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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!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Hookers Fishtail Palm

Botanical Name : Arenga hookeriana

Enchanting may not be a word commonly used for palms but this bewitching one is worth its description.  A gentler, understory version of the Fishtail Palm. It is also known as the Hooker's Sugar Palm. This healthy looking lush clump thrives in well drained soil with warm filtered light.

The wide, textured leaves held on slim petioles are shiny, even glossy with deep and shallow jagged edges around them. Very beautiful to look at and grown for its interesting foliage. This species has undivided leaves.

The inflorescence bears small scarlet+white flowers which culminate into small ovoid green fruits which mature on turning deep scarlet. These plants have yet to show any flowers nor fruits.

Loosely sheathed with light thin fibres around the base of petioles, they form a slightly thicker stem and altogether a prized clump.

The Rainforest at 1Utama

Surprise! Surprised myself again!
Perhaps like many others, I had been blindly making my way around the shopping mall without exiting its enclosed cool air-conditioned environment for fear the heat outside would be unbearable! 

This staged Rainforest themed garden would be worth every drop of perspiration if only we venture out of our comfortable confines. There are several exits from the lower ground floor leading to this exhiliarating 'forest' with an interesting variety of tropical greenery including palms, beautiful carps (Japanese koi), Malaysian freshwater tropical fishes,soothing flow of streams and the sound of trickling water coasting or should it be cascading down from high.

You get the feeling of being in the forest but without having to sweat it out to get there. How pampered today's lifestyle have made us feel. And if you don't get to go into the rainforest, it will come to you, courtesy of 1U Management. Best of all, you travel to the lower forest floors via escalators. tic..tic

Some photos here to tempt the uninitiated. You might want to hurry up and come by for an enjoyable walk to see what simple joys you had bypassed, followed by a relaxing cuppa at any of the adjoining eateries. Arcadia!

sign posted

giant lily pads (Victoria amazonica)
water lilies

cool stream

curious carpies

cascading waterfall 
sitting duck

close up of young Victoria

birdlife cast in stone

forest floor

tropical freshwater fish aquarium

River catfish  (Pangasius kunyit) 
dumb cane (Dieffenbachia)
ctenanthe oppenheimiana tricolor

reflection of atrium (beam me up, Scottie!)
cyclanthus bipartitus

Of course, the delightful walk unveiled some new (to me) and exciting palm species too.  Blog soon...  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Coccothrinax Fan Palm

Botanical Name : Coccothrinax sp.

Why the sp.?  I'm encountering a bit of a identity challenge with this post due to confusing ID tags.  One stuck to the trunk while the other, fallen on the nearby ground. So how could I tell one from the other?

A picture match would show it being a C. argentata or C.argentea.  Both looking very alike for an amateur me.  As for the differences, well, I can't tell as yet!

A native of insular Carribean, such as Mexico, Florida and Cuba, they are found mainly in arid and exposed spaces.  They are small to medium sized plants, have a solitary, slender trunk covered with fibrous sheaths.  The palmate leaves are dark green but often showing silvery-grey on the underside of the leaflets. Also known as, The Silver Thatch Palm.

general identity
"totem" look
Over time, the fibrous cover will break down, revealing a smooth trunk with leaf scars.

Branched inflorescences are located among the petioles of leaves.  They bear small, single seeded fruits which are grooved (resembling brains), and may vary from purple-red to purple-black colour.  Rare shaped and interesting fruits, love to see them - blackberries (Rubus ursinus NOT the smartphone) come to mind!

here lies... 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Palmstory | Wherever I lay...

The beauty about equatorial regions, is that plants propagate quickly and abundantly with ease.

Even if one does not intend to have a particular plant or type of grass, they're bound to land in your garden if the species exist in neighbourhood surrounds, whether one likes it or not. The wind, the birds, hired help with their lawnmowers, all play their role in nature's mystic cycle of life...

The maintenance bit to rid the undesired species then becomes the bane of the gardener. Precious time that could be spent on nuturing, giving TLC to desired species gave way to time spent getting rid of the unwanted. Urrgh!

Here's some palm seeds which defy the odds. Not only to survive, but thrive in the most unlikely places with little care nor maintenance.  

More like a tropical palm's take on Paul Young's song, "Wherever I lay my Hat, that's my home", here are my surprise finds...

Whilst not too clearly seen in the centre of this pic -  a palm seedling (Areca sp.) amongst fern + weeds found themselves stranded in high places, a pitcher plant (Nepenthes) fountain in the city centre.

A whole bunch of Lady Palm (Raphis excelsa) seedlings survive on construction debris in the city

 I'm a jail palm, get me out of here!

Reaching out...  safe and sound, a well protected palm seedling (Areca sp.) growing in a 2ft deep 1ft wide and very long drain (cell?) outside a shopping mall carpark in Kota Damasara.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Saw Palmetto Palm

Botanical Name : Serenoa repens

Still within the Secret Garden, I came across this young saw palmetto palm.  In fact, it is a small palm between 3-6ft tall found in the South-east USA. Its trunk comprised many sprawling petioles and grows in  a thicket or clump with stems running below ground along the surface.

This is a cold hardy, ornamental plant with palmate leaves of blue green.  Grows comfortably in a range of habitat from seaside sand to wetlands. The petioles have sharp saw teeth and again, caution when handling.

The saw palmetto berries are small and round (about an inch in diameter) and turns black when mature. 

Try googling "saw palmetto" and it will throw up hundreds of thousands health supplements and traditional medicine products with fruit extracts of these berries. Clinical uses include treatment for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland) and as a diuretic.

All in all, a lovely low palm that's maintenance free, looks great in the lawn or beneath larger trees or palms.  There appears to be a silver leaf form of this palm - another one to look out for!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Thai Gold Banana

Botanical Name : Musa siamensis

This is not a palm. But this young, stout, exotic version with large dark green leaves catches your immediate attention but look somewhat foreign.

It is a new tropical introduction, native to Indo-China Thailand. This rare species is related to the musa laterita except that it has an upright inflorescence which is golden yellow in colour! A very unsual colour indeed for the banana and sounds delicious already!

so near, yet so far
fruiting clump with pups

golden flower + fruits
ripen 2 weeks later
Its fruits, according to references, are small (not that small, see pic abve), yellow when ripen, edible but with seeds. Think that's a great treat for jungle survival but no like-minded city folks would go wild for bananas with seeds!!

Found another young specimen about 4ft tall that has yet to flower.

                                               a cartoon character? stick man with sombrero?

Apparently, this species can tolerate a bit of cold and does well in partial sun and fertile soil.  As a runner, adequate space should be allocated for its expanding population (pups).

p.s. just only noticed the 'face' upon uploading pics for this post. will leave it to one's imagination...

The Dwarf Betel Nut Palm

Botanical Name : Areca catechu (dwarf)

What I like about writing this blog is that it continually challenges the way I used to 'see' things. So, when is a dwarf not a dwarf? This is exactly the one so contrary to its name.  Compared to the native 'pinang' or areca nut palm (also Areca catechu), this is definitely, no shrinking violet, if I may use this term on a flora.

                                                                 silhouette of dwarf palm

From observation, this specimen has a fatter, rounder trunk, a tighter crown of deep green fronds due to short petioles and even the pinnate leaflets are broader. And its creamy green crown shaft shows more bulge.This palm has grown quite tall too. So it's not the short, stumpy, ornamental form I'd visualised on specimen image.  Therefore, some discrepancy by association to preconceived visuals can be dropped from now on!

close up of inflorescence and fruits

                                                  clear and prominent rings around the trunk

Additional info is available in an earlier post The Areca Nut Palm.

Its ripe orange fruits (betel nuts) when dried are highly sought by locals and are chewed for both medicinal and stimulant properties.

 trunk and exposed roots

Interesting to note however, despite its strength and grace, this dwarf form is rarely planted (homes and landscaped gardens alike) and surprised even myself till now, to know it existed. Thanks to the Secret Garden!