Monday, March 5, 2012

O. Serrulata

I was reviewing this blog and realized that I am totally biased towards the flowering plant that is the Ochna integerrima (hoàng Mai in Vietnamese, meaning yellow as to distinguish it from another much rarer alba form called bạch mai.) This species grows as a tree of the family Ochnaceae. The spectacular yellow flowers of this plant make it very popular in southern Vietnam, where the cut flowers of this plant are purchased by every family during Tết, the traditional Vietnamese New Year. In Vietnamese, the variety of O. integerrima whose flowers have five petals is called mai vàng (hoàng mai, yellow mai) whereas mai núi (mountain mai) flowers have between five and nine petals.

Ochna is a genus comprising 86 species of evergreen trees, shrubs and shrublets. Better known than O. integerrima is the O. serrulata, aka the Mickey Mouse plant. To be fair to this species, let me talk about Mickey Mouse today.

O. serrulata is indigenous to South Africa. It is planted in southern African gardens and is considered an invasive species in Australia and New Zealand. I can attest to that fact. Years ago, freshly arrived in Miami, I was looking for the O. integerrima but found an O. serrulata instead. Today, I have at least 7 of them growing in my yard, and hundreds of baby plants all around. Very invasive indeed. They are all in bloom right now and the beautiful flowers last but one morning. You may want to know that the binomial name of serrulata comes from Latin's serrula meaning "little saw," that describes the fine saw-toothed structure seen on their leaf margins. In fact, all Ochna species have that feature.

Let me tell you another obsession of mine: I have been in the hunt for an alba O. integerrima that is so elusive that if I ever find one, I am certain I will be in cloud nine; and you'd be the first one to know.
Hoàng Mai

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