Friday, August 13, 2010

First Ladies

The Mussaenda is a tropical ornamental shrub popular to gardeners because of their showy colored "flowers" which are actually the bracts. The flowers are small, star-shaped and are less visible, often obscured by the lush clumps of bracts. The mature plant varies in size from a small shrub to several feet high almost like a small tree.

Our "Doña Luz" Mussaendas.

Although different Mussaendas originated from several tropical countries, probably, no other country has put much love and affection to this plant than the Philippines. This resulted in different hybrids of the native Mussaenda philippica. The hybrids were named after former First Ladies, wives of former Presidents or after former female Presidents. These names are usually preceded by the Spanish word "Doña" for politeness, which means "Madam" in English.

Our native "Doña Aurora" Mussaendas.

Thus, the original Mussaenda philippica ('Doña Aurora' ) and its crossbreeds with other Mussaendas (like M. erythrophylla) resulted in different variations of Mussaendas with names like 'Doña Luz', 'Doña Leonila', 'Doña Trining', 'Doña Esperanza', 'Doña Pacencia', etc. Even the Queen of Thailand has one named after her too, the 'Queen Sirikit', to commemorate her first visit to the Philippines. Most of the commercially grown Mussaendas around the world today trace their roots from these cultivars.

One of our little "Doña Luz" striking out on its own in the garden.
As a testament to its popularity in the Philippines, chances are you will find at least one well-tended Mussaenda growing in public or private gardens. In our garden alone, we have several little Mussaendas. They are still small because they have been propagated from stem cuttings.

I on the other hand, am not much of a Mussaenda enthusiast. I never included this plant in my list of 'must haves'. I have nothing against it, I'm just not much of a follower, I guess. So when Mom said that they have successfully propagated this plant from cuttings they got from neighbors and friends all I could say was 'OK'.

Just like when they started growing the Angel's trumpet, I support my parents for taking special interest with the Mussaenda plant. After all there is nothing wrong about having this plant in our garden. And I know that Mom really enjoys taking care of our Mussaendas. As I said in my older post, our garden is not just about a vision, it's also a tribute to those near and dear.

Maybe I should try my hand in crossbreeding the Mussaenda someday. Who knows, if I'm lucky I may successfully produce a new breed, then I can name it after my mother, the First Lady in our family.

For images of other Mussaenda cultivars visit this site.