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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, September 24, 2010

The Blue Latan Palm

Botanical Name : Latania loddigesii

This stunning native of the Mascarene islands is a close relative of the Bismarkia nobilis.  At a quick glance, it would be easy to mistake it for the silver bizzie.

The slightly swollen dark grey trunks are said to be ringed though it is not obvious here due to a layer of blackish moss covering.

The bluish green colour of the petioles run all the way right up to the small veins of huge costapalmate leaves. These greyish green leaves are held upright.  Also noted are thick patches of orange brown wool (scurf?) found on the lower arms of the petioles.

It's wonderful to see large stalks of compact golden flowers arising from amongst the leaves. Am not certain what its blooms smell like but peculiarly, they attracted some large flies instead of the usual bees.

dried inflorescence
Guess have missed the opportunity to see its brownish-green, plum shaped fruits or possibly, this being a male plant?

Showcasing Palms | YTL Park Sentul

This serene palm lined boulevard belongs to the newly developed Sentul West KL, an exclusive high rise housing and retail project through quaint, old railway land.  A thoroughly nature-friendly lifestyle concept with 35acres of private park to indulge, the envy of all weary souled, rat-raced city dwellers.

imperial HOMEs
a royal entrance

A couple of Footstool Palms aka Roundleaf Fan Palm (Livistona rotundifolia) and two Carribean Royal Palms (Roystonea olearacea) stood sentry (besides the security guards, of course) at this part of the gateway to the exclusive enclave. Further down, on either side, are rows of the Royal Palms (Roystonea regia).

 L.rotundifolia by jogging track
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm) near perimeter fence 
L.rotundifolia beside old railway building in the park
Unfortunately, taking of photos at this private park, even for non-commercial activities, are not allowed without written permission!  So needless to say, I was stopped abruptly in my tracks by their patrolling security personnel.

Until the next time.... other palm species, ciao!

p.s. to self - saw a monitor lizard basking in the sun on grassy ground next to pond (sorry no pic!)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Showcasing Palms | Small-Medium

Guess there is no limit as to the types of containers (pot planters) one could choose to grow the palms in, as well as enhance the interior and surrounds.

Given we have several large manufacturers of clay products locally, as well as imports from China, there is indeed a very wide selection available.  Depending on factors such as palm size, ornamental values up to and including owner/designer's inclination, think I've just woken up to an idea!!  (sorry for the suspense, will post later if it eventuates?).

Here are some I've come across to date, both modern and traditional.  Certainly there are lots more terracotta, ceramic, plastic, metal and 'anything-goes' type of pot planters which I didn't plan on capturing just yet... 

at hotel entrance (oops! a head in the background)
inside travel agency
along walkway to hotel restaurant
outside private home
inside shopping mall
 at stairwell of traders' association
at a restaurant
Somehow I feel every combination is like a little story. Can almost say it reflects its surrounds. So, which one are you?

The Royal Palm

Botanical Name : Roystonea regia

It was at this peaceful, central city cricket field that old Malaya, then in 1957, proclaimed her independence from British Administration. Eversince, this historical piece of land has been the meeting ground for resplendent annual parades and exuberant New Year countdown celebrations.

along Merdeka Square, KL
This location is lined with a row of beautiful, now very mature majestic Royal Palms.

A native of Southern Florida, Mexico and parts of Central America it is also known as the Cuban Palm and similary the Florida Royal Palm (R. elata) is now recognized as one and the same species.

It's commonly planted in groups in wide open spaces and along spatial roads or even exclusive avenues where they definitely command full attention. They are really tall (about 40ft+), with solid columnar grey trunks, smooth green crown shafts, complete with an attractive umbrella of 'shaggy' feather fronds. Due to their height, these ornamental canopies offer little shade.

across the Square, stately Sultan Abdul Samad Building
outside Pasar Seni (Central Market) KL

The smooth solid grey trunks are slightly swollen around the mid trunks while the feather fronds are arched and bowing. This impressive regal deportment makes them a popular choice to grace avenues and wide boulevards in both old and new city developments. 

This species of palm are regular bloomers, bearing large bunches of pale cream coloured flowers developing into tantalising fruits of half an inch wide which attract birds and bats alike.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Migrating palms | How to

From my observation, not many home gardeners here would ever try to grow their palms from seeds. However, one such exception I'd come across was where my sis said she'd put a fresh Arabian Date seed (after consuming the delicious fruit, of course) into an available plant container with hardened topsoil and it duly sprouted!  Picture to be posted later. The Date Palm

But this post is not about tending to vulnerable palm seedlings but rather how 'teenager' palms are commercially transplanted overnight and locked into position, the Malaysian way! 

Here, we're too busy even for Palm101 basics.  Secondly, it's not 2nd nature to grow anything from packets of little black-brown grains (seeds).  Thirdly, impatience could probably have been our invisible middle name...

Hence, plants especially biggish palms are dug (goodness knows where from?) and trucked to order (I mean specific sites) and lodged into position. Voila! instant tropical appeal which could have taken decades to grow. Therefore, to ensure these do not topple or sway, a trig (a triangular crutch made from wood) is built around its trunk to keep the rootball steady while the palms find their feet in the new location.

foxtail palm on the mend

extra fabric for padding
The above set up has been there for at least 3months while the ones below I caught sight of them being planted about 4months ago.

chinese fan palm doing well

tripod stand
Another lot of Footstool Palms I'd noticed transplanted 2 months back at a Police Barracks in KL had since disappeared completely from sight and site. It would be a shame if perhaps they didn't make it.

Now, I have no idea just how much longer these supports should be there for...

The Princess Palm

Botanical Name : Dictyosperma album

This most elegant species is native to the Mascarene Islands.  It is also known as the Hurricane Palm due do its ability to withstand strong hurricane force winds.

The graceful pinnate fronds which can twist and arch due to its flexible midrib gives the leaves its curved appearance. The perfect and evenly spaced leaflets are a wonder to observe.

front entrance of  Muzium Negara (National Museum)

The solitary trunk is dark grey and ringed.  These specimens are about 20ft and had inflorescences which hung from beneath the light green crown shafts.  Pity a bit too tall to capture its blooms.

To me, they appear to be one of the most beautiful of tropical palms, aptly named, and exquisitely ornamental but somehow wonder why it's any less popular as a landscape plant when compared to the huge cement-like pillar trunks of the majestic palms.

It is thought to be less drought tolerant but in the typical Malaysian context we have the perfect recipe mix for its royal health, lots of rainfall, high humidity and bright sunshine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Red Edged Pandanus

Botanical Name : Pandanus utilis

This is one of my favourites because it looks so similar to the Cuban Petticoat Palm (Copernicia macroglossa).  Nevertheless, I want to include it here due to it being a close relative of the palm.

A native of Madagascar and Mauritius, this is a handsome tropical tree, not a pine despite being named the Screw Pine.

It is easy to fall for the look of this plant due to its unique design.  The flat linear leaves are arranged in a circular fashion around its central axis and fan out at regular intervals in an upward twirl.  However do beware that the edges of the leaves bear small sharp spines which could cause an allergic reaction on contact.

upward twirl
In some countries, these dried leaves are made into household items like weaved mats and baskets or used as thatching materials.

colour contrast
The mature tree grows well above 25ft and more. The female plants (flowers) will bear showy pineapple-like fruits, though edible they're not particularly delectable.


Architecturally, this makes a stunning landscape piece or focal point in any garden.  Its strong aerial roots prop up the plant as though on stilts.  It's also called a "walking palm" as been known to move from one spot to another. Just fancy that!

This young specimen sighted at waters edge lakeside Setia Eco Park, Shah Alam.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Dwarf Betel Nut Palm #2

Botanical Name : Areca catechu (dwarf)

The recent long pause was a kind of "writer's block" for which I have yet to get a proper breakthrough. Fortunately, this being a leisure blog, where I can get away lightly. However, the "blogage" still exists for now, basically over my own confusion about the peculiarity of Royals, Kings, Queens and Princesses (palms, that is!).

So, thought I'd leave those awhile longer and delight myself with a batch, 13 altogether (a superstitious number?), of young Areca catechu (dwarf) recently sighted at Rivercity, Jalan Ipoh, KL.

pot fencing
green as jade

tight fronds
petiole scars in the making

ringed & stout
Earlier post also refers The Dwarf Betel Nut Palm.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Chinese Fan Palm

Botanical Name : Livistonia chinensis

A native of Japan, Taiwan and southern China, this palm is also known as the Fountain Palm due to its weepy look.

Today's trip to Petaling Street in downtown KL saw the usual crowded atmosphere of out-of-town holiday makers, bargain hunters and foreign tourists looking for fake? yes, imitation brand name products at "negotiable" low prices.  Chinatown was what the colonial British called this immigrant enclave in its early days. However, over time, it had developed into a prosperous trading centre, its unique day and night market where cheap designer watches, bags, shoes, T-shirts, CDs, VCDs etc are being snapped up with brisk sales.

gateway to Chinatown

Okay, going there specifically for roast pork lunch was only a guise.  I'd been interested since the city council's refurbishment back in 2007 whereby the inclusion of palm trees, Livistonia chinensis, have added some greenery to the otherwise run down pre-war buildings and stuffy sidewalks. All these happened while I was away including the installation of a new blue polycarbonate roof in 2009 to make shopping more pleasant in the otherwise sweltering heat (or heavy downpours).

Must say I am of two minds about this kind of landscaping. Fencing in the palm is neither kind to the plant nor appreciative of its space requirements. With much commercial interests going on throughout the day and night, these palms are rendered no TLC.  Instead they stuck out like sore thumbs, at intervals, on both sides of the busy street.

Even the roof tiles of the stalls were arranged around the trunk of the palms, giving the impression that the palm grew out of the little green roofs. Everything else was concreted over leaving little space for the rootball. And while traders went about their daily businesses, the columns of palm trunks were practically used as pillars for the display of goods or anchor to tie sheets of canopies (in case it rains!).

reach for the sun
The leaves are costapalmate - part fan, part feather shaped and has short spines along the lower half of the petioles. There is no crown shaft and the palm may reach 25ft high. Luckily, this is a carefree palm and adaptable to varied soil conditions. This palm is easy to grow and bears bunches of small purplish black fruits.

So what's life like for these unpampered palms in such cramped conditions?

Growing up in such restrictive environment certainly has its challenges, reach for the sky (roof!), anyway...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Asian Palmyra Palm

Botanical Name : Borassus flabellifer
aka Lontar (Malay)

Sighted this pair of young Asian Palmyra palms in terracota pots gracing the southern entrance of The Curve (in front of Secret Recipe).

Also known as the Sugar Palm, Toddy Palm and Celestial Tree. This species is native to Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia right up to Indian continent where it is cultivated for its economic importance.

These are kind of large plants and may reach up to 12m tall.  The thick black trunk is hard and surrounded by dried scars of the petioles.

This species is best planted in a hot and sunny position as it thrives in the sun together with well drained soil.  Also quite tolerant of dry conditions.

The edges of the petioles are lined with short spines so do beware!
young trunk
semi-circular costa

The palmate leaves are bluish green in colour.  When mature, these could span 3m across.

Inflorescence of white blooms are followed by big, round purplish black fruits (quite like the round purple aubergine). Having glimpsed a large bunch of mature fruits along Bukit Kiara but missed the golden opportunity to take a photo!

Apparently all parts of this palm can be harvested for their various life-supporting functions and the list below is not exhaustive...only limited by one's imagination, I suppose.

fruits                             : translucent jelly like 'lychee' with a mild flavour
fibre covering jelly seed : eaten raw, boiled or roasted
sugary sap                    :  made into jaggery palm sugar
sugary sap                    : fermented into an alcoholic beverage
tree sap                        : taken as a laxative
sprouts                         : a firberous and nutritious meal when boiled
germinated seed           : cut to remove crunchy kernel which is similar to water chestnut
leaves                          : thatching, weaved mats, hats, baskets, umbrellas and writing material
trunks                          : construction material and fencing
crown                          : in India, the part where the leaves grow out from is made into a delicious cake
young plants                 : cooked or roasted as a vegetable

In many ways, similar to the Malayan coconut tree.  One you wish to be surrounded with on Lost Island.
Palmyra curry, anyone?