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.


Iulian from Romania said...

Excellent article. Very instructive.

sarawaklens said...

@lulian, thanks for visiting my blog.

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