Saturday, April 11, 2015

UFO



A few years ago I wrote here that Hoya danumensis and wallichii were similar without even having seen the real Hoya wallichii - the reason being it had not been seen in the flesh for more than 100 years. Michelle Rodda, who had  spent hours looking at pickled flowers in the herbarium promptly corrected me. Reading the worded descriptions in the paper and knowing how some researchers were intolerant of variations within species, I was naturally skeptical .... I was also no taxonomist.

As luck would have it,  the real Hoya wallichii was discovered scrambling in the lowland of Peninsula Malaysia about 1 year later and we even managed to see a specimen in flower. 

And what a flower. 

Not only was it very different from H. danummensis, it was totally unlike any Hoya I knew.     

The umbel produce only a single large dish shape flower with a most striking claw-like blood-red corona. Descriptions in the paper made no mention of the distinctive colour of the corona - understandable considering it was described from a century old pickle.

In the wild, this plant was found on rocky outcrops covered with leaf litter together with other low shrubs and trailers and was really inconspicuous without flower. My impression was that this was a much dryer habitat than that of H. campanulata which was normally found near a water source.
For more details, do check out Michelle's article in Gardenwise, a publication by Singapore Botanical Garden.

Friday, April 10, 2015

being free

I think....one can only be free if he believes he has nothing to lose .....

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Didymoplexiella ornata - the hidden orchid.

It was the onset of rainy season in November and these tiny leafless orchids were blossoming in the dark damp forest floor.   They were not easy to spot but apparently they were so abundant that once we spotted the first and had our senses trained, the rest seemed to emerge miraculously - the pale flower appearing like beacon from the sea of brown leaf litter. 

 

It is not an easy plant to find - not because its rare but because being leafless and unable to perform photosynthesis, the plant exists only as a subterranean tuber most of the time. One can only be certain of its whereabout when it flowers. It derived its nutrients from a network of fungal mycelia which surround and infiltrate the tuber. In turn, the fungi obtained nutrients by breaking down organic matter at the leaf litter.  This mode of parasitic relationship with the fungi is known as myco-heterotrophy.

There are 8 species in  this genus but Didymoplexiella ornata is the only species found in Malaysia and Singapore.

As you can see in the closeups, there are a couple of "spurs" flanking the column and this differentiate this genus from the closely related but more elusive Didymoplexis which is also found in this region.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cup fungus Cookeina

We came across this small colourful fungus a few times in the forests, always in very damp wood or logs. According to R.N. Weinstein, there are 7 species of Cookeina distributed in subtropical and tropical regions worldwide although a couple more have been since his paper in 2002.

This particular one, a dream for photographers, appeared to be C. sulcipes and is widely distributed in tropical Americas, Africa and Asia. It is an edible species and efforts are made to farm them as we speak. The spores are located inside the "cups" - or apothecium for purists - and are released in one go upon maturity. Someone actually counted that 3-24 million spores are released each time from an apothecium !


The colour can be variable - we found a paler variety shown below in Johore.


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