Saturday, February 28, 2009

Unknown understorey plant

This is an unknown plant, possibly a young Pandan or an unusual palm. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

A couple of years or so back, this area was in international spotlight after sightings of creatures and giant footprints of what local officials claimed as "Big foot" or giant apeman. Some authorities even mooted the idea of declaring this a national park, but this soon fizzles off as palm oil prices skyrocketed. I had never seen these footprints, but I would very much love to have these claims proven true.

With this post, I end the Peat Forest series for now, until my next trip there....

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Forest Rock Garden

Piptospatha ridleyii, an endemic rheophyte from Peninsula Malaysia growing on mossy rocks at a trickling stream.


Moss covered trunk and bracket fungus. Humidity is very high here, and the air is stale and still. Asplenium phyllitidis is another bird nest fern similar to A. nidus but has narrower leaves. It also inhibits lower and more humid place while A. nidus can be seen in open and dry places, including high up at roadside tree.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A forest pepper

This is the jungle version of our table pepper - Piper porphoryphyllum aff, is a humidity loving plant quite often seen in the Malaysian forest. It may be seen creeping along the undergrowth until it finds a good support from which it continue its growh upwards as shown. It is not an easy plant to grow in a normal garden although it is very ornamental. It will quickly succumb to even short periods of low humidity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Searching for violets

Henckelia puncticulata is found only on steep banks around SE Johore area. Although locally common, globally it is very vulnerable to extinction as its habitat is not protected and subjected to haphazard and ill-planned developments. Where we found it, the plants are forming a vertical carpet covering a steep bank near the river. A bulldozer was noisily doing its damage just across the river as we took photos.
This Asian relative of the African violet does look like its famous cousin, albeit with variegated leaves. I think it should have a place in horticulture.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bat Lily

Beside a small forest stream, stained dark brown by logging up stream, a solitary Tacca integrfolia (Bat Lily) quietly bloomed.

The family Taccaceae is a small family of about 10 monocots from SE Asia and Africa. Recently, taxonomists lump the group together with the true yam family Dioscoreaceae.

This plant is available commercially as a kind of curio. Its not easy to grow at home since it likes dark damp habitat. Its cousin, T. chantrieri appears to be more accomodating and sets seeds easily too - in fact it self pollinates without external help.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A variegated Scaphochlamys

Scaphochlamys is a genus of small gingers with most species at West and East Malaysia. Many species are little studied and even new to science. Due to its pretty foliage, this Scaphochlamys biloba is sometimes found in specialists' cultivation. It inhibits very moist and dark forest floor at this peat swamp and is not easy to grow out of its habitat. In a few localities where it was found, there appeared to be this variegated form as well as a plain green form, both bearing the same bloom. The smallish white flower is borned on a stalked bract like the Cucurma except it is of dull drownish colour.

More peat forest denizens

I may need this, my handphone is not getting any signal. A little moth baby (Lyssa menoetius *). I'm sure your parents will be so proud !

Incidentally, this may be the first sighting of this moth in Peninsula Malaysia, although it has been reported in Borneo, Sangar (where ?) and Sulawesi as well as S. Thailand. More in this Moths of Borneo website.

* ID provided by Mr Gan from Nature Society, Singapore.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nepenthes gracilis

Nepenthes gracilis is a widespread and common pitcher plant from SE Asia. Its latin name describes the long slender leaves characteristic of this species. The normal colour of the pitcher is green, sometimes spotted red but at this open shrubby grassland beside the peat forest, we saw a population with completely red pitchers,almost totally covered by club moss and dried leaves..

While the pitchers are meant to catch prey, it is paradoxical that researchers had documented about 150 species of animals living within the pitchers (Phillips and Lamb 1996). These are commenals, that is they feed on excess food of the pitcher plants without doing any harm. Amongst these are frogs, tadpoles, insect larvae, crabs and crab spiders. Older pitchers are preferred since they are less acidic - so if you grow these plants, trim away the old pitchers to prevent mosquito breeding.

Friday, February 20, 2009


We all know babies are precious....

Photobucket but this minute nymph sitting on the unripened pod of a Globba is a gem.

We were trekking in a threatened peat swamp forest in Johore, Peninsula Malaysia. The peat is formed in wet, seasonally waterlogged areas where decomposition of the organic matter was slowed due to low oxygen content, and hence lower bacterial activities. The whole area is rapidly cleared for oil palm plantation and we witness new devastations in every renewed visits. Fortunately, the plunge in international crude oil price right now should dampen the demand for so called "bio-fuel", which paradoxically, lay claims to be an environmentally-friendly substitute.

I am hoping the oil price will stay that way - it will certainly benefit both men and beasts, at least until greenhouse effect take over.

The next few posts will feature some flora and critters from this forest.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

L-O-V-E .... Begonia bataiensis

L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore can ....

Nat King Cole is irreplaceable.

Begonia bataiensis is a dimunitive Vietnamese species from the karst outcrop, Ba Tai mountain, very recently described for the first time by Ruth Kiew in 2005. This is a treasured gift from a feverish collector.... : )

Looks like Picassa is having serious problem, switching to photobucket to rush out for this Valentine post.....

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The elusive Hoya obtusifolia

I found this very large Hoya from a giant fallen tree in southern Johore many years ago. The stem was so thick and the leaves so thick and succulent I initially though it was one of those climbing aroids. From a cutting, a large specimen many metres long was derived which flowered during the evening. The flowers had a mango-like smell I recalled.

Supposedly, this is not a very common plant. My original specimen perished a couple of years ago and I am still looking for a replacement without success.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Is this somewhere in Somalia ? Ethiopia ?
.... Moon ?

Actually, its the surface of the great butress trunk of a Kapok tree Ceiba pentandra, tilted 90 degrees.

It has been almost two months without rain. This January is the dryest month in Singapore for the past 10 years. Only 38.3 mm of rainfall was recorded, a far cry from the long-term average of 244 mm.

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