Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Today marks a milestone....things sure grow fast in the tropics !

This Tillandsia xerographica, seen here posing with the kid, was obtained from a Caucasian expat leaving the country. It had me scratching my head then, as I wondered whether this clump of stiff rootless grey mess was still alive. Well, the mother plant had since flowered; withered and disintegrated and its small pup (no longer, as you can see) is eventually of flowering size, repeating the life and death cycle typical of most Bromeliads. As it dies, a new pup would emerge....I hope.

As fate had it, this Tillandsia was the first of the many air plants I now grow. Typically, people would start with something smaller and more manageable....

OK kiddo, let's try that again, its tee-lan-sii-aaa...no not tarsier ! Alamak the mosquitoes are here, let's hop back to the car .....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Knee Jerk

A public outcry....and an administration bent against going out on a limb stretched its long arms of the law to recoup monies it had ceremoniously but unthinkingly gave out previously.... ....meanwhile, these red larvae of an Erythraeid mite are harvesting the Harvestman (Oppiliones).
Well, they are only doing what they are brought up to do ....

Friday, March 27, 2009

Some Kind of BLuE - Pompelon marginata

This diurnal Zygaenid moth, Pompelon marginata has electric blue wings covering red underpart that shows proudly only when it flies. This signals its toxicity - it is a cyanogenic moth - manufacturing and storing the respiratory toxin hydrogen cyanide. Caterpillars of Zygaenid moths feed on cyanide containing plants and then went on to manufacture more on their own, exuding them in form of a yellow brown liquid form along its body when disturbed. Many species carry this toxin to their adulthood.

G.M. Tarmann (A revision of Australian Zygaenidae) mentioned an interesting account in 1959 whereby a lady named Miriam Rothschild exposed 2 drops of such brown liquid on an open needle wound on her forearm. This liquid was obtained from a Burnet Moth, a relative from the temperate climate. This is what he said: "Almost immediately, sensations of breathlessness occured, associated with sweating and rapid pulse rate that increased to 120-130 beats per minute." The symptom persisted for several hours.

Well, she sure was lucky it was not from something more noxious.....like an American arrow poison frog.

This critter was found in fluttering at Bukit Panjang park.

Many thanks to Mr Gan from the Singapore Butterfly Interest Group for the ID.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Undescribed Eriostemma Hoya

This thin vining Eriostemma with glabrous leaf and stem comes from Papua New Guinea and is as yet undescribed. After a hot dry spell, the cooler rainy spell appears to induce it to flower freely. The green campanulate flower is rather small for this section and the centre of the corona is covered by dense hairs. According to Mr David Liddle, it is closely related to Hoya hollurungii.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The smallest Aroid....well almost

This very small plant of the Schismatoglottideae tribe has leaves only about 4cm long. They were found on a sandy flood zone of a small stream in Sarawak and would no doubt be submerged at least some time of the year. Bucephalandra motleyana was first discovered and named by Schott in 1858. It is endemic to Borneo and was for some time, thought to be the smallest Aroid, until the duckweed Wolffia was transferred over from family Lemnaceae.

There are only 2 species in this genus of rheophytes and both are found in Borneo only. The other species Bucephalandra gigantea is a rare plant from East Kalimantan, described only recently in 1984.

Schott, H.W. (1858) Genera Aroidearum. (Ueberreuter: Vienna).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Phalaenopsis gigantea - a megalomaniac's dream

This biggest member of the sixty odd species of Phalaenopsis, the leaves of which has been measured to be 90cm long and 40 cm wide, was first collected in 1897 by Niewenhuis somewhere in Borneo and described by JJ Smith in 1909.

It was only fourty years later in 1937, during a road construction through the east Borneo (Kalimantan) jungle, that this plant was rediscovered but the stock was stripped and totally wiped out in the wild.

The plant was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery another 40 years later, this time in North Borneo (Sabah) and again the wild stock was completely plucked out by collectors. Thereafter, wild specimens of these plants periodically appear and disappear in the market as collectors found and decimated the plants in its new found locality*. It was just early this year that some Malaysian nurseries obtained another batch of wild specimens so its good to know its still hanging on somewhere in the jungle of Borneo.

Despite being a lowland orchid, its large size and demand for high humidity makes it a challenge to grow at home or any typical greenhouse. I have tried growing from seedlings - the growth rate is painstakingly low. Leaves of my 4 years old seedlings are hardly 6cm long. Seedlings of similar age of P. amboensis are already blooming. I wonder how long it will take to reach 90cm....

I found an excellent source of information on this orchid genus by a French enthusiast Species Phalaenopsis

* Harold Koopowitz, Orchids and Their Conservation, Timber Press, September 1, 2001

Monday, March 9, 2009

Porcelain....Hoya coronaria

Along a coastal road in Northern Johore, we found flowering vines of Hoya coronaria curling about some coastal vegetation. The hairy stem and leaves are coarse to touch and the vine itself is quite thick, about 1.5cm in diameter.

While the plastic-like flowers are attractive, this vine needs plenty of space and blooms infrequently. This, unfortunately, is generally true of species in the Eriostemma Section from which this plant belongs. To induce bloom, place it in full sun ; some people also suggested putting lime in the medium or subject it to water stress.

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