Sunday, January 17, 2010

In search of D. burmannii

A few days ago, a friend from Indonesia stopped by for a visit. He’s also very much into carnivorous plants or CPs (much more than I am!!) so we went exploring in open disturbed areas looking for CPs to photograph. Our main aim was to find sundews, specifically Drosera burmannii.

I’ve never had the good fortune of seeing sundews in the wild. Maybe it’s because they’re so small that they’re difficult to spot or maybe they see me coming and hide! :D I have been to Bako National Park a few times now and while some have found Drosera spathulata on their very first visit, I have yet to see a single one in situ!


Before heading out to explore, our first stop that day was to a nursery with a small selection of CPs. This place used to have lots of beautiful Sarracenias, sundews and Venus Fly Traps so we were quite shocked to see only a few pots of struggling plants remaining. The owner told us that many plants had died due to the flash floods last year. Very unfortunate because one was truly spoiled for choice just a couple years ago!


After the nursery, we headed off to a vacant piece of land where Drosera burmannii colonies have been reported before. Some unscrupulous people have chosen to dump their wastes and unwanted things here such as old chairs, cupboards, truck tires and even sawdust. The mounds of saw dust I suspect are dumped there by the nearby wood processing factories. Worst of all, there were lots of broken glass and bottles in the area, plus some idiots had set the sawdust on fire!



Friend still shoots with a camphone because it’s tres convenient but hopefully he’ll join the dSLR club this year especially since we have an exciting Kalimantan trek lined up. It will be a pity not to take some good photos then!



Dead tree stumps such as the one above make attractive orchid mounts but I didn’t collect any.



Some of the Nepenthes mirabilis pitchers are huge!



Nepenthes mirabilis grow in great numbers in the sunny exposed field.



The soil type is sandy or loamy soil poor in nutrients but a favorite of carnivorous plants.



We were also quite surprised to find lots of fish such as leaping danios (an introduced species from Thailand), croaking gouramis, barbs and rasboras in the many ditches here.



Nepenthes gracilis loves such poor soil conditions and are often found “creeping” on white sandy ground.



Nepenthes mirabilis growing by the side of a ditch in an area strewn with broken bricks, cement blocks and other wastes.



Idiots have set fire to the sawdust mounds here. Could also have been lighted by the people who dumped it there. These burn forever and are hard to put out, polluting the air all around.



A Nepenthes mirabilis pitcher with beautiful markings on the peristome.



Photographing beauty and life amidst industrial refuse.



After spending a while in the very hot sun looking around the damp and swampy areas of the field, we decided to head off into the wooded areas. Our search for D. burmannii so far yielded none. Not even a tiny baby plant. This place used to be a shady kerangas and some of the original tree species can still be seen in the picture above.



Our attempt to search for a trail to the wooded area was foiled by a black dog hiding in the bushes. You can’t see it in this picture but it’s there right in the middle under all that fern cover. Friend nearly walked into it when he suddenly spotted a pair of red eyes staring at him. It started barking at us so we made a hasty retreat. We were not going to risk a possibly rabid dog chasing after us!



After walking about for a bit more, nearly melting in the heat, we found an alternative route to the kerangas, passing through a small sugarcane plantation.



Many of the kerangas trees have been cut and the area cleared for planting sugarcane. The plants are most likely planted by sugarcane drink sellers often seen along Kuching roadsides.



No idea what plant this is. I call it the mothball tree hah!



In the wooded area are many Nepenthes ampullaria plants, a species which prefers shadier conditions. I believe this is because the ground pitchers rely heavily on leaf litter and other organic matter found on damp forest floors for nutrients.



A beautifully colored Nepenthes gracilis pitcher.



The wooded area is fringed by dense growths of Ploiarium alternifolium trees, small tree saplings, ferns and other shrubs. P. alternifolium is locally known as pokok somah (somah tree) and the young leaves or shoots are edible (tangy taste). Also known as pokok riang-riang in some parts of the country. Quick to colonize disturbed sandy areas, this small tree species is a common sight in many parts of Kuching.



In this stagnant ditch, I found a Ceratopteris species, an aquatic fern. This is a popular plant for the large planted aquaria as when it is submerged, it produces very beautiful light green leaves that spread out and almost glow in bright aquarium lights. Above water, the leaves take on a very different form, being slightly succulent and terete.



A small pool with lots of bladderworts (Utricularia species). Sadly, not a single sundew to be found.



*sigh* lots of other CPs like utricularis but no droseras. About this time, we were ready to give up and head on to a different area.



A burning sawdust mound polluting the air with smoke particles.



Big truck tires which collect rain water and serve as breeding ground for mosquitoes are also dumped here by irresponsible people.



Among all that ugliness was this beauty, a bamboo orchid (Arundina graminifolia). Aruns are very common along certain roads near Kuching and along with another terrestrial species, Bromheadia finlaysoniana, they are quick to colonize open areas with suitable soil conditions.



More Nepenthes mirabilis plants growing among old tires and other refuse.



Interesting pods on a small tree.



Time to head off. Mission failed. We were quite disappointed that we couldn’t find even a small sundew even though huge healthy colonies have been reported growing here before. Perhaps they all disappeared due to a natural disease. Another possibility is that we went at the wrong time since D. burmannii is short lived and may be seasonal. Looks like I will have to wait a bit longer to catch my first glimpse of droseras in situ.


camillenoir said...

"Interesting pods on a small tree. "

Leucaena leucocephala - invasive species from Mexico, spreads like wildfire and very hard to kill.

sarawaklens said...

camillenoir, thanks for the ID and useful info!

weeps said...

I love the Mirabils, it's really huge and beauty, nice trip.

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