WEIRD AND WONDERFUL FLORA OF MALAYSIA
See if you can spot any of these:
1. Strangling fig This is an epiphyte that germinates from a seed deposited by a bird on a high branch. The seed, after germinating sends its roots down to the ground, and, as the roots multiply, they eventually suffocate the host tree. Ultimately with no host to bear its weight, the strangling fig also dies.
2. Rafflesia This is the world’s largest flower. It can measure up to one metre (3.3 feet) across and weigh up to 9 kgs (20 pounds). It was first discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles and Dr Joseph Arnold in 1818 in southwestern Sumatra. Rafflesia is a parasite that uses a vine as its host. When the plant is in full bloom, it has a faint stench of rotting meat that attracts flies.
3. Pitcher Plants Malaysia’s pitcher plants belong to the genus “Nepenthes”, a Latin word meaning “to remove all sorrow.” Homer referred to it in his poem, “The Odyssey”, and legend has it that Helen of Troy added the secretion of the pitcher plant to wine to enable men to forget their anxiety and grief. The Malay name for this plant is “periuk kera” (monkey’s cooking pot), which possibly refers to the plant’s pot-like shape with a hollow.
4. Orchids Known to humankind since 551 BC, the time of the Chinese sage, Confucius, these exotic flowers have fascinated Chinese poets and philosophers for their beauty, purity and grace. This “aristocrat” of flowers comes in many shapes, forms, colours and patterns. There are an estimated 24,000 species of orchids in the world. Of these, 6000 are found in Asia and an estimated 1000 in Peninsular Malaysia. Orchids are hardy plants which grow in the ground, on rocks, or perched on other plants and trees. There are 2 basic types of orchids – terrestrials which grow with roots and epiphytes which grow on tree trunks and branches.