Some Hoya in habitat photos

tropicbreezentSeptember 17, 2012

Thought there might be some interest in seeing how some Hoyas grow as it gives a better understanding of the conditions they prefer. I'm still on holidays and travelling, and currently in Cooktown, Queensland. This is where Captain Cook pulled in after running his ship aground on the Great Barrier Reef. They had to dump 50 tonnes of supplies, including cannons, overboard to save the ship. Took them 7 weeks to get repairs done during which time their (now) famous botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander went ballistic on collecting and illustrating newly discovered plants.

The area lies on the edge of the Wet (rainforest) tropics and the dry (savanna woodland) tropics. I climbed Mt Cook, a small mountain right on the edge of town. The base of it is composed of poor, granitic soils and only supports savanna woodlands. The upper parts are covered in rainforest. This provides for a range of habitats. It was on the lower slopes that I found a lot of Hoya australis. Going by geographic location (I can't pick the differences visually) it would be either ssp. tenuipes or ssp. sanae.

The conditions are pretty tough during the dry season (winter) when you get constant strong south east trade winds and it's continually hot and dry. Proximity to the sea would provide some margin of air humidity. The plants under the sparser woodland canopy looked better than those on the exposed rocky areas. None were flowering but the exposed plants had more peduncles.

Further up the mountain you have the rainforest with a much denser canopy. The different vegetation is very noticeable. It was here that I found Hoya pottsii growing over rocks and up into trees. The plants showed no signs of stress like the australis in the exposed sites. Didn't notice peduncles on any of the plants though either.

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Thanks a lot for the pictures & the explanation! It's very interesting to see how the Australian Hoya's grow.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:05AM
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Wow, that is very interesting! So cool to se pictures of the plants natural habitat, and their growth pattern in the wild. Thank you so much for posting these pictures!!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 6:49PM
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This is fascinating. Thank you for posting this! Do you know what the temperature range is for these areas throughout the year? Sounds like some of them have adapted to conditions we might consider too harsh for hoya... or that the hoya have "adjusted" by thriving in one area vs. another.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 8:45AM
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Thanks a bunch!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading what you had to say and the pictures. It does give you a better understanding of this plants. I only wish I could visit where you are. It must be interesting and beautiful wrapped into one.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 9:40AM
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Thanks for looking in and for the comments. I've only just arrived back home today. The climate statistics for Cooktown are on the Weather Bureau site, URL as follows:

There's a number of H. australis subspecies, the ones in the photos are most likely ssp tenuipes as I believe ssp sanae is a bit further north. (Ssp. australis is a lot further south whilst ssp oramicola and ssp rupicola are much further north west.) The only one that I can visually distinguish is ssp rupicola as it's the local one where I live.

Having seen at least 3 of the subspecies in habitat, it would be a fair guess that H. australis likes rocky, more exposed environments with a very dry winter (Dry) season. You can see in the last photo of the H. australis how the plant is yellowing and wrinkling from the harsh dry conditions. However, as with all the others, it will come back really healthy when the rains set in. It tends to seek out these conditions. So it's probably one of the Hoyas that would most likely be killed by kindness rather than by neglect. Our local ssp rupicola is even more extreme in its liking of harshness.

The H. pottsii is pretty much opposite. It thrives under a heavy canopy (shade) on the sheltered side of the mountain. In this situation it would be in a more humid environment than if it was on the windy side of the mountain. The mountain is only 431 metres tall but one side drops steeply straight into the sea. That's the side that gets the south easterly trade winds during the winter/dry season. So the lesson here would be to keep pottsii in bright light but out of continual direct sun, keep it on the dry side during winter but maintain some degree of relative air humidity.
During the summer/wet season both species are subjected to frequent torrential rainfall and constantly very high humidity.

Further up the coast (northwards) are H. australis ssp sanae, H. sussuela and H. macgillivrayi. But this trip I didn't get up that far. Maybe next time, and I'll come back with in habitat photos of those species. :O)

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 4:45AM
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What a great tour! I especially enjoyed the way you walked us through multiple habitats and detailed what you were seeing. I love australis ssp. and just acquired a couple more specimens from Iris that I am very excited about. I haven't killed any with kindness, but they do shrivel in the winter, and that does terrify me.

I really look forward to your next trip. xD

My mom talked me into reading Bill Bryson's In Sunburned Country, so I've been having a lot of dreams taking place in Australian terrain lately. Pretty terrifying dreams mostly lol.

I have this ex who was such a city boy that when we went to visit my parents, who have a farm in rural Iowa, he would refuse to leave the highway to refuel, once we left Minnesota. He was convinced that it would be like an episode of The Twilight Zone, where once we took one of those dark country off ramps, we'd never really be able to make it to the brightly lit gas station, and just end up driving down a dark country road forever.

I think 90% of Australia makes me feel like 90% of the US makes him feel. ;)

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 11:53AM
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Glad you enjoyed that GG. I've attached another photo, pretty sure it's H. pottsii. It's almost closed canopy, but the vine has grown on a tree that's now leaning out over a creek. If (eventually when) the tree topples it'll fall into the creek. That doesn't sound too bad, however, in this case it's a tidal creek with salt water. Nature doesn't always do what's best.

I haven't read that book but I looked at the reviews in the link. It's interesting the different perspectives that different people take. I've lived most of my life in remote and outback places and find the sharks, crocodiles, snakes, spider, etc., fairly ordinary. What would scare me more is having to live in a city with murderers, muggers, thieves, drunken drivers, etc., etc. I guess I find consolation in the things I'm familiar with, just as city people do with what's in their environment.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 8:14AM
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LOL Oh no! The pottsii doesn't even realize it's being dangled over a pit of death.

I may doubt my survival skills, but I definitely believe that the further you live from a city the more natural primal pleasure you get from your surroundings. I read once that people in cities appear more unfriendly than they are simply because the high cognitive load of the environment forces them to block out as much "unnecessary" stuff (e.g. looking other people in the face and reacting appropriately) as possible. Even though the scene above is equally dense in terms of visual and auditory stimuli, it doesn't drain our reserves in the same way.

I don't know that I would personally recommend Bryson's book. It reads a little too "Dear Diary, today I met another down to earth Australian in another desolate bar! I am so out of my element!" But I did find it interesting that when I picked it up this morning, the first paragraph I read was his account of Cook & Banks. /cues eerie music

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 1:17PM
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When it comes to survival skills you'd be surprised at what you can do when you need to. I went through a near-death experience in the 'wilds' and others have said they would have just given up. But you don't know until it happens to you. The survival instinct is strong, and you go into 'denial mode' where you refuse to believe things are as bad as they are.

With Cook and Banks becoming stranded at (what was to become) Cooktown, I suspect Banks was sabotaging the boat repairs during the night so that they'd stay there longer and he'd get more time to botanize (just my suspicious mind of course, LOL).

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 6:39AM
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Fantastic photos, thanks for posting them.

GG I have some in-laws who refuse to let their kids run around outside on my mothers farm. They are afraid that Coyotes will attack them which is ridiculous to say the least. How is it that I survived my entire childhood adventuring in the woods but they can't even feel safe on the lawn?


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 12:41PM
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Ohh.. I wish we had this landscape in South Australia.... :) Wonderful

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 9:19AM
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@ tropicbreeze

:P Excellent theory on Banks. Wasn't he quite young at that time?

I completely agree with your perspective on the survival instinct. I'm sorry you had to find out first hand how strong yours is, but I'm glad you're still with us! (And still adventuring :))

@ Mike

LOL That is a great story. I miss the days when kids were understood to be durable with an innate sense for self-preservation.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 12:21PM
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