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by : BTF

As I Wander...

Living in tropical Malaysia, we tend to take the hot humid weather, thundery rainstorms and the spectrum of wild evergreen plants as a given.

Recently, I noticed more exotic plants making its way into landscaped home gardens, recreational parks, frontages of shopping malls and
commercial buildings.

Along kerb sides of residential streets and busy motorways, palms, trees and flowering plants make pleasant and interesting fringes.

This is a record of the various species "as I see it" for I am in awe of palms. Hence, my premise for this blog is that the global garden,
i.e. every physical garden (tended or untended), becomes a part of my, simply said, cyber palm garden. ;-)

Please feel free to share your thoughts or comments.

Thank you for visiting!

ShaShinKi - Malaysia's Online Camera Shop!

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Umbrella Palm

Botanical Name : Cyperus alternifolious

Another beauty originating from Madagascar.  It is also known by several names viz Umbrella Papyrus, Umbrella Sedge and Galingale. Papyrus due to its relation with the early Egyptian papyrus used for making paper and Galingale or galangal being the aromatic ginger rhizome used in Asian cooking or as herbs.

This tropical accent plant looks great in water gardens, ponds, bogs or margin areas near water. Its an ideal ornamental plant in homes or containers. However, it appears they thrive anywhere, in wet or dry land.

It' is perennially evergreen and grows in dense clumps.  The stems are like smooth reeds and can grow to about 3-5 feet tall.  A spiral arrangement of long thin leaves sits at the top of the spike. When it does flower, there will be spikelets of small brown flowers arising from the rosette.


                                                                         tropical feel

                                                                       radical bracts


It can be a prolific grower and needs control to prevent these attractive clumps turning into weeds.  If  grown in shallow depths, like many garden water features in Malaysia, owners will include live fishes to keep the mosquito larvae at bay.

The Fiji Fan Palm

Botanical Name : Pritchardia pacifica

Seeing this lush beautiful palm is like hearing the call of the South Pacific...

A native of the Fiji islands including neighbouring Tonga and Samoa in the South-west Pacific, this is a solitary, medium size palm that is ideal for the landscaping of gardens or planted in containers.  The large fan shaped leaves are absolutely stunning when one observes the tightly pleated lines which form the undivided palmate with shallow splits at the edges.

Unlike the other fan palms, the leaf is borne on a smooth, pale green petiole without spikes. The bright green, attractive leaves are as wide as they are long.  Named for one of its practical use, an eco friendly handy fan,
I think islanders would appreciate its huge protective shade from the nature's elements.

The older stem appears quite smooth but noticed the coarse wrapping of brown fibres around the upper axis
of the stem.

                               the smoother stem of the older palm in the middle


                                               younger specimen @ Starhill, Bukit Bintang

And if you're heading to the Pacific Islands for your next holiday, besides swaying coconut palms, please do not forget to include these fantastic looking fan palms in your pics... 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Travellers Palm

Botanical Name : Ravenala madagascariensis

Also known as the Travellers Tree, this species originated from Madagascar.  Well, despite its majestic palm look, it's not part of the palm family but a member of the bird-of-paradise, Strelitziaceae family.

Apparently, rainwater collected within the sheath of its stems can be called upon in case of extreme thirst emergencies. The enormous paddle leaves, quite similar to the banana leaves, are borne on long petioles which fan out on a single plane. Its symmetrical crown is very distinctive and absolutely striking.

                                                                     handsome screens

                                                                           paddle on
                                             gently directed away from roof of building

young seedlings

In Malaysia and Singapore, where the outbreak of dengue (a mosquito borne illness) is frequent, the dormant water held by these palms are deemed potential breeding sites. Palm owners are required by local councils to constantly monitor and ensure draining away the excess rainwater. Due to the tedious requirement, it's no surprise that this palm is getting less popular in home gardens. 

Lastly, interesting folklore has it that if you stand in front of a Travellers Palm and make a wish in good spirit, it will come true.  Will probably give it a try, the next time I encounter one or several???

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chelsea Flower Show | 25-29 May 2010

Malaysia wins Gold!

amazing... and I get to record this famous gardening event in my post. 

Tourism Malaysia, a first time participant at the world's most prestigious flower show has captured the
judges' hearts with its exhibit titled 'Malaysia Garden'.

Must say it's an innovative way to promote the country and kudos also to the designers for their outstanding concept and execution.

The spectacular event, which highlights emerging garden trends and new plants, draws over 150,000 gardening enthusiasts from around the world annually.

Links to local news report and 'must see' 360deg view of Malaysia Garden below :-

centre of attraction, the beautiful Tree Fern (Cyathea contaminans) commonly found on higher altitudes of our highland forests where it's much cooler. could not figure out any palms except for one, the Slender Lady palm (zoom in behind the ficus? tree). others probably smaller, shorter or simply out of view. sigh...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Jade Empress Palm

Botanical Name: Raphis multifida

Also known as the Finger Palm, this delicate species is definitely quite a royalty. Some also refer to it as being the "miniature" of the Slender Lady Palm (Raphis humilis) although it's slightly different upon closer observation.

The palm reproduces via suckering with new buds arising from the base of the older stems. Its palmate leaves, which fans out from a slim green petiole, are made up of many thin leaflets of a fine texture.

Of average height, it seldom grows too large. Apparently, shorter than the Rapis humilis and the canes are also thinner.  As the brown woven fibres do not cover up the entire stems, one gets to see more length of the green stems.

This palm grows well in partial shade and indoors.  Given its refined structure and gentle formation, the Jade Empress will be a prized jewel in any collection.

semi shade


                                                                        partial wrap

                                                       indoors @The Gardens, Mid Valley

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Creative Deadwood

Well, it's not exactly unusual to see coconut trees installed indoors but this very exacting scenario of clean lines created by using barren coconut trunks seem highly unusual indeed.

One day last week, as I was wandering around an upmarket shopping centre to pass the time, came across the exterior of a noodle shop on the 2nd level in Bangsar Village, Kuala Lumpur.

Understandably, these would be the treated solid stems of the common Malayan Green Coconut (just my guess, being more abundant and taller than other local varieties).

Yes, it's probably hip and different but sadly, it's sterile looking and lack convivial ambience without those leafy greens.  I'd rather wished they invested in a few potted natural palms (lots of low maintenance varieties as opposed to no maintenance) instead.

Besides 'greening' the eatery, live plants also serve as eco friendly air purifiers!

The African Oil Palm

Botanical Name : Elaeis guineensis

A native palm tree which originated from West Africa and introduced into Malaya (now Malaysia) way back in the 19th century as an ornamental tree and later cultivated commercially as a source of edible oil.

Today, nearly 4 million hectares of land are dedicated to the cultivation of oil palms, for which Malaysia is one of the largest producers of palm oil in the world.

It has a single, erect trunk encircled with long, dark green, pinnate feather fronds.  The old fronds that has withered would leave behind scars wrapped around the trunk. Saw this well pruned specimen outside The Curve shopping complex at Kota Damansara (see pic.)

The palm fruits take up to almost half a year to mature, from deep purple to orange red, shaped like small oval plums. The rich oil which is extracted from the pulp of the fruits are made into cooking oil whilst the kernel oils are used mainly for the production of foods, ranging from cakes to cosmetics and the manufacture of soaps.  A very versatile crop indeed.

well pruned ornamental

                                                                                                  leafy greens
                                                       ripened nuts

In Malaysia, the oil palm trunks are also processed into a versatile raw material which is now used
for a wide range of applications from paper to animal feed and furniture. The disposal of the cut down trunks, which used to present a huge problem, have been resolved and generating revenue instead.

These palm plantations could be seen almost everywhere along the highways traversing the length and breadth of the country.  In areas where the plantations have given way to new economic development, it is still common to find some scattered palms.

Most of the stems are adorned by secondary plants like moss, ferns and creepers, made conducive by the ideal tropical conditions. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Butterfly Palm

Botanical Name : Chrysalidocarpus lutescens

This magnificent and beautiful tropical palm originated from Madagascar.  Also known as the Areca Palm, Yellow Palm, Bamboo Palm and Madagascar Palm.

It is a hardy and fast growing specimen.  Looks good where ever it is planted, indoors or out.  They grow in clumps with clearly ringed, bamboo stems branching from just above the ground.  And where there are die backs, new shoots arise from them.

The bowing fronds, resembling dainty butterflies in flight, could not have been more apt for its name.  Looking at these bright yellow (due to sunlight, otherwise green) petioles accompanied by the bright green feather shaped leaves, I feel like being lifted into a cool breezy sub tropical zone.

Found an inflorescence at the base of one the yellow green crownshaft and understand they'll later bear yellow berries after the small fine creamy white flowers have dropped.

                            twin 'bubs'
inflorescence blooming

                                                                                   butterfly wings

                                                                     colour me yellow

Despite its numerous names, sometimes confusing for a newbie like me, it's one of the most popular and delightful home and garden specimens.

Secret of The Orient: Raphis Palm Book

Came across this very interesting website introducing a book, titled above by Lynn McKamey.

It has helped answered and enlightened myself with regard to some of differences I'd noted about the Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) species but unable to identify specifically so.

Feel this site has opened up more exciting possibilities for me to look out for, such as, the dwarf, mini dwarf, green, mini green and variegated varieties plus many many more besides the 'standard' specimen.

Thus, for my personal reference and for those interested or considering versatile indoor palms, link below is "raphis extraordinaire" !

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Ribbon Fan Palm

Botanical Name: Livistona decipiens

A native of Australia, this is a very beautiful yet hardy palm.  Borne on a single solid trunk, the bright green fan shaped leaves have droopy bits which give the overall graceful ribbon look.

It's distinct look makes it easily recognizable from afar and as this palm prefers full sunshine, it's popularly used for exterior landscaping.

basking in the lovely sunshine 

             wind swept
                                                                                                          beware of the thorny petioles

                     scissor look 

                                                                                   crown of fruits - from green to gray blue

It thrives in the warm tropics and given adequate care, it should be well worth the patience as the bigger it gets, the more stunning too!  Definitely one of the prettiest of the Livistonas.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Yellow-vented Bulbul

No, it.s not a new palm specimen... but a particular, very important 'mummy' bird has decided to install its cosy nest in one of the dense Japanese bamboo clusters at this address.

Of course, it brought a lot of excitement to the household as it's not often that birds would nest so low (approx. 4.5ft) in a shrub and so close to human activities, the cooler and less watchful side of the patio.

This tropical garden bird is sitting snug but vigilant that anything within its "disturbance radar" would cause it to flit hastily.

It's been here for the last 3 weeks+ so perhaps, we'd soon hear the chatter of little beaks...

                                                                      my perfect hideaway

What a lovely diversion for a Friday afternoon and shall keep posted.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Ruffled Fan Palm

Botanical Name: Licuala grandis

Originating from the Vanuatu Islands, northeast of Australia, this beautiful ruffled fan palm leaves look like pieces of  "rough-cut" potato crisps - yum!  Its dark, glossy green, pleated, fan-shaped leaves are absolutely stunning though the serated edges, almost like saw-tooth can pose a slight hazard. This species has the most circular, smallest fan shaped leaves of all.

Though I have seen both, indoors and outdoors specimens, I have noticed the indoors plants and those in partial shade appear more refined than those outdoors, whose leaves been hardened by the scorching sun.


                                   inflorescence rising amongst the leaves, will mature when red

                                                           strong and luxuriant

If considering a unique tropical palm with a bit of pizzazz into your home or garden, this one certainly looks the part.

The Golden Malay Coconut Palm

Botanical Name: Cocos nucifera 'dwarf orange'

The most common and most recognizable palm of all in the tropics.  With most palms being found along coastal beaches and fossilized nuts being found as far as New Zealand, botanists believe that the early coconut palms originated somewhere around the Indian Ocean and the nuts were carried away by water to far and distant shores.  It is also known that India had cultivated these palms for more than 4000 years.

Found almost everywhere in Malaysia and especially so, along the coastal areas giving those spectacular postcard images of tropical sunrise/sunsets with their unmistakeable, romantic silhouettes, the coconut palm is one of the most useful palms in the world.

Today, I will chart the dwarf species of the orange coconut which is very attractive and rather different, apart from the general appearance, from the more common and commercially cultivated green coconut palms. In South America, this species is also known as the Amarillo Palm.

This short, cute version is great for landscaping of grounds as they are not likely to fall over nor have their fruits fall and crack someone else's nut!  So, overall its a pretty safe plant in terms of public liability. Yes, the fruits are low and easily picked, if needed.

What's already not to know about the coconut palm?  A single, solid trunk one could shimmy up to get to the fruits. Strong, deep green feather-like fronds which is used to weave into an assortment of traditional handicrafts.  Not forgetting the 'small spines' of the pinnately arranged leaves, the locals would shave away to make bunches of soft broomsticks or satay skewers.

                                                                                                        coarse weave au naturel fabric

                                                                        solid gold

The coconuts are orangy yellow throughout from young and the outer husks turn dusky golden brown when matured.

As youngsters, we would clamber up some slanted trunks to wrestle the nuts off from the palm - because we could, its lack of height and our lack of fear was never a problem with this species.  It's always wonderful company for any camping activities!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Triangle Palm

Botanical Name : Dypsis decaryi

What a sight!  This native of Madagascar island in South Africa is definitely one to behold.  One has got to see to believe and appreciate its uniqueness.  This palm is also known as the Madagascar Palm. It has got a solid dark brown trunk and a spectacular crown shaft comprising 3 rows of silvery grey feather leaves.  The fronds appearing on the 3 sides give a  bizarre but dramatic effect.

It is suitable for both indoors and out, potted or planted with very little care except trim a frond or three!

                     awesome sculpture

                                                                                      younger specimen

                      dramatic leaf scars

This is one of the rarer and oddest palm specimen I've come across todate.  Needless to say, there will be many more exotic and exciting ones for me to learn and discover with this amazing collection.  

The Large Lady Palm

Botanical Name: Raphis excelsa

This species is a native of Southern China.  Being a tropical and sub-tropical palm, they are very easily grown both, indoors and out.

In Malaysia, you can find many of these potted specimens softening the stark pillars and dull concrete columns of many shopping malls and complexes or in parks and gardens.

The dark green, glossy palmate leaf fans out  stiffly from a slender petiole. The leaves, which are divided
into many ( counted between 6 to 20) pleated fingers each, are striking and quite an oasis to tired eyes where ever you see them.

The tips of the leaves are blunt which are noticeably different from the Slender Lady Palm, which has pointy tips, as probably the name implies!  This specimen is also known as the Broadleaf Lady Palm due to its height and width.

It is said to be very slow in its growth chart  however, the multi-stemmed cluster makes a healthy bush in full sunshine or partial shade.  Each sturdy stem is well protected by a coarse layer of greyish brown fibres which looks like hessian cloth.

In the great tropical outdoors, these palms grow healthy and luxuriant with minimum attention, as these pictures show.