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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!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Sugar Palm Tree

Botanical Name : Arenga pinnata,/Arenga saccharifera

Whoa!  Finally got that tingling feel of what it's like to be dwarfed by one of the hugely2 massive indigenous palms - known locally as the 'enau'.  It's petrifying - quite like coming face to face with the abominable snowman or a yeti.  The fronds of the palm are so long and large that they almost resemble the gigantic hairy arms ready to enfold someone.  So, scary was an understatement when standing beside (beneath?) this humongous plant.

Also known as the Gomuti Palm, it is widely found in India, Indonesia, South-east Asia and Malaysia.
                                                an opened ladies' umbrella for comparison

A look at the trunk is even more scary.  Loads of black, rough fibres enclosing the trunk coupled with long spindly black needles around them.  As this palm is found wild in the lowland forests, the trunk was unkempt and looked quite a tangled eerie mess.

           robust fibre covers
dangly 'arms'

                                     impressive feather fronds of dark green with silverish underside

The infloresence bears a bunch of small yellowish flowers and the round/oval fruits when mature turns purple.
Passed by several palms of the same species that were in fruit, however, as was travelling by coach, unable to request a photo stop.

A sweet sap can be tapped from the inflorescence stalk to make a rough palm sugar or be fermented into a crude alcohol drink. In addition, its young cabbage is edible too while the pith also yields a form of sago starch.

Overall, it does appear to be a strong, attractive palm and thrives in the tropics. Unfortunately, not the sort for a home garden or landscaping feature.

That's the 3rd specimen of palms gathered from around the sleepy Kuala Selangor/Sekinchan districts. I have had a field day as you all can see.  Great fun indeed!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Nipah Palm

Botanical name : Nypa fruticans

This has got to be the best part of the Kuala Selangor trip (besides the food!).  Notched up another indigenous beauty - the nipah or mangrove palm.  Found this clump behind some stilted homes of a fishing village along the muddy tributary of the Selangor river.

                                                  nipah habitat - slow flowing, calm tributary

A grand beauty with tall, straight, glossy dark green pinnate leaves which resemble the coconut palms, arising from the mud.  As one could not see the trunk, it's easy to imagine the leaves appeared right out of the ground. Strangely, the trunk of the nipah palm lies horizontally below ground and where one sees a clump of fronds, that's where the branches end!

                                                                      poised in the sun

Although the top layer of mud appears hard enough to step on to get closer to the palms, a villager advised not to since it.s unpredictably soft beneath besides mucky for my city shoes. There were several stalks of inflorescence and some mature fruits. Thus, being on that rickety platform (left down), unable to get nearer, it felt helplessly being so near yet so far...

                                                      thrives on nutrients brought in by tides

Unfortunately, it's not too clearly seen in this picture but there were a few round globes of chestnut-brown, woody nuts on stalks. The opened nuts looked like beautiful wood roses. The seeds in these nuts are dispersed by water therefore nipah palms can be found along many tropical mangrove coasts from India to South-east Asia and even as far south as Northern Australia.

The leafy fronds serve as thatching (attap roofs) materials while younger leaves are used for wrapping cigarettes. Sap from the inflorescence stalks are brewed  for an alcoholic drink (toddy) or cooking vinegar or boiled down to make a delicious brown sugar (gula melaka).  The sticky, white translucent, deliciously chewy, young seeds known as 'attap chee' are commonly used as ingredients in local desserts viz. the 'ice kacang' and 'bubur cha cha' - yum!

If you are based overseas and keen to get a taste of this delicacy, the attap chee (attap seeds) are sold in tin cans, available at most Asian food shops. Tasteless on its own, suggest try some with ice cream!

Not just a stunning, interesting palm in mangrove habitat, it's a great food source too. Sorry, you can't have it in your suburbia garden...

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Cardboard Palm

Botanical Name : Zamia furfuracea

Finally, I caught up with a favourite of mine.  Having encountered a missed opportunity in the early stages, I was ecstatic when I saw it at the entrance of a restaurant in Ijok, Kuala Selangor.  Not only did they have it, they had 3 of the same!  This plant was the biggest of all.

Although not a true palm, its growth habit is similar to the palm tree. It is also known as the Cardboard Palm, Cardboard Sago or Cardboard Cycad. This native of Mexico is prehistoric in nature (existing in times of the dinosaur) like the Sago Palm, hence it's no surprise that the trunk acts like a water reservoir enabling it to survive drought periods over millions of years.

                                                                      young leaves

The leaves are pinnately arranged, symmetrical, oblong in shape and some with mild serrated edges. It is slightly thick and leathery to the feel therefore, cardboard like.  The leaf stems arise from the crown of the thick, fleshy trunk. Unfurled, the young leaves are light olive green in colour, maturing to a dark green.

water storage tank

Reproductive structures in the form of cones do appear on each plant and when ripen, break open to reveal many tightly packed red seeds.  However, there were none on these 3 potted specimens at this time, probably due to bad timing.

With its exotic tropical appeal, this easy to grow species definitely looks great for indoor potted or outdoors for accent.  Locally, many proud palm owners would also shower them with lots of TLC and tend to them 'bonsai' style (art of growing plants in small or shallow containers to expose tuberous trunk and their leafy fronds in miniature for aesthetics).

Kuala Selangor/Sekinchan | 26 June 2010

The day finally arrived for the much anticipated trip to the towns of the Kuala Selangor and Sekinchan about 75km north-west of Kuala Lumpur.

                                                                   scenes along the way
Weather was absolutely great - clear blue skies and cotton-white cumulus clouds. The air-conditioned coach weaved past deep green plantations of oil palms, coconut trees and sleepy rural homes.

We soon arrived at the vast hectares of padi (rice) fields at Sekinchan.  3rd largest crop grown in Malaysia after oil palms and coconuts. Unfortunately, the padi had just been recently harvested. Instead of miles and miles of lush green fields, we saw only brown and barren land. Then, we were given a brief tour of the germinating, planting and harvesting processes which ended with purchases of white and brown rice on offer.

Lunch was scrumptious affair comprising fresh seafood offerings which the town is famous for due to proximity to the sea.

With tummies filled, we proceeded to the next destination of Kubu Melawati (Fort Melawati), a historical hillock overlooking the Selangor River estuary where it was necessary to guard against invasion by Dutch and Portugese forces during the 16th + 17th century respectively.

It was a warm afternoon as we made our way up the hill on a motorised tram car which took less than 10mins.  There to greet us was a whole community of Silvered Leaf Monkeys (Silvered Langur) monkeying around. And they were mischievous - so everyone was alerted to mind their spectacles, cameras etc... in case they get snatched by these fearless primates.

                                                                   sitting on the fence

Then headed down to the small scale aquarium and aviary which was part of the hill's attraction.

Our destination for the afternoon was at a Bird Nest factory at Kuala Selangor where we were shown how the swiftlets build their nests in the factory's "bird hotel", harvesting of the nests, cleaning and sales (very expensive, of course) of the much desired product especially by Asian Chinese communities.

Really tired by now, all that heat and all the walking (unfit is me!). It's dinner time and we all boarded the coach to a popular Chinese restaurant in nearby Ijok.  It's speciality is 'beggar-style' food.  A simplistic cooking method whereby meats like chicken, duck, pigs trotters, tasty glutinous rice etc. are individually wrapped in foil, encrusted in clay and baked to perfection in a charcoal kiln. Delicious!

Dead tired upon arrival home. Gluttony was the name of this trip...

p.s. very pleased to find 3 different specimens for blog, coming up soon!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Balloon Palm

Now, I know that there are various artificial palms, plastic and synthetic palms, electric operated palms, preserved palms and what else but this latest addition to the palm world is unreal really... however, I still need to give some brownie points for novelty factor!

Came across this palm in a particular car show room in the city.  They obviously had given the traditional ordinary balloons a big heave-ho and taken on a trendy tropical setting by installing a couple of "maintenance free" coconut palms... ha2.  Must say, it's eye catching whether tacky or not. 

                                                 specimen @ car show room Jalan Ipoh, KL

Oh, they did have a potted Lady Palm further away from the main entrance where the balloons were set up but that kind of dried up and was left half dead.

Reminder to self, must take a picture of that (dead plant) too when I pass that way again... and check if the helium balloon palms still standing.

Might be worth considering if planning a tropical or palm theme party in the midst of winter???

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Green Bismarck Palm

Botanical Name : Bismarckia nobilis (green form)

I'd been to this park before (near IKEA, Mutiara Damansara, PJ) but again, probably not looking hard enough. No, I'd not been able to access this part of the park due to a large ditch separating us. One day, as I decided to 'cross' the ditch and took the path around the lake, there was this group of 6 stunning fan palms standing poised infront of my eyes! Recognition failed me...

These handsome palms looked so regal and magnificent in the full morning sun. A solid solitary trunk with a crown of healthy palmate leaves.  Everything about it, is so Bismarck-looking but I couldn't recall any information other than the Bismarck being silver-grey since I'm a complete green horn in this project.

And what's left of its two inflorescence stalks were that they
were deep red or scarlet and looked pretty contrasting against the smooth, light green petioles.

The petioles have a dusting of rust-brown powder at the ends nearer to the leaf shaft.

Large, deep green, pleated fan shaped leaves nearly 1m across with bits of curly-worly threads dangling amongst it.

I've since found out there is this particular green version (form) of the Bismarckia nobilis through helpful assistance rendered by forum members of Without their invaluable input, this species would probably be filed away for another rainy day... moping about its true id.

The Joey Palm

Botanical Name : Johannesteijsmannia altifrons

Couldn't believe my luck today!!! I was, as usual, having a few minutes to spare and on the prowl for palms when I came across these rare Joey or Diamond Joey palms in the landscaped garden of a busy shopping centre, The Curve @ Kota Damansara, PJ.

Prior to this morning's surprise encounter, I had envisioned them to be found in some distant forest reserves far from the city that I would one day venture, when my palm resources run low. But since seeing these in the cityscape, it is almost surreal, to say the least. This understory forest palm had definitely been transported into our city - thanks to the developers and their landscaping associates who are getting more and more adventurous with their choices of flora.

This is one of our indigenous Malaysian beauty so do bear with me when I post a few more photos to show off. It is without a trunk and the individual petioles arise from the ground.  Leaves are glossy green, undivided, well pleated along its length and diamond shaped with serrated edges.

At this stage, am not able to note their flowers or fruits as they are pretty young but if that day should come, I still hope to be able to add more information to this post.
A couple of sticks added for good support for when they grow taller.  Gives new meaning to Joey on a stick (J.perakensis) literally!

This group of specimens are young and hence, not as gigantic or dramatic as pictured wild (some over 3m tall), on some internet sites. There were 5 plants in this grouping.  Should make quite an impression upon maturity.

As is, I have already been inspired.  One of the most extraordinary and magnificent palms in the world.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Triandra Palm

Botanical Name : Areca triandra

Also known as the Wild Areca or Pinang, it's a native of India as well as South-east Asia.  This is a fast growing palm with ringed stems and a lush crown of dark green feather fronds.

It thrives in tropical and sub-tropical regions and found commonly as an understory palm in the tropical rainforests.  Its peculiar feature is that its inflorescence of small cream coloured flowers are lemon-scented and the oval fruits upon maturing turns deep red or scarlet.

Also, upon nearing the clump I heard lots of bird activity among those shady fronds and bunches of delicious fruits.

It's an attractive palm, easy on maintenance and with the right amount of indirect sunlight, this plant is a delight in any garden or space.  And the birds - well, that's the bonus...

Container - The Slender Lady Palm

Botanical Name : Raphis humilis

I can't help but post this picture here ahead of others.
Reason - I've come across quite a few types of container palms (and plants).  Most being in cement planter box (for public services), terracota, ceramic, plastic (for commercial enterprises and private homes) and some, whatever we have as long as they hold (especially outskirts of town and in villages).

This is one of them but for a commercial premise, right smack in the busy city centre?  It's an arty take on oil drums.  Great visual and impact and most of all, good green recycling.  Love it, hope the raphis loves it too!

                   specimen @ Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, KL

World Cup 2010 - Fever #3

Well, what an exciting 'capture' this was, in full danger of charging mechanical animals. small and large (busy oncoming traffic).  Not that I will do it again in a hurry... perhaps, in another four years time!

But it was worth it.  I've completed this task and the prized animals captured on lens for posterity.

Now, let's sit back, relax and enjoy the close up encounters...

and matches - GOAL!

If any country happens to be featured more than once, it's directly due to the awkward angle of the photographer's position and not favouritism ok?  Good luck to all the teams!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Fever #2

Further to our sightseeing safari today, am extremely excited to report additional game spotted as follows :-

Needless to say, there are a few more agile creatures that we didn't manage to sight but should be within our target range soon. :-)