Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cautionary tale of Sam and Jane

Sam: Yes Jane, put some eggs here, this is a good spot, don't worry I am watching out for you.... too, that's right, like they say, don't put all your eggs into one basket.... why of course I am still watching out for that ....


....bye was fun having you...

While trying to get a good shot of these Bicolored Damseflies Ceriagrion cerinorubellum, I drove them straight into the path of a pouncing Green Paddy frog Rana erythraea.

A cloudy day at SBG.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pecteilis susannae

The orchids from genus Pecteilis consists of 10 or so Asian terrestrial species which shows seasonal dormancy. P.susannae is a widespread plant found from eastern India all the way down to Borneo and Sulawesi. It has a longish tuber which needs cool dry resting period to initiate flowering. Growers in Singapore achieved this by placing them in air-con room or fridge over the period of 4-5 months or so.

I saw this spectacular flowering plant at a local nursery, leftover from a recent garden exhibition. It was priced to clear and so tempting to take it home, but I had low success rate with this type of temperate things and would likely create a fuss over it, only to witness its slow demise. Its best, for both of us, to just say hi and move on.

Monday, August 18, 2008

At the house of our Bidayuh host

Modern Dayaks liked to be called Bidayuh, distinguishing themselves from headhunters of yesterdays. Nowadays, they decapitate wild boars and other wildlife instead, these ones hanging near their cooking fire.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More about the Dayak bamboo bridge

These kids stay at a longhouse village in the highlands up the Ulu Penrissen in Sarawak. Routinely, they have to walk about 3-4 hours each way to reach market at the foothills with their goods,crossing Sungei Sarawak via 2 of these bridges. The altitude and inaccesibility of the village had ensured their survival from marauding enemies since ancient times.

But modernity has caught up.

The construction of a large dam will soon flood the villages and alter their traditional way of life forever. The villagers will be moving closer to civilization and hopefully assimilated. The elders that spoke to us are resigned but quietly optimistic....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Dayak bamboo bridge

A hundred years ago, Alfred Russel Wallace noted "Bamboo is one of the most wonderful and most beautiful productions of the tropics, and one of nature's most valuable gifts to uncivilised man." One can hardly say they are uncivilised nowadays, although many Dayaks still stayed in longhouses at the edge of modernity. This bridge looked exactly as what Wallace had described a hundred years ago, they have lost none of their masterful skills to harness this gift.

For me, crossing these wobbling bridges hanging 20 metres or so above the river was a leap of faith. It was almost like walking on tightrope except for the handrail, which by the way was so shaky I would not dare rest too much weight on them. It did not help to see that the thin wire cables that was used to fasten the bamboo poles were rusted....

A couple of months or so after my crossing, one of the bridges collapsed and 2 people fell down - fortunately there was no serious injury.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Upside-down orchid....or is it ?

A common orchid from Malaysia, Borneo, PNG, Thailand and some say Singapore.

Most orchid flowers are oriented differently, having a lip at the lowest part of the flower which serves as a landing pad for the pollinator (see for example a Cirrhopetalum) . So when someone told me flowers of Bulbophyllum macranthum are upside-down, with lips situated at the top (oscillating through a notch between the two sepals), I could not but agree. But as I later learned, a standard orchid flower is resupinate - which means that the flowers twist 180 degree about the flower stalk during growth so in effect, most orchid flowers are upside-down.

Which also means, a non-resupinate orchid flower like this, is, as a matter of fact, right-side up.

Seems rather trivial, but it means that they have a rather different pollinating mechanism....

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympics is here !

A distinctly disinterested spiny spider Gasteracantha hasseltii hides from the non-stop media barrage.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Native market in Borneo - food from the jungle

Long before "Organic Food" becomes a fashionable term, all foods are organic.
At colourful native market in Sarawak, I saw some food stands selling this little rice cake - coming in white and black sticky rice variety, with a few peanuts and sometimes with a sliver of pandan leave. Guess what is used to make that neat little leafy container ?
The answer: Nepenthes ampullaria pitchers - some of them growing to fist size! I suppose this plant must be very common here - maybe even weedy, since quite a few stalls sell this type of cake. It tasted much like any other leaf-wrapped sticky rice with a sweetish little whiff of pandan- the Nepenthes did not impart any special flavours to it, its just a convenient container.
I hope they cleaned it well though, I had seen a lot of unmentionables at the bottom of the pitchers in the wild ....
Another unusual vegetable is the wild collected young growing tips of bracken fern or "midin" as it is called locally. The fern is stir-fried with garlic or belachan (my favourite), a pungent shrimp paste here and has a very crunchy texture. However, it has been linked to occurence of cancer in digestive tract and spores are proven carcinogenic for mice.
I hope the`claim will be proven a myth soon .... meanwhile I shall have my poison in moderation.
and here's some wild mushroom.
The roots of the famed Tongkat Ali Eurycoma longifolia are on sale here too. All the phyto-chemicals that give this plant its famed properties are concentrated deep in the tap root....this magic stick will give yours a new lease of life....previous post

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