Friday, December 11, 2009

Exploring former Phalaenopsis bellina habitat Part 1

This write up is long overdue but I got sick with dengue fever shortly after visiting this place. I still do not know from which place I got bitten by the dengue carrier mosquitoes. I am thankful to God for my friends who visited me at the hospital and prayed for me, thanks Peter and Suzy. Your prayers were answered and brought comfort to me and I got a very good rest that night and was discharged the very next day!

A recreation of what might have been if Phalaenopsis bellina still exist in this place.

That morning, I met up with two other friends before setting off to this river once known to be the habitat for Phalaenopsis bellina, the state flower of Sarawak. As usual, we had breakfast at a kopitiam and we all had Sarawak Laksa which was really good! A big steaming bowl of scrumptious rice noodles soaked in spicy hot gravy with coconut milk, coriander, tauge (bean sprouts), shrimp, chicken breast-meat slivers (soaks up the gravy nicely!) and sliced fried eggs. Yum!

This photo isn’t too good, I’ve got lots of pocket lint trapped in my camera phone! Sarawak Laksa truly is the best laksa, in my book anyway!

We arrived at our starting point early and began making our way to the river by walking through someone’s farm land. Here we came across a number of fruiting Tampoi Belimbing (Baccaurea angulata) trees.


The skin of this star-fruit-like fruit turns a lighter red when they are ready to be harvested. And if you have ever had Tampoi, another favorite seasonal local fruit, you’ll know why this is called Tampoi Belimbing. The flesh resembles the flesh of Tampoi but the fruit is like star-fruit (Belimbing). 

tampoi_belimbing (2)

The tree and leaves actually remind me of water-apple (Syzygium sp.) or jambu bol. Tampoi Belimbing is not a very well known tropical fruit from Borneo. White, sweet flesh but pretty sour when unripe. In place of sour tamarind (asam), the skin may be used to cook asam/sour fish or to provide a tangy taste to fish curry. Its other local name is buah geruming.

Riverside habitats are home to many epiphytes. One of the most common orchids found here are Cymbidium finlaysonianum.

Aeschynanthus or lipstick plants are also abundant here. They form untidy curtains that hang down from the tree branches all along the river. I spotted at least two different species and unfortunately, only dried, burst seed pods were seen. The flowering season must have been several months ago.

Many epiphytes such as these Eria orchids may be found growing on the riverside trees. None were in flower.

These look like Eria pulchella a species I have found growing in the driest limestone habitats to the edge of the sea on boulders and cliffs just a few feet away from the salty surf. Here they grow well in the shade of a tree just by the river.

This huge tree must have been like 40 or more meters tall. On it were lots of epiphytes such as Trichoglottis and Eria species. It would have made my day if I had spotted Paphiopedilum lowii on it!

Also came across lots of figs scattered on the forest floor. Figs are intriguing in that the tiny flowers are actually borne inside the fruit and are pollinated by specialized fig wasps.

Tacca or bat-flowers are also commonly found around these parts, especially in fruit orchards and rubber plantations. Unfortunately, they are often cut or sprayed with weed-killers when the farmers clear their land.

This strangler fig isn’t contend with wrapping around a single host tree, it sent a big root to an adjacent tree and wrapped around that one too!

The black-water river which we visited. The water looked very ominous. All the time I wondered if there was a pig farm or poultry farm somewhere up stream. I hate pig farms, in my book, they are the worst type of livestock farms and they have polluted the many once-crystal clear rivers in Bau.

To be continued in part 2.

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