Monday, April 26, 2010

Mawai Eco Camp II

The highlight of the entire trip was on the second day, where we were to conquer Gunung Arong, a 300m hill.

Gurong Arong 1
Here is a group photo just sent to us by Sutari.

And here, we walked through the dirt path to the hill in front.

VB found this climbing fig which WF suggested to be Ficus trichocarpa. This fig is critically endangered in Singapore.

I saw this climber which looked like Monstera deliciosa, an exotic climber commonly cultivated in urban Singapore. Wondered why it is doing in a pristine forest like this.

A cute shrub that resemble a Phyllanthus, probably from the same family at least, from its hanging fruits.

There were lots of this tree that bear brown flowers/fruits throughout the forest.

Unfortunately, nobody can place an identity on it. Update: Schoutenia accrescens

I was taught by the experts that this leaf is distinctive of Dipterocarpus costulatus with ridges like a corrugated cardboard and wedge-shaped leaf base.

We soon reached the top which was cleared of vegetation to provide a breath-taking view of the South China Sea.

Orchids were plentiful at the peak.

Here are more of them.

AL told me that this orchid is probably Coelogyne fostermanii.

I was more excited to find another critically endangered fig of Singapore, Ficus deltoidea.

After seeing a few gigantic Shorea trees in front of us, Shawn Lum decided to estimate the age of the trees by measuring their diamater. He told us that this tree is at least 300 years old!

After a steep climb down the hill, we finally reached the base and the vegetation changes to a costal beach forest.

One of the several Hoya species we saw throughout the trip, this is probably Hoya verticillata.

There were also a few species which eluded even the experts like this climber above. Update: Salacia maingayi. ID-ed by SING herbarium.

Probably the prettiest flowers in the entire trip, from the Memecylon plant.

Another orchid, Vanilla sp.

BH pointed out this Angsana tree, Pterocarpus indicus, living in its native habitat. This common roadside tree is an exotic species in Singapore.

Another critically endangered plant of Singapore, the Pong Pong, Cerbera manghas.

There were a few mangrove plants at the estuary, mainly making out of Lumnitzera littorea with flaming red flowers.

These mangrove rattans, probably Calamus erinaceus looked amazing at a far view though I wouldn’t relish bashing through them!

A simple bridge across the river gave me a huge relief as I had initially thought that I will have to wade through the water.

Looking back, it was quite amazing that we have walked up the hill to the peak and walk down to the other side.

Our last plant before boarding the bus was this figging Ficus superba!

All in all, a great learning trip with the right company and it was worth every penny paid.

Mawai Eco Camp Part I

Mel first told me about this trip but I wasn’t really interested at that time. It was only when PY asked me again that I decided to just try for it.

This weekend holiday was to Mawai Eco Camp, and it was organised by the Nature Society catered especially for the Plant Group. It was also opened to the public with extra charges, but it turned out that we were the only two non-members in the gang.

We had a short bus trip before arriving at the jetty where we were ferried over to the other end of a river to the campsite. The place was surprising clean and serene, and there was no electricity and everything is made of wood.

Here is our guide, Sutari. A jovial guy who seem to laugh at every moment, he reminds me of Sergant Dollah in the Channel 5 show, Police and Thief. He was showing us how the leaves of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum), when chewed can be used for wound healing.

After lunch, we went for a swamp forest walk with an Orang Asli guiding the way. Sutari showed us some the aboriginal people can survive in the forest by using the vegetation in the forest. One example was this Sedge where the edible young stem can be eaten.

He also told us that the rhizomes of the Lygodium fern (on his head) can be eaten to treat many ailments.

Even though I know many rattans can climb,

but this is the first time I see one that grew from the base and all the way to the up a host tree! Interesting that this rattan doesn’t even use spines to climb.

The Orang Asli showed us some survival skills and chopped off a short piece of liana. We were amazed how much water was contained in there and all of us are able to get a sip from this piece. Be careful though, because we have to check to make sure that the water is not milky before drinking it.

An unfortunate lady got sucked by a leech halfway during the trip and Sutari showed us how to counter these creatures, by using saliva! Throwing out a big spit of saliva (which disgusted everyone) on the leech, the annelid became drowsy and weak. 

After the walk, we went for a river cruise along Sungei Mawai.

One of the highlights was the Dusky Leaf Monkeys and there were troops of them hanging around the freshwater swamp. We even get to see a baby monkey which was orange in colour.

In a group of enthusiastic botanists like Angie, Von Bing and Bian Hwee, we were naturally infected to investigate many strange plants along the river. I also got to know that Corner wrote a book about this place in “The Freshwater swamp-forest of South Johore and Singapore”.

One of the common trees we saw was this Tristaniopsis sp. which have flaking bark.

Another common plant is this Rengas, Gluta velutina that has interesting papery fruits.

Just before the day ended, we headed out to the river ahead for a fire fly lighting spectacle, followed by a star gazing guide. And I had a pretty sleepless night because of the hot weather, mossies and some snoring humans who occupied the longhouse catered for the non-snorers =.=”

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Showy flowers in urban forest

It has been a while since I last blogged here, the reason because I had been spending all my effort contributing to another one. Won’t talk about that since it is still at the infant stage.

Anyway, besides that, I have been wandering around taking pictures of plants for the past month, so I thought I might as well showcase some of the nicer ones here. Urban nature while can’t compare to the wild, is also remarkable in its own ways.

A pretty species of a Passiflora flower, Love in the mist (Passiflora foetida). Though pretty, its crushed leaves gives a stench, hence its specific name ‘foetida’, which means stinky.


The Noni plant, Morinda citrifolia, pops out spontaneously in the urban regions, the fruits and flowers often swarmed with weaver ants.


This white glittering lily, Zephyranthes candida, is one of my favourite herbs. Yea, its an exotic plant though. ;p

I was lucky to take a nice close up shot of this native bird, the black-naped oriole, which was perched above me.

Wild climbers might look messy sometimes, but when it flowers, wooo…. This is Thunbergia grandiflora, the Clock Vine.


And the Skunk Vine, Paederia foetida, another smelly climber.

This is a cultivar of Syzygium campanulatum which bears dark red leaves and bloody red inflorescences…

compared to the normal S. campanulatum, with lots of Asian honey bees flying around the flowers.

Managed to get a lucky shot of another bird, Pink Neck Green Pigeon feeding on the fruits of this common tree, Vitex pinnata.

And lastly, a changeable lizard on a Macarthur’s Palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii) inflorescences. Hey, maybe it is a pollinator for the plant too!

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