one or two that I could look at and say, “I know what hoya that is!”





At this time, I’d say, “It’s anybody’s guess!


I may have covered this before on these pages but sometimes one has to keep repeating things because some people keep bring them up, like a kid that keeps picking at a scab on his knee that he got trying to ride his big brother’s bike, without permission. 

           This question has been asked over and over and all who ask it tell me that they know that the one I sell as Hoya balansae is actually Hoya ovalifolia because others agree that it is.  Well, I don’t agree with others.   I am one of those people who believe that all parts of a plant should agree with the type specimen, even if the name description doesn’t, however in this case the plant that others are calling Hoya ovalifolia, doesn’t agree with either the type specimen or the name publication. 


Above left:  The largest leaf I could find on the hoya that I believe to be Hoya balansae Cost.

Above right:  Another leaf from the same plant.  Most leaves are about this size, though a few are larger and a few still smaller.   

           All leaves on this plant are the same shape.  Note that when viewed from above, as these are, that the margins appear entire and the leaf tips apiculate.  Because the tips turn down, when viewed from above without being pressed flat, most appear to be almost round.

           Turn the leaves over and view them from beneath and you can see that the leaf margins are rolled under, making them look like a saucer.  When removed from the plant, as those above were, when turned over, they will hold water.


I cannot tell you which hoya is Hoya ovalifolia by the leaves but, in this and many other cases, I can tell you what a species  isn’t by the foliage and this slender vine with entire recurved leaf margins is not Hoya ovalifolia..


Now, take a look at Hoya ovalifolia Wight et Arn. ex Wight


The above is from Wight’s Icones Plantarum, Plate 847





The above is a greatly reduced scan of one half of an isotype specimen  (Wallich catalog #1522), which I found in the New York Botanical Garden.  I had to half the image to make it fit on my scanner and reduce the size to make it fit on my screen.   There are 11 more leaves on the top half of the specimen.  All have the wavy leaf margins which are never found on Hoya balansae.   

Definition of  ISOTYPE SPECIMEN:  “A specimen which is a duplicate of the holotype (part of the single gathering that also includes the holotype).”

That definition can be found in “An Annotated Glossary of Botanical Nomenclature” Regnum Vegetabile vol. 56, published by the International Bureau for Plant Taxonomy and Nomenclature.





           They’re at it again.  I was Christmas shopping in Lowe’s today (December 20) and came upon a sale of tropical plants.  All were half price until Christmas.  I never expect to find a hoya there that I don’t already have but I look anyway.  I actually was looking for a yellow flowered Christmas or Thanksgiving Cactus as I have a shut-in friend who has been looking for one for a long time.  She threatened to run over me with her wheel chair if I didn’t find one for her.  I saw the first truly  yellow Thanksgiving Cactus I’ve ever seen, high on a shelf, too high for me to reach.  Another customer saw me stretching and got it down for me.  He dropped it (no damage done) right into a large tray of hoyas.  I’m not 100% sure but I think that tray of about 20  4” pots contained Hoya sp. DS-70, but the leaves appeared a bit small for that species.  It is possibly Hoya burtoniae.   The sad thing about it was that every single pot had a label that read, “ I am Baby Jade, Crassula argentea.”

           I can already (in my mind) hear my Georgia Market Bulletin customers arguing with me that they KNOW that plant is a Crassula, not a hoya, because professionals labeled it and “professionals KNOW!”   When I get that kind of argument I’m reminded of the 6 year old kid that used to live next door to me in Glen Ellyn, IL.  He went through a stage of arguing with his mother about just about everything.  No matter what his mother told him, he’d say,  No, mom, you are wrong.”  Then he’d tell her what he thought was fact.  She’d say, “Billy, where’d you hear that?”  He’d reply, “Tommy told me.  He’s in second grade and he knows everything!”  The fact is that successful professional nurserymen often know about all there is about how to grow plants but it is a very rare one that knows what he is growing.  The proof is found in their labeling.




­Question:  Chris, I know you have repeatedly said that you can’t  identify a hoya by its leaves alone but can you look at two similar species and tell which is which without flowers? The reason I ask is because I lost labels of two of mine, Hoyas coriacea  and Hoya fraterna.  Neither has bloomed and I can’t tell them apart.   --- Susan Chambers.


Answer:  Some I can and some I can’t.  You may be in luck this time.  First, let me say that my Hoyas coriacea  and fraterna haven’t bloomed yet either but, assuming that David Liddle labeled the plants I got from him correctly,  I  could tell which is which, even if I lost the labels.

           No matter how young or old the foliage is, the leaf shapes are the  same. 


Above Left:  A Hoya fraterna leaf.  This is a typical adult leaf.  It measures 12 cm. from the base to the point where the acuminated tip starts.  That tip is 1 cm. long.  The width is 6 cm. at the widest part.

  Above Right: A Hoya coriacea  leaf.  This is a typical adult leaf.  It measures 13.3 cm. from the base to the beginning of the acuminated tip.  That tip is about 1.3 cm. long.

I examined both large plants and found all the leaves on each to match the two above except for size.  As is to be expected, juvenile leaves are smaller and adult leaves larger but their shapes and ratios of  length versus width are approximately the same. 


As said above, one cannot, as a rule, identify a hoya by its leaves but one can frequently eliminate possibilities by the leaves.



Re the Identify the Leaf Contest (see vol. 7)


           Only one person entered.  Her guesses were Hoya obovata and Hoya deykeae.  The correct identity of that leaf is Hoya calycina. 

           The point I was trying to make was the same as always.  One can’t identify a species by examining a single leaf..  Valentine shaped leaves occur on plants of just about every genus and species.  I don’t know the reason.  Perhaps it is the result of some insect feeding on the leaf tips when the leaf is just beginning to form.   I have found leaves shaped like valentines on Red Oak Trees (or rather on branches that wind  dropped in my yard). 

            A few years ago, there was a lady who advertised her hoyas in Horticulture Magazine.  She had a brand new unnamed cultivar of Hoya carnosa variegata with valentine shaped leaves (or so she claimed).  Her asking price was extremely steep but, being gullible, I placed an order for it.  What I got was a Hoya carnosa variegata   with elliptical leaves.  There wasn’t a single valentine shaped leaf on the entire plant.  I phoned the lady and complained about being cheated.  Her reply was that her plant had produced a single valentine shaped leaf so that proved that it was capable of producing valentine shaped leaves.  She flat out refused to refund my money.  That was about 40 years ago.  That plant still hasn’t produced a valentine shaped leaf but, from time to time, I have found single valentine shaped leaves on other hoyas and also, as noted above, on that downed oak tree branch.  I also have found an occasional valentine shaped leaf on my camellias.


And, speaking of camellias, I know this is a Hoya page but I’d like to share a picture of  one of my camellias.


All those pink flower petals on the ground show that this Camellia sasangua is past prime stage..  The strange shape of the bush is the result of  lightening hitting a nearby tree and having a huge branch fall on the camellia, splitting the bush in two.  That was five years ago.  The bush didn’t even slow down.  It continued to grow and, as you can see, it blooms abundantly, from the middle of October until the  middle of December most years.   The picture was taken on Thanksgiving Day.  Today is December 20 and it is still  going strong. .  Makes me think that maybe I should give up on hoyas and grow camellias exclusively.  They certainly give me a lot of show for my money!