Saturday, November 28, 2009

Orchids on fallen trees

All the photos in this post were taken in a single day’s outing to a limestone forest. They are of orchids on fallen or felled trees as well as on rotting branches on the forest floor. Also came across other orchids but they will be posted in a separate entry. As always, click for larger size.

Had to be very careful photographing the orchids. There was one tree which fell across a wide chasm with very sharp limestone around it. Risk of being cut, impaled or thrown off balance into the chasm. I actually fell at another spot when I stepped on a rotten branch. I landed flat on my torso. Had there been sharp protruding limestone beneath, I wouldn’t be here writing this. Scary thought…

Friend took photos of me in various precarious positions while photographing but I haven’t seen them. Probably go weak in the knees if I did. Friend himself fell down a chasm once, thankfully it wasn’t too deep. He was crossing a fallen tree trunk and it broke! Hmm… yep, scary thought.

Also saw two small snakes, one struck out and thankfully missed when I almost stepped on it! Both the same type, dark greenish brown, looked like vipers but vipers don’t normally move that fast?

Besides those pictured here, there were also lots and lots of Flickingeria species other small orchids on the fallen trees.

When I first saw this, I thought it was a bird’s nest.

It turned out to be a ball of mini Bulbophyllum orchids! There’s also Dischidia in there.

Eria orchids. There’s Coelogyne as well but most have died.

Coelogyne, Eria and Liparis species.

Oberonia species, about to flower too.

Sharp limestone!

In a dark place, these won’t survive long, especially with the rainy season that’s just arrived.

A small Eria species with very cute little flowers.

Size of of Eria sp. flowers compared to finger tip.

This is a crop of a photo taken with my pocket digicam. Click for larger size.

And this, a crop from a photo taken on my Oly e510 with Sigma 105mm macro lens. Compared to the pocket digicam crop, like day and night. Click for larger size.

A busy little ant visiting each flower.

Quite a few were in flower.

There’s that busy ant again.

Coelogyne foerstermannii orchids are commonly found on large trees high in the canopy or growing on the tree trunks. When they come down with a crashing forest giant, they often die off from what I have observed. Strange because high in the tree tops, they get a lot of light too, a bit of direct sun an hour or two a day shouldn’t cause them to die off like this. This large fallen tree left a big void in the canopy but direct sunlight shouldn’t last for more than a couple hours in this spot.

This looks like the common Bulbophyllum vaginatum.

Coelogyne foerstermannii. Many of the pseudobulbs were starting to blacken. Perhaps baked by sudden direct sunlight.

Lycopodium or Club fern, Bulbophyllum  and other unidentified species.

Wonder what these are? Thrixspermum?

A closer look.

This type of Lycopodium (four-angled lyco) is not as common as the Cat’s tail lyco.

Funny and true short - while visiting a wild orchids and plants garden, one of the staff there saw me looking at a Lycopodium species and told me it was also an orchid. :D

What could that orchid be in the center of the pic?

Curious! Very curious!

What is it? Some kind of Porpax?

This isn’t an orchid, it’s a kind of ant plant.

Another fallen tree and broken branches.

A healthy survivor (shaded from direct sun). Note the dead cluster of Coelogyne foerstermannii p-bulbs on the left.

Here’s that curious Porpax-like orchid again. Had to brace myself against a limestone wall for this shot (without flash) as it was pretty dark in the forest.

On a fallen trunk.

And one more photo taken with flash.

A fallen branch with a dendro. Most probably the common and widespread Dendrobium secundum. Note when I say common, I mean often seen by me, not common like pigeon-orchid (Dendrobium crumenatum) common!

These very tall trees growing in the limestone hill forest swayed left and right when strong winds blew through. Quite alarming to look at, we were glad to be out of there! It’s small wonder why trees often fall or break especially where there is so little soil to hold on to. Amazing that they grow to such heights in the first place, given the very poor soil conditions.

This tree looked like it had been dead for years. There was a single clump of Coelogyne swaniana with seed pod on it.

There was also this clump of Eria species (looks like Eria leiophylla) sitting in a fork.

Dark clouds! The weather in this time of year is highly unpredictable. Sunny one moment, cloudy and very windy the next.

A dead tree and a tangle of broken branches.

This broken branch has what looks like Liparis gibbosa on it.

Bulbophyllum species.

Will post photos of other orchids next. They include 4 kinds of jewel orchids, Neuwiedia, Appendicula, Habenaria and other species including one I have never seen before.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Papilionanthe hookeriana in natural habitat

I’ve known about this swamp orchid (formerly Vanda hookeriana) for a long time but I’ve never seen them flowering in situ. I’ve also heard sightings of them growing by the thousands in abandoned mining ponds and lakes in West Malaysia (but now nearly extinct due to development). So when I was told there were some flowering in the wild a few hours away, I planned an outing to photograph them as soon as the next sunny day arrived.

That day arrived (actually the November weather’s been unusually good this week!) so we drove out well prepared, cameras, lenses, rubber boots, moz repellent etc. Filled up the tank to full, went for breakfast and set off. We were headed to the swamps!

It was a very long and tiring drive, for me anyway, as anything longer than 3 hours is too far for me. By the time we got there, my ass was as flat as a runway. But what a sight that greeted us! Flowers!! Many were flowering. Some must have been more than 8 feet tall, towering above the giant swamp plants, Hanguana malayana. The two species are often found growing together.

We were in luck, flowers!

Old flowers but still beautiful.

Hanguana malayana. These swamp plants are taller than a man.

White flowers of Cambomba or fanwort.

Papilionanthe hookeriana flowering in the swamp.

Two young plants (keikis) growing from an adult stem which is foot deep in the swamp water.

Papilionanthe hookeriana is a true swamp orchid. Click the picture for the larger size and note how part of the plant is deep in the water with roots in the substrate.

This plant is several feet tall, I stood a distance from it and used my 105mm macro for this shot. It managed to rise above the towering Hanguana malayana to flower with the aid of a screw pine.

It was such a joy to see them flowering in the wild with my own eyes! They are such beautiful orchids!

Arundina graminifolia is a very common orchid in Sarawak which grows like a weed. Quickly colonizes open disturbed areas. The plants pictured above were growing at the edge of a swamp.

Tall healthy plants growing together with other swamp plants such as screw pines and hanguanas.

Nepenthes mirabilis pitcher plants are also found in abundance here.

No flowers on this one but I really like how this photo turned out.

Anyone who keeps papilios, either hybrids or species, would know that they multiply quickly from cuttings or long, mature stems. If left undisturbed, they would quickly fill the perimeter of a swamp in no time.

A very beautiful orchid deserving our respect.

Typical habitat of the swamp orchid.

Photographing the orchids.

Nepenthes mirabilis.

Growing together with Nepenthes mirabilis pitcher plants.

Papilionanthe hookeriana, the swamp orchid. Now I know why they love lots of water, no amount of rain in December can kill them (at least none of my papilios ever suffered rot due to too much rain!). No need to worry about over-watering this one!

Hope you all enjoyed this post. Please visit my Flickr photoset (click here) for more photos.
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