Friday, July 30, 2010

The royal "Senduduk"

The flowers of the "Senduduk" ( Melastoma malabathricum) are an enchanting purple attraction and reminds me of the official colour of my first university i.e. the University of Pulau Pinang. Purple is the royal colour of the university. The Senduduk is also called the "Singapore Rhododendron". Over at our garden the Senduduk is everywhere . It is a pioneering species of plant and it is very difficult to "grow" them. They just appear anywhere, anyhow. They flower en masse and the fruits are a dark bluish black. I notice the birds dispersed them over the garden and chiefly among them is the Bulbul ( Pynconotus goiaver). I like to eat the fruits because they are sweet tasting but would leave a bluish mark on your tongue just as if you accidentally tinge your tongue with blue ink.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is it a fern?

The Staghorn Fern - is a regular fixture on tall trees at our Kambatik Botanic Garden.

Mention of ferns the common perception is of the lacy type of ferns or the more dramatic ones like the Staghorn fern as shown above. But here we have too the creeping type of ferns called Drymoglossum piloselloides. The local Malays call it " Duit-Duit" which means coins. Others call it " Sakat Ribu - Ribu" - meaning thousands of epiphytes because of the numerous small leaves. Sometimes it is also known as " Sisik Naga" or Dragon Scales. At the Mid Hill footpath, these ferns creep tall trees ( see inset) Dragon's Scales get established on the fork of trees where there are abundant algae, lichens and dirt for the fern to forage. These ferns have fleshy leaves to assist in water storage and the stomata mainly open at night when the temperature is low and this help to reduce water loss through transpiration.
Close up of the Dragon's Scales

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Welcome in says Arundina

This is the entrance to my Kambatik Botanic Garden. The Bamboo Orchid ( Arundina graminifolia ) is seen on the left of the entrance gate, amidst grasses.

It was just about 3-4 months ago that I notice two stands or clumps of the terrestrial orchid Arundina graminifolia showing its presence by the entrance of the farm. This morning I couldn't resist the temptation to take a second look at this very common orchid. The Bamboo orchid gets its name from the slender narrow grass-like leaves resembling bamboo leaves. For that matter it is also referred to as Arundina bambusaefolia, but the oldest name graminifolia ( grass-leaved ) stays.
One characteristics of the Bamboo Orchid is that it flower a little all the time. Their dainty flowers , mauve or white and yellow on the lip are very attractive. I used them occasionally as cut flowers if you want to get the 'minimal effect'. It is very easy to grow in our tropical garden and please don't have any home without it.
Over my road travel throughout the length and breath of Sarawak in the last three years I find that this orchid species is prevalent on both sides of the Pan-Borneo Highway for about 400 kilometers from Bintulu to Sri Aman. It is as common as the long grasses we see after the road shoulders of the highway. In the good old tin mining days in West Malaysia, it was so prevalent that it was often called the " Kinta Weed". Kinta to refer to the place where the major tin mining operations were held during the colonial era. But to me what a beautiful weed. Welcome in to the garden.
Note the seed pods.

Hole through heliconia

The bright orange bracts of the Heliconia psittacorum ( Parrot Flower) is seen together with the " Bleeding Heart Vine" flowers ( Clerodendrum thomsoniae ). Note the rich humus and organic matter that make the forest floor.

I'm still working out at the Mid Hill footpath. What an amazing surprise today was when I saw the stem of the Heliconia latispatha ( see inset) protruding out from an old tree stump. This shows how vigorous the rhizomes of the heliconias can be. Previously, I planted heliconias near the rotting trunk. Apparently one managed to sneak underneath it and push through the stump. Now this gives me much inspiration on how to present or display heliconias in future which I call " Hole through Heliconia" presentation or 3H in short.

The Mid Hill footpath houses many varieties of heliconia. Another example is the Heliconia psittacorum commonly referred to as the Parrot Flower or the False Bird of Paradise as shown in the top picture.

Heliconias are one of my favourite for cut flowers. It is always advisable to plant a few species of heliconia in the garden because they provide colour all year round.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mid Hill surprises

The Traveller's Palm planted at the fringe of the jungle with oil palm trees in the background. From the stout trunk two rows of leaves are arranged in a fan-like shape.

I'm still working at the Mid Hill footpath area of Vegetation Island No.1. at Zone D. One of the interesting features about the vegetation island is the presence of oil palm trees surrounding it. Between the oil palm trees and the island jungle I added some fringe trees and shrubs. Today I focus on the Traveller's Palm ( Ravenala madagascariensis ), which is neither a palm nor of the banana family botanically speaking. While clearing some bushes within the island I met with the young dark purple leaves of a jungle creeper. The yellow edging around the leaves provides a beautiful contrast ( See inset) The Traveller's palm is at one end of the mid hill footpath as shown below. Around it are two foliage plants that seemed to have gotten accustomed to the place :- the sword-like and variegated ( pink/cream) leaves of the Dracaena marginata and the long white to creamy arched leaves of the " Song of India" ( Dracaena reflexa ) with a central green strip.

" Song of India " ( Dracaena Reflexa ) Synonymn : Pleomele. It seems to thrive in the humidity of the vegetation island.
Dracaena marginata has cream stripe with red edges. Loves the shade here. Dracaena is one plant that is very easy to propagate by stem cuttings.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Caladium bicolour ( Angel's Wings)

The Angel's Wings or Caladium bicolour is a highly demanded tropical foliage plant for its gorgeous colours and rich patterning of their large and thin leaves. The leaves are heart-shaped appearing like " Elephant ears". One interesting characteristic of the plant is the state of dormancy which the tubers go through. The example I have here is one of the many varieties of cultivars. The arrow head- shaped leaves have a beautiful combination of green and white colours.

Location : Vegetation Island No.1, Zone D.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Languas galanga ( Langkuas)

The " Langkuas " ( Languas galanga ) is a very common plant in Sarawak . It is part of the ginger family. I introduced this plant to the farm because of its usefulness. The rhizomes are aromatic and is used in many food preparations and in local medicine. The rhizomes are pounded till fine and mixed into curry food like chicken curry, duck Chinese style " Paklo" and beef "rendang" due to its spiciness and aromatic charateristics.

Langkuas grows in clumps and possess erect leafy stems. The whole of the stem is covered with the sheaths of its leaves. Flowers are terminal and the stem heads bear many small white flowers.

Initial notes

I start this blog today, 13 Jul'10 in Bintulu at my Kambatik Eco-farm. This is a statement of the biodiversity of my eco-farm which is based on the cultivation of oil palm in an agroecological perspective. Here I will document in words and in pictures the diverse plants grown naturally in the farm and additional ones planted after the farm showly shape up over a period of more than 5 years now. In a way the botanic garden here is a garden within a forest. All this is possible because in y Kambatik eco-farm the oil palm planting was integrated into the existing forest habitat.