Monday, December 31, 2007

Thai Amorphophallus

A small species from the limestone hills recently flowered ....last few days of 2007
Vegetative appearance in-situ.

ID needed - suggestions welcome !

Amorphophallus albidispathus red stem form as per Alan Galloway and Hetterscheid

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Undescribed Begonia

Seedlings of this undescribed new species from Sarawak 7 months after sowing the seeds.
Here's how the adult looks like, growing at a slope near the riverbank.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


....The light boat passes ten thousand mountains....a Li Bai poem.
When you are light at heart, leaving is easy. Bye !

The morning fog shrouded the limestone hills enroute to Perfume Pagoda near Hanoi. Its not the tourist season, which is just nice for me, but our boat lady complained we are her only customers for the past month.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Impatiens from Vietnam

A highland Impatiens. With the rain pelting on me it was hard to get a good shot of this beauty, but it was one of the few flowering natives on this trip.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Two banks of the river

Vietnamese farmers working their land and harvesting kang kong. They do this every day I was there, rain or shine. At the opposite bank of the Hoi An River sits a four star resort full of tourists recovering from Christmas celebrations nights before.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


A magical moment in Bach Ma National Park about 1000m asl, Vietnam. These large Fish tail palms (Caryota sp) producing nice silhouettes. Its not easy to get to Bach Ma, all the more made worse by recent damages to the road up the 1500 m mountain. Most people took a jeep up and trekked from the dormitory.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Its winter and rice harvesting season is over at the Red River Delta. Amongst a backdrop of limestone hills, cattle grazed. Vietnam is highly agricultural and I was rather dismayed to see many of the karst limestone, especially at lower elevation, contaminated by exotic flora, prickly pear cactus, Hyalocereus (bearer of Dragon fruits), Euphorbia heterophylla, Rheo discolor, Aloes and whats not - the indigenous plants are not so easily sighted, although they are no doubt present.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


....which means devil's yam. An unfortunate common Chinese name for Amorphophallus, a genus from the Yam family(Aroid) which typically has grotesque smelly flower borne from a tuber usually before any foliage appears. Other unfortunate names include corpse flower (Indonesia)and vodoo lily (widely used in the west).

Shown here is Amorphophallus bulbifer, used as a food plant in some parts of Asia (like India). Fortunately, it did not release any of its famed odour during this photo session. This species is medium size, of easy culture and has nice foliage so if one has accomodating neighbours, why not give it a shot ?

Ouch! ....yes dear, will get it out of the apartment right now !

A previous entry of these plants here

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Coffee or tea ?

This unusual form of the black stemmed yam, Colocasia esculenta (yes, the one that we make bo bo cha cha with) is called "coffee cup" in USA. The leaves are really cup-shaped and can hold water during rain - though for what purpose I cannot really tell. The dark purple stem and venations are rather neat. Mei Mei, you may not pour coffee on it...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Rain and a prayer

It has rained for 2 days non-stop. The raindrops paint a shiny gloss on the leaves of Phrynium, a type of prayer plant related to gingers. Its called prayer plant because during the evening, the leaves fold downwards close to the stems - somehow it reminds one of a person pressing both hands together as if in prayer.

Well, let's pray that the changes ahead are for the good of everyone and the rain will be gone and sunlight will shine through.....

.....grow up

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dark clouds

Its the rainy season again. Despite all the climate changes and erratic weather conditions elsewhere, its good to know that the North-east monsoon decided to show up in a timely fashion. Actually the "rainy season" is just a relative term. Singapore is always rainy. But during this period, rain can last 2 to 3 days. Rot and fungus can do a lot of damage to plants during this time.
The foreground shows a tiny unknown species of Dendrobium orchid from Indo-China - the bunch of flower heads are smaller than a 5-cent coin. I shone my torch on the flowers to bounce off some colours from an otherwise monochromatic theme.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Setting a trap

There ought to be a way to trap all the obnoxious scum bugs in our lives, be it car scratchers or blood suckers, and turn them into more meaningful materials .... like fertilisers.

Pitcher plants or Monkey Cups as they are called, have jug-shaped modified leaves that act like pot-bellies - digesting anything that fall inside. The jug of this Nepenthes rafflesiana sits patiently amongst the kerangas wasteland, and is so big it can catch a small mouse, as it sometimes does. This is a common plant and widespread throughout SE Asia.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


A word usually reserved for big men. Modesty preculdes the use for self description. Miserliness precludes the use on one's peers.

Last light at the Fairy Cave in Sarawak. The staircases indicate the scale of this landmark. Those big leaves on the big boulders are actually a species of very big Gesneriad that locals called "One-leaf". Its related to the African Violet and the Latin name is Monophyllea ....which means: one-leaf. More on this unique plant later.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tiger Debate

An interesting article appeared in Straits Times today.
A Chinese farmer from Shanxi published photos of a nearly extinct subspecies of tiger in the wild. Supposedly, he took 71 shots of the animal. The photos made it to the acclaimed Science Magazine in October 2007. Then, internet users and experts started doubting the photos. He eventualy posted a confession of his wrongdoing in his blog, but later dismissed it as coming from a hacker(!!). Apparently, local forestry authorities were on his side, which complicated matters quite a bit. The debate appeared to be settled when an exact image of the animal was found to be published by Vista Printing and Wrapping Co. Ltd, 2002 !
Anyway, I post a photo here for comments and reference.

If you ask me, ....which nobody did, coming from a photographer's point, I would find it hard to take this photograph without a fill-in flash to bring out the brilliant colours of the animal under the shade....but this would mean he could not have taken 71 shots could he ?

GardenTech is here

7-11 Dec 2007 @ HortPark.
HortPark ? That's new to me .... must check out ! Interesting to note its free this year ....
Click here to see more

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Can Can

An unknown Cirrhopetalum, all parts highly mobile at the slightest wind.
Suggestions for ID welcome !

Lydia Grace found a spot

This page from Sarah Stewart/David Small's children book "The Gardener" brings back memory of my campus days when I climbed to the rooftop of my lab building and started a succulent collection....metres away, the exhaust outlet was churning out potentially toxic fumes from the labs below. I believed that was an ideal place for the stonecrops which needed full sun, but they thought otherwise. I later learned that these are temperate plants.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

9pm Treetop Walk

I expected solitude but after walking about a hundred metres beside the fence and through the dark jungle path, I was surprised by the brightly lit Ranger Station manned by a Malay Ranger. A little guy was waiting for me at the toilet floor. I was on all fours looking at this critter, the Ranger checked momentarily but stopped at the entrance....
This is a big cricket (the arowana would choke on this one), wingless and 4-5cm long excluding the antennae which is only slightly shorter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just the two of us ....

.... three is a crowd.
Bulbophyllum subumbellatum from Borneo and Peninsula Malaysia.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fall in love

Autumn in upstate New York soothes the soul. Benign weather, intense foliage colours, apple picking, the aroma of cinnamon doughnut lingering in the cool air and halloween for kids from three to a hundred and three....its a spa treatment every busy people should try. The fall foliage is short lived, no more than 2 weeks after which it gets decidedly grey and even depressing - casual tourists would be lucky to get the timing right.

We trekked a little at Taughannock Falls, a taller and much less touristed waterfall than its famous cousin, Niagara, and went back to the car for our next stop. I took up the tourist brochure to see where we should go next, its cover boldy proclaimed - "Fall in love".....

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The king .... and the kong

Auyong's abode - part2
A lesser known fact of "Orchid King" is that on some nights, he became the spiritual medium of the monkey god. He would go into a trance as the god posses his body - during which believers would request for small favours or have the future told.

....the deity in the altar looks more like a chimp, but who am I to critique ....

Friday, November 16, 2007


Auyong's abode - part 1
These rat-tail orchids (Paraphalenopsis) line the nursery/home of the "Orchid King" Auyong Nang Yip (probably made famous in the West by Eric Hansen's book "Orchid Fever" although already famous in local circles)in Kuching, Sarawak. The place is 1 acre but has 50-60 thousand plants - by his estimation in Borneo Post dated July 2007. Actually,he has another nursery out of town, but we were rushing so we gave it a miss.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gastrochilus (obliquus ?)

Jostling to be pollinated - the ultimate goal of every flower.
Vegetatively its quite similar to Phalenopsis - its bloom is very long lived. This specimen from Thailand.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Colugo in the night

A few nights back, I saw a group of very small noisy nocturnal squirrels around Seletar Reservoir area so I decided to check it out today after work. This time round, I could only hear the frogs and insects, no signs of the squirrels. Nevertheless I pointed the lens at the treetops, searching cluelessly for a target. A couple of motor-bikers stopped beside me along the quiet dead end road and finding this stranger with his camera gear pointing upwards, looked into the same general direction. I was beginning to feel rather silly, when their noisy engines stirred up a furry ball on a branch 15 to 20 metres above them. One of them shouted excitedly - and following his direction, I saw this wobbly thing that I thought was a slow loris. Then, it stuck out its head and the large eyes glowed bright red in the light beam and I realised what it really was.

After explaining to them it was a flying animal but not a bat, they seemed satisfied enough to leave me alone with the beast. The recently purchased $100 torch came in handy for this and I manage to get some blurry shots but it disturbed it so much that it decided to take flight. It was a heart stopping and eerie 5 seconds - like a big brown kite about 40-50cm in wingspan, it glided, in slow motion, silently onto a tree and proceeded upwards in small leaps and was soon lost in the darkness. For people who do not know of such an animal, an experience like this on a moonlit night could easily make them weak in the knees.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Garden by the Bay

More on this massive project

channelnewsasia link

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A fallen log

Recycling - that's nature's way. But this bracket fungus occur abundantly on living trees too - I wonder if its doing any damage. Bracket fungus is rather long-lived, the colourful bands on the fruiting bodies are actually growth rings.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Saving China's plants

Here's a story that touches me, the spirit of the guy I mean, but take out the tissue, its a weepie....

See the Worldwatch Site

There will be more to add to the casualty list where the "functionally extinct" Chinese River Dolphin is firmly anchored. The three gorges dam which will symbolise and propel China's new wealth will at the same time impoverish its ecological heritage.

Some months back I was collecting plants at a site where a dam will be built in 2010.... I hope my plants will have a happier ending....

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Leader of the pack

A leader who stand out from the crowd or stand out for the crowd ?
Sarracenia purpurea
This is a North American bog plant that eats bug fallen into its clever contraption, a smooth walled jug filled with digestive juice. Not sure if it will go dormant in the tropics ....

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Singapore buys Tropiflora

Herald Tribune link

Some background:
Tropiflora is a collectors' nursery specialising in bromeliads.
"Gardens by the Bay" will be situated where the future casino complex will be.

Some people will recall that Singapore made a similar conquest buying over stuff from a bromeliad nursery based in Pacifica (1 hour drive from San Francisco) in 1994. The result is Lady McNeice Bromeliad House in the Singapore Botanical Garden. A couple of friends were doing some temp-time work then and they painted a sad picture. People who visited the place then and now would have reached a similar conculsion. An internet source counted that of the 200 species of air plants acquired, only 20 survived a few years later. Many species that grew well in temperate SF did not do well here and would not flower. We are talking history here. Of course Tropiflora is based in a more tropical Florida east coast - still it does not mean they do not have temperate stuff from S. America.

This resembles a technology transfer situation at my workplace - "copy-smart" or "copy-exact" ? Local top dogs seem to think that transfer wholesale and paying full price for it will replicate success, actually .....I am digressing again.

So well, I will be looking forward to the opening of the Garden, like they say "see it before its gone !"

Friday, November 2, 2007

Baby tarts

....these baby tarts, each the size of one half your last finger nail, roll out of the great mass production machine that is mother nature. Man named it Hoya nabawanensis - after a locality in Sabah.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gothica.... or realm of the blue lily

.....Amaryllis Red Lion to be exact, no longer red of course, due to some dabbling with technology. Kids and Plants are intriguing subjects, rich enough to feed many sleepless nights.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Velvet Anthurium

Unknown plant. ID welcome !

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A limestone jewel

This jewel orchid, Dossinia marmorata is common around the limestone area in Kuching. The area is quite arid and I was quite surprise that it was so abundant we had to avoid stepping on them during our climb. Locals collect quite a bit of them for the horticulture trade too, and one wonders if it will suffer the same fate as Nepenthes northiana, a large pitcher plant from this area which was reduced by over collection and habitat destruction.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Begonia ignorata ?

Got this one years ago - a really difficult one to grow....still no ID and I am not convinced its ignorata....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hoya pimenteliana

.... and a shy admirer, attracted by the scent or beauty. This is a smallish Phillippines native.

Bulbophyllum medusae

Flowering in a swamp forest in Malaysia. The more remarkable fact was that it was sighted by Peter on the slowly moving jeep and the plant was about 20 metres high nested between dense foliage.

Begonia eiromischa

According to the 2007 IUCN Red List, Begonia eiromischa from Penang is now officaially extinct. Actually, it has been "unofficially" extinct for more than 10 years already as the only stream where it was found was destroyed. If only a collector had salvaged some plants, like Begonia rajah, which was thought to be extinct for many years but existed widely in cultivation.

see link

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Plants and Animals Species found in VietNam

A new snake, some new orchids and black flowered Apidistra found in Central VietNam.

Nat Geo Website

Monday, October 15, 2007

A stroll in the woods

Being a holiday, we decided to bring the jeep to Johore for a spin. It was meant to be an easy survey since dad was tagging along, but we got stuck in a muddy, swampy leach heaven with heavy raindrops pouring on us. Dad got bitten for the first time, I was the only one amongst the gang of four which escaped this fate - thanks to my trusty water-proof 3M spray - my socks were soaked with these, hehe.
Here, we were on out way out, going pass a clump of Hanguana malayana (left) - a palm-like plant.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sleeping with the enemy

Caught a tree frog in the nursery, sleeping with the enemy behind the Philodendron. Its supposed to eat the slug, not sleep with it !

Not too bothered with the attention...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Unknown Borneo Bulbophyllum

This is an unknown one, a binnendijkii affiliated but has a bob at the end of the petals, which is not noticeable in binnendijkii. Any suggestion are welcome.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Connecticut 2005

Looking at some older photos in the album....this the famed White Flower Farm in Connecticut put on quite an exhibit in Spring time, mei was only 3 years old then, very sulky and quiet most of the time, so different from now....


The unthinkable happened, a Masdevalia blooming in steamy Singapore. Lost the name tag, suggestions welcome !

Bulbophyllum vaginatum

This bunch from a fallen log in Catchment, cooking under the sun and left for dead 5 months back.... until Boon brought them in. What a comeback ! The sudden downpour after a long hot dry spell did the trick it seems. I am sure some right-wing would not approved of taking things out of Catchment ....

Seemania sylvatica - seed grown

A Seemania sylvatica, seed grown, flowers at last after 8 months

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