Friday, April 2, 2010

Pseudomussaenda flava or Mussaenda glabra - Dwarf Yellow Mussaenda or White Wings

This fabulous evergreen tropical shrub adds a bright splash of colour to tropic garden beds from the New Year right through to the end of the old year.  It grows in partial to full sun and will bloom all year round ... but especially well during the warm summer months ... and requires almost no attention whatsoever.

The shrub can become a little leggy and it can certainly be trimmed into shape if you wish, but I'm more of a 'let it do it's own thing' kind of gardener and these look terrific to me without any pruning.  They survive drought conditions as well as torrential downpours.  They seem to have no pest or disease problems at all ... they seem to love being left alone to do their thing!

I'm a little confused about why it has several botanic names ...  Mussaenda luteola, Mussaenda incana, Mussaenda lutea, as well as Mussaenda glabra and Pseudomussaenda flava.  I'm also not sure why it's commonly referred to as a 'Dwarf' ... all my shrubs are well over three metres high!   I much prefer the common name 'White Wings' ... as you can see from the photo below, that common name makes more sense!

The shrub looks fabulous when it's covered in all its flowers and bracts.  It has these golden star shaped blooms that are surrounded by finely-veined white bracts.  

I have quite a few of these shrubs on my property, but there's one that has a special place in my gardening heart! It's the one that's growing beside the front corner of our verandah.  This particular shrub is now as tall as the verandah railings and is in full sight when we're sitting on the rocking chairs.  Not only does it look fabulous, but the faint perfume from those small star-shaped flowers wafts up onto the verandah whenever there's a gentle breeze!  It's not a heady perfume so it doesn't overpower the senses ... rather, it's a soft gentle sweet smell that just tickles the end of the nose and makes you want to smile.

There's another reason why I do so love these shrubs ... they attract lots of bees and some birds!  All during spring and summer there's a constant buzz of excited bees as they dart from bloom to bloom.  This photo shows our native bee, the Blue-Banded Bee, head first diving in to feast on the sweet nectar.

I'm not sure what bird this is ... but it was also feasting on the nectar of the yellow flowers.

There's a really short (and I mean really short) video clip of the bird drinking the nectar on the link below:
Bird drinking the nectar from the Pseudomussaenda

There's such a lot to love about this shrub ... then, just the other day, I noticed something I've never seen before!  One of the branches ... just one ... on the White Wings near out front gate has variegated leaves!  After having these shrubs in all my gardens over the years, this is a first!

I've been searching any and all references to this plant to see if there's ever been a variegated variety, but so far, have found nothing at all.  Guess I'll have to try and get some cuttings to strike and see if I can't grow my own variegated White Wings.


  1. Bernie, I had the same thought. When I saw your post written dwarf... I thought they were not as they can grow till very tall. Anyway, the traditional musseanda is a big tree. So, I guess comparatively, this one is dwarf :-D

    Thanks for the information on this dwarf mussaenda. I can only enjoy them outside or at the nursery. My garden is too small for them.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. You deserve an award just for listing all those names! I'm with you — 'White Wings' is best! I'm not familiar with it, but it is a lovely shrub. It sounds like my kind of plant, but I doubt we have them here. Definitely try to root the variegated leaves. With the white wings, that would be a spectacular shrub!

  3. It is so pretty! I like the name white wings and it is much easier to remember.:) What a sweet bird, too. I enjoyed your post and beautiful photos!

  4. I like how the yellow blooms are "embossed". So pretty!

  5. Definitely take some cuttings of the variegated branch! I love to propagate mutations of any kind. Sometimes the variegated ones are slower growing and less vigorous, and sometimes they don't bloom as much, but the interesting foliage is worth some trade-offs!

  6. Bernie: This sounds like a very good shrub suitable for my florida garden! I prefer "white wing" name as well, not only it really shows what it is, and also an easy name to remember :) Don't you love those surprises in the garden? Varigated leaves! I think something around it that triggered that variation.

    I love the shade of this yellow, soft yellow and creamy :) together with that white wing, pretty!

  7. I love this shrub! In particular, the combination of the white and pale yellow colors. The beautiful foliage is also so nice. I wonder if this is an Australian native that will grow in my yard? We grow so many other Australian native successfully :-)

  8. I have seen this bush grow wild in the rain forests of the Western Ghats. I haven't seen a vareigated one. Good luck for your plant breeding attempts!

  9. Bernie, How exciting to find this variegation on this lovely shrub. Do keep us in touch with the progress of the cutting. Maybe an air-layering would be safer.

  10. Thanks everyone for your comments ... I see most agree that 'White Wings' is the preferred term and I wholeheartedly agree.

    I will definitely try to strike the variegation, so we'll see how that goes ... fingers crossed.

  11. Wow, its very pretty. I'm all for plants that can garden themselves.

  12. Such a beautiful shrub :o)

    Just popped by to wish you a Happy Easter,

    RO xxx

  13. Bernie, thank you for your Easter greetings. I do hope you have had a wonderful Easter and that you get full enjoyment from what is left of it.

    White wings looks like a delightful plant.

  14. I'm unfamiliar with this beauty, but if it's a tropical species, that explains it. The bit of variegation is intriguing. I know it's said that a virus can cause this, but then I don't fully understand how this relates to all variegated cultivars.
    Love the Brisbane Roma Street Parklands show... a city I really hope to visit one day soon.

  15. There was a mussaenda philippica (white bracts, red tiny flower) in my local park which I loved. It was removed when the garden was remodelled. Recently a big pine conifer in my front yard died and I'd like to replace it with a philippica but can't find one anywhere. I live in Newcastle NSW. Would love any ideas on how I might get one! Your blog is really interesting Bernie.

  16. Daisyday ... I know of one Aussie online nursery that does sell Mussaendas. You could try that. Here's the link to cut and pastea;

  17. Thank you Bernie. Shall try that.

  18. We have two of these, growing in medium size pots. With us, they behave like dwarf, with roots constrained. I may just try pruning to see how they adjust themselves. Yours are blooming happily....


  19. The first challenge is to actually be able to say the name of this amazing shrub. We await your next challenge in creating the variegated variety. Beautiful pictures


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