Saturday, November 30, 2013

Amorphophallus from Samar - unidentified

A few months before Typhoon Haiyan devasted Samar Island in the Phillippines, we discovered this solitary Amorphophallus growing at a logging trail.

The flower has aged so the bottom (female) and the mid (male) flowers cannot be clearly seen. However, the unusual knobby appendix (that's the sterile flower at the top of the spadix) and the overall colouration of the bloom does not seem to resemble anything known yet. I would not be surprise if its a species nova since this part of the world is still little explored.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Malaysian Begonias - limited and regular pressings

I had the pleasure of doing some botanising in the jungles of Peninsula Malaysia recently where I encountered some interesting Begonias. 2 of them are those that you would often expect to see in the jungle here, while the other 2 are rare and restricted in their distribution. 
Right up in the northern state of Kedah, there is a small little plant growing on precipitous sandstone slopes that Ruth Kiew called "Shilling Begonia". Its latin name is Begonia sibthorpiodes -  attributed to its likeness to the pennywort-  Sibthorpia.  It had very small leaves (1-2 cm diameter) and was growing on a misty vertical cliff about 15-20 m from me so if it had not been for the relatively large pink flowers, I would have dismissed it completely.

Other than being very small, it is also very rare. It has only been recorded growing on the summit of 2 mountains in Kedah, at the altitude of 700 - 1200m.
Not far from the same cliff, a population of Begonia sinuata var sinuata was growing under the shade of the bushes.  This is one of the most common Begonia here and also has a wide distribution througout SE Asia.  This plant is ephemeral and will die after 1 growing season, after setting plenty of seeds.

Way down at the southernmost state of Johore : 2 hours on tarred road (from Singapore), 1 hour of 4X4 and yet another hour of an ascending jungle track by foot took us to the locality of the only remaining habitat of the beautiful  Begonia rajah

This plant was discovered in 1890s where specimens from Trengganu were brought to UK from which all of the plants in the horticulture trade descended from. Although cultivated plants are readily available, the wild plants were supposedly extinct as no specimens were ever seen again.
In 2002, the plant was rediscovered at a remote location in Johore, about 300 km from its last known locality ! As you can see, not only is this plant very rare (at least in the wild), it is also very pretty, which explains its popularity amongst the hobbyists.

The plants we saw were growing on steep rocks close to the stream or adjacent to or even on cascades and waterfalls.This is not an easy condition to replicate in cultivation, which explains why many growers find them difficult.
Under this optimal conditions, some of the plants became quite large, certainly much larger than those I saw in cultivation ....

Along the muddy paths further away from the stream, we saw plenty of this errect Begonia barbellata, a common plant in undisturbed forests throughout S. Thailand and eastern side of Peninsula Malaysia. This plant is attractive due to its red hairy stem and pink flowers but like many Begonias here, its not easy to grow. 

This one is growing with some cup fungus .....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monsoon season in Langkawi

It was the rainy season so the much touted beaches in the Malaysian island of Langkawi were not at their best. No matter, I had come to shoot some wildlife and had more than what I had bargained for ....

I had made a few sightings of colugos in Singapore but this is the first time I saw so many on a day - sometimes on the same tree ! This is my favourite family of colugos which greeted me over a three days spell.
Due to a very heavy storm the previous night, many colugos congregate on a few big trees. Judging from its bulging patagium, the one at the top could be a female with a young nestled inside .... 

I scrutinsed the tree trunks during the night hoping to catch a glimpse of them gliding, but alas, due to the rain, this is what they did instead..... Its a very interesting posture and one which I have not seen  from this angle before.

and in the early morning, just when we were about to have breakfast, we saw this adorable juvenile napping ....

Another iconic wildlife - the hornbill. There are at least two species on the island, the larger Rhinocerous hornbill and this - the more common Southern Pied Hornbill which I sighted on different days.

In the early morning, a colony of them was having a noisy quarrel in the dense shrubs before flying high onto a tall tree to preen.
I was also at liberty to get really close to some dusky leaf monkeys. In Singapore, leaf monkeys are very shy. Granted, that was a different species but being closely related, I was expecting the same behaviour. However, it seems they were pretty nonchalent about humans watching them here.

Unlike the macaques that we often see, this species is a strict vegetarian - as you may tell from its common name.  They also have very distinctive white patches around the eye and mouth. 

Near the beach, a solitary male allowed me to get within touching distance and was happily munching the leaves of sea hibiscus Talipariti tiliaceum . Actually, this species is not picky about food they eat and have been known to consume 90 plus species of plants.

Other than the cheaper hotel rates and lesser crowds, the added advantage of the rainy season is catching the Tempuron Falls at its full roaring glory.

Signing off....cheers !

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