Thursday, September 25, 2008

Death at Calamus Avenue

A gruesome murder along the jungle trail....

Synopsis of crime : The accused is a species of Cordyceps, a parasitic fungus, that had infected a blow fly some days/weeks back. Slowly, its mycelial filaments had spread into the internal organs and suck the fly dry. But the depleted zombie fly must complete one last act before it was allowed to RIP . By not injesting the vital muscles for movement and manipulating the nervous system of its host, the fungus drove the fly to stagger towards the direction of bright light, in this case an elevated stem of a Rattan (Calamus sp), before pulling the final trigger, destroying the brain and locking its host eternally in a characteristic rigor mortis with limbs and wings outstretched. In this way, its fruiting body, which then sprout from the cadaver as shown in the photo, will be unhindered and free to release the spores at a high and exposed location to effect greatest distribution of its progeny.

Verdict: Guilty of murder and body snatching.

While many may be familiar with the expensive Chinese panacean Cordyceps sinensis, there are actually more than 400 species of this mostly tropical insect-eating fungi. This one is found in Catchment area in Singapore

Post note: The Cordyceps appear to be Ophiocordyceps dipterigena. I had initially thought that the host was a bee.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hoya sariae

This recently described, slow growing Hoya from the Philippines is not an easy grower for me, but its beautiful campanulate bloom is worth all the trouble. I am trying a few tricks to make it happy but it appears that new shoots still tend to dry up without warning.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Monophyllaea at the Fairy Cave

Monophyllaea singularis growing at the mouth of Fairy Cave in Sarawak. Unlike the previous species, this is a large plant, the single oblong leaf reaching 90cm long. Another peculiar feature of this species is that the flowers grow as double rank along the leaf stalk, and may spread to the upper surface of leaf lamina down the mid-rib - you can roughly make out the undulations on the leaf stalk at the top photo, these are the flowers. Unfortunately I could not get a good closeup due to the fading light.

While locally common, throughout the world, this plant is only found in the limestones around the Bau area in Sarawak.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A small Monophyllaea

There are about thirty plus species of Monophyllaea, or "one-leaf" as it is known in some places. This is a Gesneriad (from African violet family) which has only a single large leaf derived from a cotyledon, the other leaf has been suppressed from growth. The plant is usually found in limestone, with the exception of 2 species, and they usually have large leaves at least 20 cm long.

However at a wet granite rock in West Malaysia, I found this curious species, flowering when it was very small (about 5 cm long). The only species found on non-limestone in this part of the world is M. horsfieldii, according to B. L. Burtt (1978). Could this be a new species or just an aberrant M. horsfieldii ?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


...but thats OK.

Life is too short to be perfect in everything.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

remembering Nic ....

for a friend who had to die when she was at her most vibrant ....

Departed 28Aug08 at an accident overseas, only 26....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Variations of Nepenthes albomarginata

Usually considered an intermediate-growing species (ie needs cool growing condition), we were surprised to find this pitcher plant growing on white sand under the shade of shrubs in extremely hot lowland kerangas forest in Sarawak. The more common form in cultivation comes from highlands, a famous one being the Cameron Highland form from Peninsula Malaysia. This is rather unfortunately, of the plain green form.

A much more beautiful variety, supposedly found only in Gunung Mulu, is dark purple or black. I saw this on sale in a Singapore nursery just a few days ago, but the price was rather cut-throat.
Whatever the forms, this distinctive species has a pale ring around its lid made up of white fine hairs. It uses this to attract its prey - termites. The critters would chew on the hair and some would inevitably drop into the slippery death trap.
Shooting the smokey pitchers against a grey concrete background create a moody monotone effect with just a tinge of green colour showing. Without spending a cent, I had acquired 30 or so images to look at whenever I please and was contented to put the plant back on its rack.

Prudence in the age of recession.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Curious parasite - Aeginetia indica

Beside a swampy trail just under the shade of tall lallang, we found this interesting holoparasite which grow on roots of grasses (Cyperales and Graminales). This relative of the broomrape is found throghout East Asia.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Sundew

At an exposed mountain ridge in Sarawak, we found a population of blooming sundew, Drosera sp (most likely burmannii) on a rather dry looking ground. Sundews are carnivorous plants, their "tentacles" are lined with droplets of sticky glue which traps unsuspecting insects from which their leaves will enfold. Sundews love high humidity and are normally found on spagnum moss and marshy places so this habitat is rather surprising....but the nearby swirling mist reminded us this was not as dry as it seemed.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Arisaema fimbriatum ssp bakerianum

This weird aroid from limestone of Southern Thailand and Northern Peninsula Malaysia has a unique bristly spadix protruding from its pitcher-like spathe. The original type was described by Masters in 1884, from plants mixed up with some Phillippines orchids. In 1896, another botanist Curtis collected more specimens off the Thai coast.

According to G. Gusman (2003), these represented 2 different subspecies, the more widespread subsp fimbriatum and the more restricted bakerianum. Amongst other characteristics, the former subsp has spathe that is stripped white while the latter is without stripe. Vegetatively, the former has 2 leaves while this one has one only. Geographically and in habitat, they are also quite different - the former is found extensively inland in North Malaysia and Thai border while the latter is found on isolated islands in W. Thailand only.

As noted by Gusman, I found this plant growing on limestone cliffs just a few metres above the sea and would no doubt be exposed to the sprays. That's an unusual habitat for an Arisaema.

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