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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!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Teddy Bear Palm

Botanical Name : Dypsis leptocheilos/Neodypsis lastelliana

Somewhat somnambulous, I had taken a wrong turn to my destination this morning. However, the sight of  4 'handsome looking' young palms on a gentle grassy slope, made my day!  Well, with any of my "new discovery" they warranted an immediate inspection eventhough I was running late!

Having come across its description while in search of other palm species, I probably wouldn't be able to visualize what it's exactly like.  With some photos in the bag, it wasn't till curiosity dared me to touch/feel the brownish stuffs on the crownshaft. Not expecting anything other than the usual brown/rust powder, the fuzzy stuffs turned out to be soft and furry much like its namesake the teddy bear - so,so amazing!

respectful bows
tooth comb
A beautiful native of Madagascar, this elegant palm is most attractive to palm collectors.  It is also known as the Redneck Palm. The evenly spaced deep green feathered fronds are delightfully droopy. But it's its unique reddish brown velvety fur known as 'tomentum' that is characteristic of this prized palm.



It has a clean, solitary trunk of white and darker rings of scars from fallen fronds.  As it had rained heavily overnight, the white trunk has darkened somewhat due to the wood being soaked.

A mid sized tree, it can grow up to 20-30ft tall.  Prefers partial shade but in the tropics where there's nowhere to hide (from the strong late afternoon sun), a north-easterly or morning sun position is preferred.

The Teddy Bear Palm also bears small pale creamy yellow flowers followed by berry-like fruits. So, I should be vigilant and follow up on future fruiting!

An exciting collectible/addition to any indoor or outdoor gardens including open spaces. And for once, no prickly spines to worry one's pretty little head about!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Macarthur Feather Palm

Botanical Name : Ptychosperma macarthurii

Recently bumped into this huge, stunning palm along an old busy thoroughfare into the city's commercial golden triangle. Finding shade and support beside an old raintree, many would have passed it daily but I wonder if they'd even noticed. Whilst this species has been 'cooking in my oven' for a while, seeing this beauty has heightened its priority.

A native of New Guinea and the tropical parts of Northern Australia, this is a vigorous growing, clumping species.  It has numerous stems with distinct annular rings and luxuriant, dark green, feather fronds with broader leaflets which exhibit a healthy profile to its surroundings.

Grown in shade or sun, this species is bound to soar high and most seen are around 5m-8m tall.  But for those thriving in the shade, their ringed stems are stretched higher and the fronds exhibit a softer, more delicate feel than those hardened by the strong sun.

In tropical regions, most palms flowering will be very much dependent on plant health and associated conditions.  And this species is no exception. Fortunately, found this specimen in fruit, pea-like on inflorescence stalks and maturing from yellow to red. Very attractive indeed, needless to say, how delicious too they are for the birds!

This palm species is also extremely tolerant to a wide range of soil conditions hence making it the palm of choice for any inch of available earth in home gardens, landscaped greens, along streets and motorways. Am certain too that non-green thumbs like myself can take a stab at growing some without much effort!

Grown in larger groups, they certainly provide an oasis for mankind and a lovely microcosm for the avian kind!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Joey Palm #2

Botanical Name : Johannesteijsmannia altifrons
(also known as Sal or Daun Payong in Malay)

Found this stunning group of young joeys at the forest floor of the 'Rainforest' at 1Utama, Damansara Utama in Petaling Jaya.

At first thought, I might have stumbled onto the lesser seen, much endangered Diamond Joey (J. magnifica) based on the silverish underside of the leaves. However, it was not to be. There were no fine white hairs at all. :(

diamond shaped leaves
young leaf shoot
silverish illusion

slim petioles
So similar in outlook to the J. magnifica but nonetheless, quite happy with this latest common Joey find.
More information available on previous post The Joey Palm.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Spirit of Ramadhan @ 1Utama

The rich cultural diversity of Malaysia allows its people to celebrate a few different 'new year' according to the various religious calendars. Malaysians of different ethnicity celebrate together and whenever a particular celebration is due, businesses and stores are appropriately decorated for these traditional festive occasions.

During the month of Ramadhan, (fasting month for the Muslim majority in this country), whereby forgiveness, guidance, self control, sacrifice and empathy for the less fortunate, are practiced, Muslims throughout the country are preparing for  the much anticipated celebration at the end of the fasting period.

The tradition of  'balik kampung' literally translated means going home to one's village or original place of abode, is well underway with fares for all transport modes sold out.  In particular, a metropolis like Kuala Lumpur, where many folks 'emigrated' from smaller towns and villages to work, many will also make the annual pilgrimmage back to their hometown to celebrate the joyous occasion with loved ones.

rural setting : thatched huts, palms + padi (rice) fields
A beautiful nostalgic rural scene has been set up in the main concourse of this particular shopping mall to herald in the mood for Hari Raya Puasa which falls on 10 & 11 September 2010.

Of note is the inclusion of live palms, especially the coconut (cocos nucifera) and the areca nut (areca catechu) palms into the setting to reflect their significant roles both economic, social and aesthetic in the livelihoods of villagers around the country.
threshing the stalks

separating husks from grain

bag it
In small rural farms, back breaking padi planting, harvesting, threshing, separating and packing methods shown above still use manual labour and primitive implements.

Besides decorating their homes, new clothes, shoes, presents and the gift of green cash envelopes make all the excitement worth the wait.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Iguanura sp. Palm

Botanical Name : Iguanura sp.

Found this rare and unusual palm in the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve.  It doesn't seem to be planted there but there aren't any around that was similar to this one.  However, there were many (maybe say loads!) of Caryota mitis (Clustering Fishtail Palm) throughout the forest floor, which I plan to post later.

The leaves of the Iguanura sp. are bifids, split like the tail of a tuna fish but not completely divided and jagged at the tips.  Has evenly pleated lines throughout the leaf.

A native of Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Borneo, this understory palm appears to thrive in partial shade with some sun and moist lowland soil.

let the sun shine through
simple leaf form

From my observation, its stems are smooth, thin and segmented. Not much for support to grow upright. 

This group certainly looks cute and attractive at about 4feet tall.  Think they will make stunning house plants and a great match beneath taller palms for shade and accentuating the landscape.

Great find today! ;)

The Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve

leafy canopy
We have had some very heavy rain fall for the past two days and somehow, it felt the right time to venture into a forest reserve for my new 'forest air bath' experience... ;-)

So this morning, I decided to make my way into the Bukit Nanas (translated Pineapple Hill) Forest Reserve in Kuala Lumpur, one of the oldest gazetted forests in the city, located a stone's throw away from another touristy landmark, the KL Tower.

Then known as the Bukit Weld Forest Reserve, it was gazetted in 1906 which now makes it more than a century old.  Uniquely, this is also the last permanent piece of tropical rainforest (about 11 hectares of it) remaining in the heart of the city surrounded by high rised buildings.  This forest plays an important role as the 'green lung' of KL.  Apart from being an amenity forest, it is also serves as an education and research forest.

nearby KL Tower (421m)
information centre
Inside the Information Centre  were displays of the rainforests' various dipterocarp hardwood tree species and their economic contribution to the country.  Small handy and coloured trail maps were available for all interested taking in the nature trails. And to top it all, admission is free. Freebie sounds good already!

on site trail map + rubbish bin
So with map in hand, I was just out of the wild orchid area and ready to tackle the trails.  I had not ventured far, when I heard a whooshing sound raced past me, brushing against my jeans on its marathon dash. Rooted to the spot, I caught sight of its back and form - a common palm civet or musang (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). What a wonderful welcome to the rainforest!

entomophobia beware
It was warm and humid as expected despite it being late morning and the recent rain has definitely given the tranquil haven a fresher appeal. The sounds of the forest - leaves rustling, insects, birds chirping etc. a peaceful calm came over me. Sometimes, a falling twig or fruit seems louder in its serene stillness.

Perspiration aside, the persistent mosquitos were mildly (stating mildly perhaps an understatement) irritating - luckily I had with me my trusty jar of popular cure all "tiger balm" (just a brand, nothing to do with the endangered animals) which was the perfect repellent as well as relief from insect bites...

The trails were well signposted and well maintained.  Just easy walking for all levels of fitness and age groups, some uphill ones and some down, some man made while others, natural, of course! The earthed slopes (deviated paths) could be a tad slippery after the rain though.



After nearly 2.5hours of walking and admiring all that's on offer in this majestic forest, I was thoroughly rejuvenated but hungry (despite a good breakfast).  Unfortunately, they don't do cafe at the Information Centre.  So, trotted off to the nearest McD to recharge the batteries! 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Red Sealing Wax Palm

Botanical Name : Cyrtostachys lakka

One of the most attractive native palms in the country which is also be found in Borneo and the Sumatran archipelago. I have posted earlier on a younger specimen The Lipstick Palm but still feel this clump is rather unique with its sublimal differences.

Its synonym, Cyrtostachys renda, this species is also known by other common names such as the Lipstick Palm and the less referred, Rajah Palm.

Stunning as ever, its dark green feather fronds against the vivid scarlet trunks, red petioles and red crown shafts never fail to attract and impress me.  Unlike some of the same species which clumps together with many young pups as offshoots, this specimen seems happy to stand solitarily as a group.

Also observed that the cane like trunks were of different colours eg. green, yellow, orange and red while the older canes appeared rather dull and grey.

Even the inflorescence stalks appear to be of different colours, some light green and some red.
How intriguing is that?

Could these be a factor of its genes, soil or even fertilizers. Mind boggling for me...but still a strong favourite for most home gardens and landscaped areas.

"Painting the town red " has definitely taken on a new meaning when you see so many clusters of them growing in the Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) downtown!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shinrin-yoku | Forest Air Bathing

Now, before anyone gets any funny ideas from this title, it is certainly not what you think!

Rather than expecting to find a group of aged hippies washing themselves in a forest clearing, this is certainly more gratifying for the individual...

If recent trends in Japan is anything to go by, we hope that more people in Malaysia will learn about this and be encouraged by the practice of 'shinrin-yoku' meaning forest air taking + walking or forest air bathing.  Basically a simple activity of visiting forests and nature parks for its therapeutic effects.  How easy is that?

Now scientists have discovered that phytoncides (chemicals that prevent plants rotting and protecting them from insects) do provide a positive chemical influence on humans too.

Spending time outdoors have been said to be a greatest invigorator to the soul and mind and hence, brings about therapeutic health benefits, especially in stress management.

If many a time, one finds oneself totally recharged, rejuvenated, reinvigorated and refreshed after a leisurely walk in a nature park or the more energetic bush walks, now you know the answer. It's in the air!

So, do get out there and take your air bath. (oops! deep breaths)

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Slender Joey Palm

Botanical Name : Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata

The most outstanding group of plants from the understory floor of the 'Rainforest' @ 1Utama Shopping Centre, were the Joeys.  And this particular species is one of the rarest of the Joeys native to Peninsular Malaysia.  How fortunate am I to find it inside a sub-urban shopping complex without tramping into the wild!

The glossy dark green, elongated leaves are undivided but evenly ridged. It certainly looks like a lance or blade of a sword, matches its name to a T.  It may not be clearly seen here however each leaf is held by a short petiole and the clump of petioles arise from the ground.

as green as jade

Unknown to me earlier, this species actually has an underground trunking system hence not obvious to the naked eye.

This palm thrives in partial shade and a good amount of water (rainfall) to prevent its roots drying out.

They may be young now but given time, who knows if these 'sleek city dwellers' will fare just as well as their forest counterparts.   

May reach an amazing 10ft tall and its leaves 1ft wide in its natural habitat.  Given that this specimen is grown in an cultivated environment, it may or may not grow to that size but its flowering will certainly be quite an anticipated event.  Looking forward to that if/when it happens.