Tuesday, November 28, 2017

West Malaysia: A Fraser's Hill Interlude (Part 2)

I will need three postings to cover my day trip to Fraser's Hill on October 26, 2014 - Fraser's Hill is that kind of place.  This installment takes a pause from bird- (and other animal-) watching to have a look at some of the area's abundant and varied plant life...

...most of which, I admit in advance, I cannot identify.

Let' start, as a systematic botanist might do, with the ferns - plants hard to overlook in the forest understorey.

Tree fern (Cyathaceae)
Tree ferns (Cyathaceae), the most graceful of plants, can dominate the lower forest levels.

Many of the smaller ferns are epiphytes, clinging to fallen logs or to the trunks of living trees.

I confess I do not know if this is an odd-looking fern, some sort of seedling palm, or something else.

These fruits certainly (well, I think so) belong to some sort of palm.  The fruits look very much (to my uneducated eye) like the fruits of a species of Iguanura, a palm of the forest understorey; Iguanura geonomiformis is known from Fraser's Hill, so that may be what this is.  The odd name Iguanura mean's "iguana's tail".  The fruiting stem, once bare of fruit, looks something like a lizard's tail, and that may be the source of the name.

These straggly growths, a common sight on open road edges, are not an unruly sort of grass but the fronds of Bamboo Orchids (Arundina graminifolia).

Bamboo Orchid (Arundina graminifolia)
Here are the flowers.

ginger sp
Though (as I have often admitted here) I am no botanist, I can place the odd plant at least to family.  This, for example, is a ginger of some sort.

This is also a ginger, a species in the common genus Globba. The plants in this genus at Fraser's Hill belong to two species, Globba cernua and G. patens, that hybridize in other parts of the country but not, apparently, here; if photographs on the internet are any guide, this appears to be Globba patens.

These are surely begonias, of which there are a number of species in the Malaysian highlands.

So, I believe, is this plant.  Malaysia is, in fact, loaded to the teeth with begonias of various sorts, many still awaiting scientific description;  in Sarawak, there may be as many as 100 undescribed species.

I'm on a lot shakier ground here, but I suspect this is a member of the Gesneriaceae; could it be a species of lipstick vine (Aeschynanthus)? 

This may also be a sort of gesneriad...

...as is, probably, this one.  There are many species of this family in Malaysia.

This daisy-like flower certainly belongs to a composite of some sort.

Here's a lovely flower that I managed to tie down only after considerable searching on the internet.  It  belongs to the genus Sonerila, a member (as its lilac petals might have suggested to me) of the Melastomataceae.  At least eight species of Sonerila have been recorded at Fraser's Hill, at least one of which is found nowhere else.

I have no idea what these are!

Flowers are beautiful enough, but one of the singular pleasures of being in a tropical forest is the display of young leaves on many of its plants.  Their red colour, so pleasing to our eye, is probably a warning to leaf-eaters.  Tender young leaves are vulnerable to a host of herbivores, so as a defense leaves like these may be loaded with toxins.

Their toxins don't matter to a human naturalist, but their beauty certainly does.

I'll finish with an image of a fallen flower - a flash of colour, soon to fade away, in the gloom of the forest floor.

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