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An unknown jungle shrub as a hedge?

August 22, 2012

Hedges are useful to maintain privacy and to allow smaller wild creatures protection from cats and dogs. In Chiang Mai Bougainvillea (Nyctaginaceae), Carmona retusa (=Ehretia microphylla, Boraginaceae), Ixora (Rubiaceae), bamboo, Murraya paniculata (Rutaceae) and Duranta erecta (Verbenaceae) are very popular.

However, you may want something different for your own garden, and you may want something that is not thorny like Bougainvillea, and you may want something which does not demand irrigation in spite of six months of drought.

Since Dokmai Garden has well over 1000 plant species in its collection, we keep exploring new species and new ways of using them. For many years I have had my eyes on a native scrambler with ornamental glossy leaves which established itself in the garden. If you use the key of Flora of Thailand (7:1) you end up with Aganosma marginata (Apocynaceae, current valid name is Amphineurion marginatum). The illustration and some descriptions do not fit what we have in our garden, because our specimen has glossy coriaceous (not papery) leaves, highly undulating with long leaf tips but with conspicuous, raised and  intramarginate nerves. The flowers are white and emerge during the rainy season. Any serious botanist is welcome to have a look at our specimen for making a proper ID. I have already had one confirmation but I am still not convinced. It could be a species hitherto not reported from Thailand or even a new species.

There are many Thai names for A. marginata due to its medicinal uses. One is ‘ma duea din’. The leaves are terribly bitter and since many members of Apocynaceae are toxic I would not use this regularly. As to English names I stumbled over ‘common aganosma’ which illustrates the risk of using a scientific name as a vernacular name (it is no longer an Aganosma), and the point with a vernacular name is to invite the layman, not deter him by repeating the scientific name. I suggest ‘jungle hut’ because if you grow it without support it will form a dense bush with a cosy shade and moisture inside, a hut for the little garden creatures.

Thanks to the recent rain and yesterday’s addition of 7 mm of precipitation, I planted 18 leafless woody sticks (40 cm long) straight in the soil, full sun. This is a technique similar to planting cassava. Today I shall go on planting 18 sticks which have been pre-dried like when planting cuttings of Plumeria (of the same family Apocynaceae). My intention is to evaluate techniques for propagation so we can scale up, and also share experience with other people. Results will be shared below under ‘comments’.

The flowers of the jungle hut are blooming now.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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