EPI 31. Let's Talk Hoya Anatomy

EPI 31. Let's Talk Hoya Anatomy

Isn’t it wild to think our plants have specifically adapted to survive? Not only in nature, but they continue to adapt to live in and thrive in our homes. Join us in this episode as we chat all about how Hoya have developed various adaptations to survive. From leaf shape, metabolic processes and symbiotic relationships, these plants are truly alive!


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Episode 31: Let's Talk Hoya Anatomy



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Leaf Terminology

You may have seen some of these terms used in publications, or even as we chat during the pod. Here's some common terms that are used in relation to Hoya leaves. 

  • Pubescence: soft or fine short hairs on the leaves and stems of plants
  • Glabrous: leaves that are smooth, glossy or absent of hair
  • Lamina: leaf blade 


Leaf Blade Shapes 

Not an extensive list, but these are the most commonly observed leaf shapes within the Hoya genus. 

  • Lanceolate: leaf is wider at base than midpoint and tapers towards the apex
  • Obcordate: heart shaped with pointed end attached to the stem
  • Elliptic: flattened oval, simple leaf shape

Hoya foliage is often rare observed with the characteristics below. 

  • Serrate: leaf margin notched like a saw and teeth pointing towards the apex
  • Undulate: waves in the leaf margin


PC: Google Images 


Environmental Adaptations of Hoya 

Epiphytic plants such as Hoya are adapted to periodic droughts. Even during rainy seasons, epiphytes are exposed to air, sun. Without being rooted in a retentive substrate, they dry out fast. To prevent starvation, they have developed specific adaptations in nature. 

Leaf Structure

  • Many Hoya have developed thick leaves. This is often where the term 'succulent like leaves' comes from.
  • Fleshy 'succulent' leaves allows the development of organs for accumulation of water. 
  • Generally, terrestrial climbers have larger, thinner leaves to capture more light in the shaded forest grounds. 
  • As leaves gain more light & wind exposure, and in drier conditions, they become smaller more succulent to reduce the loss of moisture.
  • Some species do not have this adaptation and generally only keep thick leaves to minimize evaporation. 


  • Hoya have developed a different metabolism to adapt to droughts. 
  • Typically plants open their pores (stomata) when sunlight is present. This causes carbon dioxide update which is transformed into sugar through the photosynthesis and loss of water. 
  • However, Hoya use a metabolism called CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) often observed in succulents, cacti and some fern. 
  • CAM occurs at night. The stomata stay closed during the day and open during the night when the air is cooler and moist. 
  • The carbon dioxide is taken up at night, converted to malic acid and stored until the next day. This malic acid is then converted back to carbon dioxide during the day when the stoma is closed which prevents moisture loss. Wild!

Symbiotic relationship

  • To obtain enough nutrients, Hoya have adapted to survive in more extreme habitats. 
  • Some Hoya, for instance, have built a symbiotic relationship with ants. 
  • By forming balls of leaves, they provide shelter for ant colonies while using their droppings for nutrients. 
  • Ants can also carry Hoya seeds and help with germination 
  • She species such as corymbose, ignorata and some dischidia are only observed growing in ant nests in their natural habitat in a sort of self-sufficient plant-animal community.
  • Some Hoya develop their roots into rotting liter under canopies of trees. The decaying matter provides the Hoya with needed nutrients.


Interested In More Materials That Discuss Hoya Anatomy? 

Interesting article on the secretory patterns in collators of Apocynacea

Read about CAM-idling in Hoya carnosa



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