Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vietnam Begonia

Begonia sizemorea, discovered by American botanist Mary Sizemore beside a stream in Hanoi in 1996. It is closely related to Begonia rex, the mother of many foliage hybrids seen in the market today.

fine ciliate hairs originating from the mesophyll is a characteristic of this species.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Less is more

A catch phase from a recent visit to the doctor.

Most flowers are meant to be large and /or colourful - but not this one. A very simplistic and primitive looking, not to mention dull, "flower" of Dorstenia species (maybe turneraefolia or elata), is in fact a receptacle that bears lots of flowers, and eventually fruits. The closeup shows the long "tails" of the stigma coming out from the embedded bulbous ovaries. Surrounding these are tiny brown bobs which are the anthers from male. As the flowers are already tightly packed, the fruits would be even more so as they develop and expand, eventually building sufficient pressure to catapult out the seeds.

This design is highly efficient - this plant replicates quickly in the garden.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mysterious bubbles on the Lake

After clearing a small grove of giant pandans at the Seletar swamp, I encountered this strange phenonmenon

The path of the bubbles snaked menacingly toward me and I was backtracking from the water edge....could it be a monitor lizard or even a crocodile

turned out to be juvenile Snake heads (Channa sp) having a feeding frenzy

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Found on a tree at a golf course ....

....well, its not a golf ball!

A local Hoya with intense fragrance and nice spherical umbel. It has been called by many names, currently settling at Hoya verticiliata.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chirita micromusa

This transient beauty lives, flowers and dies in a matter of weeks.

A Thai gesneriad (African violet family) that produces just 1 large leaf, sometimes followed by a couple of small terminal leaves. Like all Dicotyledons, it started life with 2 small leaves from seeds, but environmental factors (notably gravity) favours one of the leaves which enlarged and droop down wet steep slopes in its habitat. In cultivation, the large leaf will rot from the bottom tip if it touches a wet surface so this growth pattern may be to prevent this - the leaf that faces the steep slope will likely touch the substrate.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Assasin

As the world is jolted by the assasination attempt in East Timor, a Reduviid bug(Hemioptera) from Sarawak plots its own mini-assasination atop a Begonia leaf.

Commonly named Assasin bug, this insect has a voracious appetite for body fluids of other bugs which is obtained by punching its rostrum (probosis) through the thick cuticle of the target and releasing paralysing and tissue dissolving salivia and sucking them out through ths same channel. The Begonia xiphiodes provides a launch pad for its forays. B. xiphioides is found in many sandstone and open forests in Sarawak. Like many Begonias, the attractively coloured young leaves turned plain glossy green upon maturity, although with its red hairy petiole, its not unpretty. This particular one is growing at about 900m altitude near Kalimantan border at an open area beside a footpath. Shortly after taking this photo, we made a good 7 hours hike back to the nearest road passable to vehicles. That nearly killed me ....

Note: It took me a while to realise what this bug was, initially I thought it made those beetle bite marks on the leaves...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Aglaonema (?) from deep shade

Actually I am not so sure if its an Aglaonema species (a relative of the Chinese Evergreen) - perhaps its a variety of the more common species here... but its certainly a lover of deep shade from West Malaysian forest.
The leaf pattern is very striking in the dark leaf litter. Identification welcome !

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


We came a long way to visit this legendary tree supposedly harbouring close to a hundred clumps of Platycerium ridleyii but found it was hacked down, most likely for timber. The ferns were already cooked by the sun. Platycerium ridleyii is rarer and more slow growing than P. coronarium and each of these clumps (some more than 50cm in diameter, basal fronds only) would have fetched a very good price. If alive. This tree also appeared to be of extraordinary size, although the main trunk had been taken away.

Monday, February 4, 2008

An orchid aphrodisiac....flies only

I was intrique by the fragrance of Bulbophyllum patens. Sometimes, it smells like cherry, sometimes it has a spicy smell. I am not exactly sure if the smell changes with the age of the flower. In a genus known for smelly bloom, this virtue is rare.

The fragrant flower attracts the male melon fly (Bactrocera sp)to pollinate it - which is not unusual. The interesting part is, according to literature, the fly actually consumes and stores this spicy chemical, zingerone [4-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-2-butanone], and use it as a sex hormone to attract the female.

The spicy smell comes from zingerone and most likely the fruity smell is that of rasberry ketone, which is very similar in structure and is more potent for the fly. I wonder if the change in smell of the bloom would trigger any changes in the fly's pollination inclination ....

Ref: J. of Chemical Ecology, V 26, 2, p533 , February 2000

Sunday, February 3, 2008


A passe photo - but that's how I remember it.

Conopus Lake was frozen and snow flakes started falling down to blanket the sedges along the bank. Trees and all types of vegetation that were alive appeared dead and their cast-off dried-up shells threw dark contours in the white landscape. Winter scenes like this are commonplace around this region, but always impress people with camera. Which perhaps explain why this photo is so passe.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


One more project remains frozen for now due to uncertain economic outlook. Time to hibernate....

Water droplets quick-frozen on the cone-like fruits of a birch (Betula sp). Bits of ice were floating on the Hudson River. Hudson Highland Park.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Mistaken identity

For more than a century, Phalenopsis bellina was believed to be a form of Phalenopsis violacea from Borneo until Eric Christenson's monograph in 1995 distinguished it from its impersonator by virtue of bigger ovoidal leaves, pigmental chemistry and totally different fragrance. In fact, analysis of the chemical content of the fragrance shows consistently different constituents. Its not easy to describe the smell - I would say violacea smells like a very expensive and heavy bodied perfume while bellina is more like a light feminine deodorant....

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