Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Piriqueta racemosa - a new weed in Ubin

Piriqueta racemosa (Family Turneraceae) is a native from the West Indies and a new arrival of a weed discovered by my good old pal and partner-in-plant Ali Ibrahim. He found a cluster of this hairy tall herb growing along the perimeter fence of the former Celestial Resort not too long ago.

I must say that the process of identifying it has been exceedingly fun and stimulating and all the more rewarding as it is so 'alien'. The journey with the mind went much much further than half a world away. Like I always say, the mind is bigger than the universe. I think I have been there and back again.

May we present you Piriqueta racemosa. A beautiful name, isn't it? : ) Enjoy the images below.

Fruit: 3-valved capsule and pitted curved seeds.
Common English name of the herb: Rigid Stripeseed.
Opened yellow flowers
Hairy calyx
Flowers and fruits spirally arranged.
Peduncle long and slender.
Stem round slender and bristly (hispid).
The stiff long hairs is reflected in one of the
synonym - Turnera hispidissima.
Annual herb about 35 -50cm tall. Leaves sweet
smelling when crushed.
Leaf upper surface bristly glandular. 
Leaf underside velvety; margin crenulate.
Found in Pulau Ubin, 2012
"Long ago introduced into the Bogor Botanical
Gardens, since long naturalized in the region
between Djakarta and Bogor." (Van Steenis, 1948)
Britton and Wilson (1924), p 598; Scientific Survey of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands; N.Y. Academy of Sciences 5(4).
Van Steenis, C.G.G.J. et al (1948), pp 4:235-236; Flora Malesiana, Series I. Noordhoff-Kolff, Djakarta, 1948-1954, 14 volumes.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Man behind Syzygium ngadimanianum

I take particular pleasure in highlighting a tree I recently found in MacRitchie which bears the name of the first forest ranger of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. His name is Ngadiman and the tree is Syzygium ngadimanianum - a relatively rare jumbol tree of the rain forest of Singapore and Malaysia.

Leaves and fruits of Syzygium ngadimanianum

Ngadiman was first to discover the tree in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in 1939. His two botanical collections of the tree provided H.R. Henderson type material to describe and publish the species as Eugenia ngadimaniana in his honour in 1947. It was subsequently revised as Syzygium ngadimanianum by I.M. Turner in 2007.

Ngadiman was first and foremost an invaluable plant collector and assistant to the likes of Corner and Henderson. He was primarily responsible for training Corner's famous monkeys to collect herbarium specimens of the forest trees. His fascinating career can be found in his biography linked here.

In his memory, I like to share with you some photos of the tree and its fruits and leaves, and also an old photo of the bridge which bore his name - Ngadiman Bridge - a concrete bridge spanning a small gully along the now defunct Tiup Tiup Trail of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Syzygium ngadimanianum, MacRitchie 2012
Smooth cracked bark
Close-up of green oblong fruit with tiny incurved calyx
Ngadiman Bridge (Tiup Tiup Trail, BTNR)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Flying Fish Friends Speak

Say Lin, this is timely indeed. At the very least, your SINGAPORE WILD BOAR CHRONICLES Facebook is a much-needed platform for friends of wild boars to bear witness to experiencing the wonderful and conflict-free interaction we can have with them when we treat them right.

In all my years of nature walks in Pulau Ubin, never once did I have problem with wild boars - even those with piglets in tow. The whole point is treating them right - with respect. The true complexion of the wild boar has been unfairly painted over as aggressive and dangerous by our own fear and ignorance. They are not a danger to us if we treat them right. In fact, people can become a real and present danger to the wild boar by their very own fear and ignorance, and if I may add - stupidity.

What do you expect when (for example) one gestures loudly, disturbs and chases a wild boar? It will run amok. And worse still, it may hurt some innocent bystanders standing in the way of a scared boar. The wild boar cannot be said to 'charge' with dangerous intent; it just ran blindly out of fear of being attacked in the first place.

Left alone and respected, wild boar in our midst is not only a wondrous element of the wild to behold but it is also a great reflection of a kind and tolerant society – one which is wholesome of heart and gentle in spirit and ready to encompass the world and the universe as one’s true home. When I see a macaque or a hornbill  or even a wild boar in an urban enclave like Bishan Park, I am reminded of the greater nature I belong to. I feel like a flying fish unbounded and free. Happy.

The city is only a thin skin by which our life depends on and if we are not careful (for example - painting a bad light on wild boar and promoting further fear and ignorance, and eliminating a gentle creature off the face of our immediate existence) - we allow this thin skin to engulf and suffocate the poetry and song that human life naturally dance to. In which case, we die truly not a human race but a rat race who knew not what living is all about.

Related article: Conservation is Not Enough

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jambu Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus jambu)

Sighted today in Singapore's last remaining freshwater swamp forest at around noon. It flew into my view while I was surveying the trees. It perched long enough for me to observe it through my trusty binoculars. Such a gorgeously colored bird. My first time seeing it in fact.

Thanks to my friend Jacky I got the identification expertly rendered over the phone. I looked up my classic bird book back at home and here are some interesting notes by G. C. Madoc (An Introduction to Malayan Birds)... a voice from the past...

-- The PINK-HEADED FRUIT-DOVE; Ptilinopus jambu, "punai jambu" or "punai gading" also appears occasionally at the hill-stations, but is typically a bird of the foot-hills. Both sexes are easily distinguished by the white of the abdomen and the beautiful clear grass green of most of the remaining plumage. In addition, the male displays a crimson-lake head and a patch of rose-pink on the breast. (There is a risk of confusing this with the Red-bearded Bee-eater.) It is the same size as most of the Green Pigeons, but is a plumper bird. Though named a Dove, it does not descend to the ground, as far as I know. It performs local migrations in the autumn, and may then be met on the coasts of the Malacca Straits. --

I did not care to try take a photo of the pigeon but held my breath as I admired the fellow up the bough for as long as it stayed. So I have attached above a beautiful photo from ARKIVE with credit gratefully acknowledged here. Happy viewing! : )

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Conservation is Not Enough

Can there be nature conservation without higher principles of good, of love and empathy, and of decency of treatment to all living things whose lives we now acknowledge as every part intertwined with our very own and that without them we cannot possibly survive as a human race?

Conservation is not enough.

"The grand question remains whether most people actually want hearts to be tenderer or harder."
- Joseph Wood Krutch, philosopher of humaneness, once said so beautifully.

Teach our children well. Teach them to have a heart of tenderness, a heart for justice. In Nature, we learn love and reverence for life. We teach them to celebrate and value life. What better way to teach goodness and justice than to start young and learn to feel for the weak - the animals that cannot talk and defend themselves against cruelty - and defend them.

If we give our children this priceless gift of love and empathy and a heart not just soft but strong for the weak, we give them a society that is loving, caring and strong. We build upon what we built in them which they in turn build on.

Violence begets violence. Children learn fast.

Show them inhumane treatment of animals, we sow in them the seed of cruelty - even a disrespect for human life.

Show them callousness, they learn callousness. Shallowness of thought and selfishness of heart take root.

Our society deserve kind and caring children. Our children deserve a humane society.

Can nature conservation do without higher principles? Can we be so careless as to introduce a disease of heartlessness. As a caring Singaporean, I must say a resounding NO.

What about you? Don't you care?

Has conservation grown old and cold and the spirit dead?

Related article: Flying Fish Friends Speak

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chek Jawa: Just One Day in May 2012

The diversity of marine creatures witnessed by participants of our guided intertidal walks at Chek Jawa in May 2012 were amazing if not star-studded. Showcased below are findings in just one such walk. Enjoy!!

A rare Spiny sea star amongst the regular sea cucumbers, sea snails, crabs and shrimps...

Knobbly sea star...

Biscuit sea star...

Brittle star...

Feather star...

Common sea star...

And an A-list must-see Seahorse...

Besides the usual Flathead and Catfish, we found a Toadfish...

Delicate and graceful dancers of the sea... a Blue Dragon and a Black-margined Glossodoris nudibranch and a sea hare...

And our harmless armoured friends... Horseshoe Crabs that always delight participants...

And a baby squid adding a change of colours that wows everyone without fail...

Last but not least, a piece of heaven on earth in the gentle light of dawn.

How wonderful wonderful our world is, don't you agree?

And as for me, a sea squirt that I have not seen before...

Thank you, Chek Jawa : )

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Magpie Robin Nesting in Style

I was pleasantly surprised seeing a Magpie Robin building a nest in the head of a figurine at the Land Art Exhibition of Singapore Botanic Gardens. Call it nesting in style in Tanglin District. : )

Above photo: the busy Magpie Robin returning again with nesting material.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tulostoma: Rare Fungus in Chek Jawa Coastal Forest

Never a day in Chek Jawa and not learning something new. Here on her coastal hill is found a rarely seen fungus called Tulostoma.

Its leathery basidiocarp is shaped like a miniature durian a centimeter in diameter and borne on a stalk. Because of this unique feature, it is commonly called a Stalked Puffball.

The immature basidiocarps are brown, woody and inconspicuous.

It makes me wonder if Tulostoma (as rigid as it appears) disperses its spores in the same explosive way as other puffballs do, and whether the wild boars whose presence on the coastal hill is so evident smell them out and snack on them.

There is truly no end to wonderment in Chek Jawa, I must say. You are ten thousandfold more likely to drown in wonderment than from any mishap in the seas here. [ha ha]

And if I may invite you to pause a moment to imagine Tulostoma's mycelia - those invisible masses of fungal threads that bind and effect life in the good earth - maybe we might just allow Chek Jawa to expand our thoughts into her invisible and infinite embodiment of cells - of all her plants, animals, protists, bacteria as well as fungi - and imagine relationships upon relationships beyond the phenotype to the molecular, the genes and the proteins... we might just see the common Thread of Life we share so intrinsically and how inseparable we humans are even to the inorganic minerals found in the rocks of Chek Jawa, dissolved in the seas and falling from the sky.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Calophyllum pulcherrimum: Additions to the Flora of Keppel Island

She is indeed a double beauty - beautiful, most beautiful. Calophyllum pulcherrimum derives her name from Greek Kalos - beautiful, and Latin pulcherrimum - most beautiful.

Last week, she set off a most spectacular firework of creamy white flowers shooting in all directions from her lofty perch atop the small hillock at Keppel Island. I could not have asked for a better start to my second flora survey of the island.

There was only one leaf at the foothill but I found it. A fine-veined somewhat glossy leaf a-glimmering in the light. It was as if cast down like a delicate silk handkerchief to snare my attention and say, "Hey Joe, I am here above. Look. Don't miss me out in your census ok".

I present you thus a list of additions (including Miss Beautiful-Most Beautiful) to the Flora of Keppel Island below.

Additions to the Flora of Keppel Island
Arthrophyllum diversifolium
Asystasia nemorum
Calophyllum pulcherrimum
Caryota mitis
Cissus hastata
Clidemia hirta
Cocos nucifera
Crinum asiatica
Dendrophthoe pentandra
Dicranopteris linearis
Dillenia suffructicosa
Elaeis guineensis
Fibraurea tinctoria
Ficus microcarpa
Lygodium circinnatum
Lygodium microphyllum
Mikania micrantha
Nephrolepis biserrata
Pandanus odoratissimus
Passiflora laurifolia
Ptychosperma macarthurii
Spathodea campanulata
Syzygium campanulatum
Taenitis blechnoides
Triphasia trifolia
Vitex pinnata