Sunday, October 8, 2017

Around Baldy Hill

It had not been raining for about 3 months at the Thai-Burmese border, near a hill the locals called Baldy Hill (translated). This region has a Tropical savanna climate, characterised by pronounced dry/wet seasons with a mean temperature no lower than 15 Deg C.

When we visited the area, we were in the middle of the hot dry season.... as we stepped out of the car, we were engulfed by the searing heat .....

40 DegC ..... now we should be assured our packet food would be kept warm for some time.

The limestone hill was brown rather than bald - quite a few of Cycads and Palms and low scrubs. The scenery at the top was nice, if rather glaring, as I did not have my shades.

Near the summit ridge, most of the herbs were dried-up, like these clumps of a Paraboea, a relative of African Violet. They look dead but upon receiving rain, they will spring to life again.

Interestingly, we did find the rare endemic herb Campanula rosmarinifolia in a flowering mood. This is really one tough cookie.

 The parched coppery fronds of a Drynaria (basket fern). Just like most flora here, it will spring to life once the rainy season arrives.

The dance of death - the white t strangler fig began its life as an epiphyte on its host. but its roots touched ground, however, it grew rapidly and very quickly over-powered its host tree and send it tumbling to the ground. In a savannah like this, it does not seem to make alot of sense but in a dim, dense forest, such a strategy effectively eliminate its competitor for the precious light.

Phoenix loureiroi is a widespread relative of the date palm Phoenix dactylifera and is common in deciduous forest and seasonally burnt scrubland such as this. Like the dates,  fruits are edible 

 
The young plants are extremely sad looking - but the deep tap roots ensure most survive the drought. Having grown them from seeds, I found that in its first year, the seedlings looked like grasses and focussed its energy on strengthening the root system.

The blackened trunk shows it may be burnt by forest fires frequent during dry seasons.

This variety appears to be Phoenix loureiroi var. loureiroi from the appearance of paler leaf margin and abaxial midrib
Another prominent plant is Cycas siamensis - a palm-like plant that is actually extremely very primitive and very unrelated.
(Sidenote: actually, we did witness a bush fire in the evening as we drove back)
It's blooming season for the Dendrobiums - this is a D. lindleyi burning spectacularly high up on a tree ...
and this appears to be Dendrobium tortile although at this distance I cannot be sure.

On a bare tree trunk, clumps of tiny Dendrobium gregulus bloomed under the scorching sun. Each pseudobulb is about an inch or so in diameter. This species is endemic to NW Thailand.

 Near the summit, a lone Amorphophallus longituberosus was about to bloom...
.... at the base of the hill, an Amorphophallus yunnanensis already did. Unlike the previous species which has a long fusiform tuber growing deep into the ground , this plant has a very round and shallow rooting tuber.

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