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Stephanotis floribunda Brongn. 1837
pronounced: stef-an-OH-tiss floh-rih-BUN-duh
aka Marsdenia floribunda (Brongn.) Schltr. 1899
pronounced:also known as mars-DEN-ee-uh floh-rih-BUN-duh
(Apocynaceae – the oleander family)
common names: Bridal Wreath, Madagascar Jasmine, Hawaiian Wedding Flower
Stephanotis is derived from the Greek στεφανος (stephanos), a crown or wreath, and ωτος (otos), of an ear, so it means ‘crown of ears’, with the trumpet-like flower regarded as a passageway surrounded by five ‘ears’; floribunda is from the Latin floribundum, flower-bearing. The name of the species is at present under review by WCSP (the World Check List of Selected Plant Families), and it looks as if Marsdenia floribunda will end up as the official name. Marsdenia is for William Marsden (1754 – 1836), secretary to the Admiralty, orientalist, traveller and plant collector.
Stephanotis is a small genus of about 13 species, most of which come from Madagascar, but a few from China, Japan, the Malabar peninsula, and Cuba. These are evergreen twining climbers with an open habit, and most of them grow up to about 3 m. The succulent leaves grow in pairs; they are clean, shiny, leathery, and, like the flowers, long-lasting.
This plant is, as the common name suggests, a native of Madagascar. It is a tropical twining woody climber, that in its native habitat can grow up to about 6 m tall. The thick, glossy leaves are a deep green in colour, up to about 10 cm long, oval-shaped and opposite.
The flowers emit an almost intoxicating scent, strongly reminiscent of the true jasmine Jasminum officinale, hence one of its common names. However, the species are not related, the jasmines being members of Oleaceae, the olive family. In Hawaii, the flowers are used in the making of hakus, the three-ply plaited type of lei. On the plant, the narrow-tubular, waxy white flowers form in axillary cymes, and each flower is about 7 or 8 cm long, with 5 flaring lobes. The flowers are much used in wedding bouquets.
The plant is very pliable, woody, and takes to pruning and training very easily; it can be persuaded to grow into interesting shapes. With age, the vine will occasionally set seed with an ellipsoidal-shaped pod that cracks open to show winged seeds. This pod can be as large as 9 - 10 cm in length. The soft wood should be pruned back in spring to encourage flowering, and all dead and damaged wood should be removed at this time. While doing this, any tangle of branches may be gently straightened out and fastened to the support where necessary.
Stephanotis is often grown, especially in temperate climates, as an indoor plant. Even in sub-tropical climes, the plants grown in pots on sun-decks and patios are often brought inside for the winter. They do need a small trellis or some other type of support to accommodate their climbing habit. They are not frost-resistant, and appear to prefer a temperature of 7ºC or higher. Outdoors, they like light shade to full sun, and, when brought indoors, should be placed by a sunny window during cold weather. The plant should not be moved while in bloom, not even to twist the pot around in the window, as this will encourage the flowers to drop off. When the plant is not in bloom, it seems to prefer less moisture. During the winter months, some of the long, tender shoots might wither down; but this is normal.
The plant is propagated by collecting seed, or by taking cuttings in summer. They should be planted in soil rich in compost, with good drainage and some supplementary moisture in the hot weather.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2015, 2016
Page last updated 2nd March 2018