Thursday, October 14, 2010

At a Coastal forest

Generally mangroves are not my favourite place ....with their muddy ground, humid pungent air and a potential crocodile lurking somewhere. On top of that, this particular one off the east coast of Malaysia appeared to be infested with belligerent macaques - I took heed of their shrieking war cries and angry barrage of the twigs tossed from up high and made a hasty retreat the day before.

Yet the next day, I returned, with a companion and an umbrella - just in case. I had to get through this mangrove to reach a jungle path behind it and my curiosity was getting the better of me.

Almost immediately, we were met by this critter, which appeared to be a form of plantain squirrel that is larger and more bushy-tailed than its southern cousin...... .... our attention soon turned to the water to find some darting mud skippers - a melancholic looking goby which can breath fact it has been kown to drown in aquariums tanks which have too much water. .... the large orchid Cymbidium finlaysonii is everywhere near the clearings, even growing on the sandy ground. As we ventured further inland, we entered a lowland dipterocarp forest which turned out to be an orchid paradise. I was surprise to see this Dendrobium aloifolium growing in clumps on boulders so near the ground level - I had previously only seen them on fallen logs - usually they are perched high on the inaccessible parts of the trees. This plant had very interesting succulent leaves but its flowers - borned on the long terminal spikes, were minute and unattractive. Bulbophyllums seemingly from section Sestochilus were all over the place - this one dangling above the water was pregnant. It appeared that I had just missed the flowering season as none of them were blooming ..... .... another orchid that looked also like a Bulbophyllm but was in fact Thelasis pygmaea.Draping the branches and rocks are these Dischidia bengalensis .... a common and widespread Asclepiad that lived in close association with ants..... just above our heads are these Hydnophytum formicarum - a curious member of the Rubiaceae family that had hollow chambered stem sheltering ants and many other creepy crawlies - this particular one had a 10cm long centipede curled within. These tenants paid their dues by providing protection and whatever crap and leftovers to nourish the plant.On higher ground and crossing a stream, green and red forms of Nepenthes mirabilis were growing on the soggy banks. Some Dipterocarps had left their winged fruits on the ground ; these would make an interesting potpourri - all I need is a few drops of fragrant oil !As we walked pass this straggler vine and its host, we were reminded once again that even in the seemingly docile plant world, the savage struggle for resources was unrelenting ..... Bad luck for the tree ....its fate was sealed. The straggler constricted and cut through its bark, impeding the flow of water and food, and the tree suffered a slow demise. After it eventually rotted away, only a giant spring-like liana will remain, with one less competitor for sunlight.Trees along the trail were not really very big - this was one of the bigger one, and came equipped with a useful little hollow. The monkeys did not show up this time but the rain did, so we had use for the umbrella afterall. We kept our heads and noses dry....more or less.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spathicarpa hastifolia

The Drosophila are having a splashing good time fooling around on the spathe....or spadix of this aroid. In this South American plant, the spathe and spadix are fused - so it appears that the flowers are borned straight on a leaf.

Actually, the true leaf is more heart shaped - which is how it got its latin name.

There are a handful of species of Spathicarpa confined to sub-tropical/tropical S. America and all have the a habit of going seasonally dormant. This species is related to the more commonly cultivated caterpillar plant Spathicarpa sagittifolia.

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