Saturday, April 26, 2008

On the road again

Argh.... logging truck. Seems to see them wherever we go in Borneo.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Memory of Nepenthes tentaculata in the wild

Last year, we found this species of pitcher plant with long hairs growing amongst spagnum moss at about 1000m asl within a National Park in Borneo. Everyone took turns to take photos with the plant as if it was a celebrity. It was rather plain Jane but to see it sitting snuggly amongst the moss in such numbers was quite exhilarating, especially after the long trek.

Despite its plain appearance and ready availability in tissue cultured sources, I was just told that commercial collectors had wiped out the local population in our not-so-secret locality. This ill-concieved undertaking could not have been very profitable but it certainly robbed the latecomers a chance to experience the wonderment that we felt.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A compromising position

a quickie at a frog pond during weekend ....

....ahem, excuse me, I am kind of stuck right now ....

As I watched these love bugs, a hornbill landed on the ground barely 5-6 metres behind me, scooping mud into its beak several times. Then it flew away nosily.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ali 's walking stick

At a coastal hill forest in Peninsula Malaysia, we walked into an area populated by many Tongkat Alis of varying ages. Eurycome longifolia or Tongkat Ali as it is known locally - is a miracle plant in this part of the world. It has been used traditionally as a tonic, a malaria drug and most famously an aphrodisiac from Indonesia, Malaysia all the way to Vietnam, where it was called “Cay Ba Binh”, the tree that cure a hundred disease. So you can imagine our surprise seeing so much of them outside a protected park.

Standing proud and errect, this old specimen promises to ease the anxieties of many Asian men....if only its more accessible !

As the local pointed out to me, even Tongkat Ali's fresh leaves stay turgid and uncreased after you tried to fold it.

Despite its thin trunk, this small tree has a very deep tap root from which all the miraculous chemicals concentrate. I once tried to pull a small plant less than 2 metres tall and a girth of 6-8 cm thereabout and it would not move at all. My guide said if I could pull it out with bare hands, I would be the "He-Man" in his village !

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tiny Tim - an unknown Bulbophyllum

Bulbophyllum membranaceum aff - origin Sabah. The tiny plant flower en-mass. There are about a hundred flowers in my clump - but they are tiny and testing the capability of my 150mm.

Any suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Paph of many names

Paphiopedilum bullenianum was first described in 1865 from plants obtained in Borneo. Over the next hundred years or so, about eight more names have been assigned to the same (according to Phillip Cribb) plant, amongst them a plant known as P. johorense found in Gunung Panti in Johore, West Malaysia. My old copy of the Malayan Orchid Review had an article by K. F. Yap documenting the "rediscovery" of P. johorense in 1963 - at that time Yap was already clear that the so called P. johorense was the same plant as P. bullenianum of Borneo.

Despite the difference in collection locality, the pictures show that my Borneo plant (at the top) is very similar to the Johore plant below, not withstanding the faded colours of the old print. Prior to advances in mass communications, early taxonomists have limited knowlege of database to search for plant specimens to compare with and frequently penned new names for previously described plants. Modern taxonomists sometimes do the same thing. This time, the cause is not due to lack of resources, but more to the degree of tolerance of differences....number of spots on the petals, length of the flower stalk, degree of leaves mottling and the like.

Fortunately such intolerances did not extend to mammals (me thinks)....there would be at least a handful of species of Homo sapiens, elevating the turf war and mayhem that's already happening.

Ref: Slipper Orchids Of Borneo by Phillip Cribb. Natural History Publications.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Begonia pendula

A variable Begonia originally described in 1906 and restricted to limestone areas in Sarawak, growing on a vertical cliff. Plants may be plain green, green with white streaks or brown with white streaks as in this case. As far as I know, it has never been brought into cultivation. The plant appears to weather through dry spell very well and has rather tough fibrous stems.

At the bottom of the pic are a couple of Homalomena rubra -an aroid with nice reddish petioles and leaves usually associated with calcerous places.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Jumping Jewel

It was a Sunday hike with the kid and being Sunday and being Singapore, the nature trails in MacRitchie were choked with joggers and noisy visitors, the latter sometimes in packs of eights and tens....I barely had a chance to aim my lens at anything that can move and was almost indiscriminate, pointing the camera at that chick in her mini shorts ....

Then I found this jumping jewel on the almost spent Costus speciosa flower. It was barely 1 cm across and very active, jumping everywhere, so a tripod would be useless. They walked or jogged past and threw casual glances at this guy aiming a camera at a spent flower. They did not see what I saw for only I had the 150mm macro. So for a moment, I shared this little niche with the spidey and considered myself happy....

This Phintella sp is related to a species of jumping spiders recently proven by researchers from Singapore to utilise light in UV-B wavelength range to attract mates. This is the first confirmation of any animal being able to detect UV-B - the harmful ray that cause skin cancer and cataracts in humans.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More Ficus deltoidea

This is the form given by my friend, supposedly from lowland of Kinabalu. It looks very different from the forms I have seen - having bluish waxy figs and long paddle shaped leaves. This fig is very variable and has been known to occur from lowlands up to 3000m asl. According to Corner, there are 13 varieties of this interesting species :

1. var.deltoidea
2. var. angustifolia (MIQ.)CORNER
f. angustissima CORNER
3. var. arenaria CORNER
4. var. bilobata CORNER
5. var. borneensis CORNER
f. subhirsuta CORNER
6. var. intermedia CORNER
7. var. kunstleri (KING) CORNER
8. var. lutescens (DESF) CORNER
f. longipedunculata CORNER
f. subsessilis (MIQ.)CORNER
9. var. motleyana (MIQ.)CORNER
10.var. oligoneura (MIQ.) CORNER
11. var. peltata CORNER
12. var. trengganuensis CORNER
13. var. kinabaluensis (Stapf) CORNER

Ref : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, Volume 256, Issue 808, pp. 281-317 (Nov 1969)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ficus deltoidea

The leaf of a mistle-toe fig, a smallish fig that could be terrestrial, epiphytic, lithophytic or even possibly rheophytic in the wild - I have seen specimens growing on rocks beside streams with the roots dipping into the water ; if the water rises during monsoon, it would no doubt be submerged, at least partially.

This decorative fig is widespread in Malesia and often cultivated for its beauty and medical properties. The plant is known as Mas Cotek in Malaysia and is reputed to be a good aphrodisiac. Supposedly, Orang Asli also used this to treat goutand high blood pressure. Satchets of its tea are sometimes available in Malay Jamu stalls.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Silence is Golden

On a moonless night, tracing the source of a noisy croak, my light beam landed on a Copper Cheeked frog Rana chalconota sitting motionless in Nee Soon Swamp. Probably the strong beam had blinded him momentarily. This frog is confined to forest areas. It can be green or yellowish, as in this case.

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