Monday, January 14, 2013

Stephanotis maingayi rediscovered

No two field trips share the same complexion except in being extraordinary and special; where new things are learned and new insights gained. 

Last Sunday's unhurried exploration in MacRitchie forest is no exception. It is as extraordinary as I would like it to be. I need only to surrender to serendipity and have eyes as fresh as newly opened flowers. My heart feels light, my mind illuminates and I walk as tall as the trees. My forest, my home - my home sweet home. I love it with all my heart and might.

The first and only known local collection of Stephanotis maingayi was Hullett 147 at Changi (undated). A good sense of time, however, can be cultivated in knowing who Hullett was. 

Richmond William Hullett (his full name) was a most respected scholar and the longest serving headmaster of Raffles Institution in Singapore (1871-1906). Through 1880s and 1890s, Hullett was a prolific plant collector. He took every opportunity to collect and record exotic plants during breaks in the academic calendar for school holidays. His collecting work on Mount Ophir (Malaysia) is especially noteworthy. 

In sharing with you Stephanotis maingayi, I would like to draw you to Hullett's biography (found here) which speaks volumes of his great intellect and inspired presence which touched so many a student under his care. Among them were our respected forebears Tan Teck Soon and Lim Boon Keng. 

I leave with you here the nice warm feeling of rediscovering a long lost climber once recorded in Changi, now in MacRitchie. 

Fallen corolla, creamy white, withering yellow.
Green calyx on long stalk. Hullett's description: "Between
Changi Bangalow and Sungei Salarang covering the
whole jungle side. Flowers white as large as wine glass."
Coiling stem, slender and fine-hairy.
Clear sap
Leathery leaves, ovate to oblong.
Leaf base heart-shaped, basal veins joined.
Both surfaces and stalk fine-hairy.
United anthers. Read morphology of flower here.
A cut-away section showing the gynoecium.
Footnote: Stephanotis maingayi belongs to Apocynaceae Family. Perhaps Singaporeans should be more acquainted with the family. After all, our $1 coin is adorned with the image of the Periwinkle and the 50 Cents coin the Yellow Allamanda; both being plants of Apocynaceae.


WK Tan said...

Hi! Joseph,
I enjoyed reading this article very much.
I was both a student and a teacher in Raffles Institution and,
of course, the name of Hullet is familiar. However, i did not
know that Hullet was such a great botanist until i read your article.
tan wee kiat.

Joe Lai said...

Thank you! Dr Tan : )

Happy New Year! Wishing you and your family peace, good health and happiness.

Joseph Lai

Pat said...

Hi Joseph, thanks for sharing your great sighting at MacRitchie. I find it interesting that this vine leaks clear sap, instead of the milky-white sap characteristic of Apocynaceae flora.

You might have come across the same clump of plant as Yeoh Yi Shuen -- she took several photos of it back in July, Sept & Dec 2012. The vine was blooming rather profusely in mid-Dec 2012. Check out Yi Shuen's photo-set of the said vine.

The above-mentioned sightings confirm that this native vine is not extinct afterall. Have you alerted the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) about your sighting ? Its S'pore vascular flora checklist still states this species as locally-extinct, & there is no record of this plant within its public flora-fauna database.

Hopefully, the plant would remain safe & sound at its MacRitchie abode against potential threats (eg. the planned Cross Island MRT line).

From post: "Footnote: Stephanotis maingayi belongs to Apocynaceae Family."

You might be interested to know that the plant's name has been revised to Marsdenia maingayi. It was found that a number of Stephanotis spp. (& allied groups) are taxonomically-congeneric with Marsdenia. As such, several botanical authorities have since accepted the 1990 & 1995 proposals to conserve Marsdenia against Stephanotis.

Therefore for this plant:

* Family: Apocynaceae
* Genus: Marsdenia R.Br. [nom. cons.]
* Genus Synonym: Stephanotis Thouars [nom. rej.]

* Species: Marsdenia maingayi (Hook.f.) P.I.Forst.
- Austral. Syst. Bot. 8(5):700 (1995)

* Species Synonym: Stephanotis maingayi Hook.f.
- Fl. Brit. India [J. D. Hooker] 4: 39 1883 [Jun 1883]

Note that some other species formerly classified under the Stephanotis genus have been shifted to the Jasminanthes genus, eg. Jasminanthes pilosa (syn. Stephanotis pilosa).

As for the family name, there is a slight disagreement depending on which authority you check with.

According to the APG III (2009) phylogenetic classification, Marsdenia comes under the Apocynaceae family, while Asclepiadaceae has been subsumed into Apocynaceae. Likewise for these databases: Australian Plant Name Index (APNI -- Australian National Botanic Gardens & Australian National Herbarium), TROPICOS, The Plant List, & The Catalogue of Life.

On the other hand, Kew Gardens is somewhat outdated -- it still separately classifies Marsdenia & Stephanotis within the Asclepiadaceae family under the 1992 system. Meanwhile, IPNI regards Stephanotis as a synonym of Marsdenia, but continues to list the latter genus under Asclepiadaceae.

Pat said...

For info, below are some taxonomic references for my preceding comment about Marsdenia maingayi (syn. Stephanotis maingayi).

[1] Apocynaceae: Marsdenia maingayi (Hook. f.) P.I. Forst. (The Plant List)

[2] Apocynaceae: Marsdenia R.Br. genus (APNI)

[3] Current names for some Stephanotis spp., Apocynaceae (The Catalogue of Life)

[4] Asclepiadaceae: Marsdenia maingayi (Hook.f.) P.I.Forst.(IPNI)

[5] Apocynaceae: Marsdenia R.Br. (TROPICOS)

[6] Apocynaceae: Marsdenia R.Br. (USDA GRIN Taxonomy) -- N.B: "conserved (nom. cons.) against the heterotypic synonym Stephanotis Thouars, nom. rej."

[7] Apocynaceae: Stephanotis Thouars (USDA GRIN Taxonomy) -- N.B: "if the two genera are united, a rejected (nom. rej.), heterotypic synonym of Marsdenia R. Br., nom. cons."

[8] Forster, P.I (1995). New names and combinations in Marsdenia (Asclepiadaceae: Marsdenieae) from Asia and Malesia (excluding Papusia). Australian Systematic Botany 8(5) 691-701.

[9] Forster, P.I (1990). Proposal to conserve Marsdenia R. Br. against Stephanotis Thouars (Asclepiadaceae). Taxon 39(2) 364-367.

[10] Asclepiadaceae: Marsdenia R. Brown (eFloras Flora of China)

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