Category Archives: plants

Gardens by the Bay

Some of you came by and left happy birthday wishes last week.  I was not able to immediately reply because I was in neighboring Singapore and was too skinflint to spring for the cost of wifi.  Nevertheless, thanks for the messages which I appreciated even though I don’t normally observe that day in any special manner.  ( I am still annoyed and have been for many years that I can no longer claim to be an ‘irresponsible’ teenager).

Anyway, I spent most of my birthday on the open road, driving to Singapore.  However, the point of this post is to share with you my experiences at one of Singapore’s more recent attractions, the Gardens by the Bay.

The place is located on reclaimed land within a stone throw away from the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel (well, it’s a stone throw if Hercules was doing the throwing).  There you will find open gardens showcasing different types of flora to which admission is free and is a great place to walk around and get some serenity in the midst of bustling Singapore (avoid school holidays and public holidays though when the people throng through like sardine schools).

However, there are also the very spectacular Supertrees.  These are tall 25 -50 m structures shaped like trees with a spreading canopy but most special of all is that vegetation has been encouraged to grow on the structure creating a natural green and living wall.  At night, the Supertree Grove is lit up and twice a night a very beautiful light show is performed.  The Supertrees are also linked by a walkway that allows you to take in the Supertrees and the view of the gardens from several storeys up.  These Supertrees alone are probably worth making the trip to the Gardens.

However, there are two enormous greenhouse like domes; the Flower Dome and the Cloud Dome.  The former is basically a large climate controlled greenhouse for plants including arid desert plants and flowers.  When I was there, the focus was on orchids.

The Cloud Dome is a massive structure that  houses a huge man-made hill complete with waterfall.  The uniqueness is that the whole structure houses plants normally found in tropical cloud forests.  Apart from the spray from the waterfall, the dome creates its own mist cloud every few hours to keep the riot of vegetation happy.  It is quite the sight.  Walkways bring you in and out of the structure so that you can get views of it from a distance, up close, from above, by its side and from below and every other possible view.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  It is a great place although the price of admission to the two domes seemed a little bit steep and although the cloud forest dome was very stunning, I found the variety of plants there more limited than I had expected.  As for the Flower Dome, I have seen far more impressive floral displays elsewhere.

So, overall, I think it is worth a visit especially for the Supertrees.  For the rest, I hope they will work at improving it further.

Along The Paku River Trail


The Mulu National Park located on the island of Borneo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Although famous for its world beating cave systems and large colonies of bats, the Park also has an abundance of flora and fauna in various forest types interspersed amongst limestone outcrops and karst formations.  One easy walk is along the Sungai Paku (Paku River) Trail that leads to the Deer Cave.  Here are some of the things you might see along the 90 minutes walk.  At the end of the walk, there is a staging area where you can watch millions of bats take off in the early evening on their nightly food hunt but that is material for a different post.  Hope you enjoy the current photos (All photos by LGS).




Scent of a Woman

It is said that certain stimulus to our senses like sight, taste, touch, hearing or smell can trigger us to recall certain memories.   For example, hearing an old familiar tune may bring back memories of hanging round the jukebox with close childhood friends at the neighbourhood soda fountain shop.  My wife has always said that smells remind her of things in her life.

I tend to be more a visual and tactile person and never imagined how a smell may jog a memory. At least until today.  Today, I came home to the smell of my wife cooking a traditional Malaysian Chinese sweet dessert called “Fu-chuk yi mai tong sui”. This dessert is made by boiling pearl barley (yi mai), soya beancurd skin (fu-chuk) and gingko nuts together.  It is sweetened with rock sugar and flavoured by the essence from pandan leaves.

The picture above shows a pandan plant with its fragrant leaves. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the pandan, it is used in Southeast Asian cooking to flavor rice, meats and desserts.  The flavor and fragrance is very similar to that found in fragrant jasmine rice.  Anyway, for the sake of this post, suffice to say that it is a very distinctive and delectable fragrance.

And, for the very first time that I am aware of, I had a most vivid memory flash triggered by a smell; the smell of the pandan leaf.  The smell reminded me of my mother.

My mother used to wear a really strong perfume which many people associate with her but that used to provoke asthma attacks for me.  So my fond memories of my mother is tied to the pandan fragrance cause it brings back childhood memories of being in her kitchen and pestering her while she concocted all kinds of culinary delectables.  She was a great cook.  Later in life, the pandan fragrance was still associated with her as she used the pandan leaf in her home made version of potpourri.

For me, the pandan fragrance truly is sweet.

Which of your five senses triggers powerful memories for you?


P.S.  Note to self.  Today was Deacon Day.

Final Post From Borneo?

Last year I posted about my visit to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley Conservation Forest in Sabah which is in North Borneo (Pygmies of Darkest Borneo and Nocturnal Perambulations in Borneo).  Well, last week I had the good fortune to be  there again on work assignment but as the project is coming to an end, this may possibly be my last visit.

As before, there was lots to see.  On the night walk and night drive, we saw the rare and enchanting Western Tarsier again.  This creature can look very cute and yet at other times with its large eyes can look quite evil.  Some remark that it may have been the inspiration for Gollum from The Lord of the Rings movie.

Also seen on the night drive were a few Sambar deer, Angle-headed Lizard (Gonocephalus borneensis), a Tarantula spider and the Thomas’s Flying Squirrel.  The latter was a highlight for me as I had never seen one before.

One morning, I went for a walk and fighting my fear of heights, went onto a canopy walkway  with suspension bridges and platforms which are about 30 m off the forest floor.  While I was struggling across one of the bridges, suddenly a small flock of Scarlet Minivets flew in and started dancing in the tree foliage around me.  Temporarily forgetting my fears, I struggled to take pictures of the birds while trying to remain steady on the swaying bridge.

During the walk there, there was another surprise.  A colugo came flying out of the forest with its skin stretched out between its limbs, very much looking like Batman with his cape and landed on a tall tree next to the trail.  I have seen colugos before and have indeed posted on them (We Are Family) but this sighting was special.  The colugo was flying almost directly at us and from that vantage point, we could see his “flying skin” perfectly.

It takes me 2 seconds to register the sight of the colugo, one more second for my brain to decide that I should try to take a photograph, 3 seconds to switch on my camera, another 3 seconds to aim the camera and focus and one second to press the shutter.  That makes a total of 10 seconds.  Unfortunately, the colugo’s flight lasted just 5 minutes which explains why I have no photo of it.  Ah, well.  You’ll just have to believe me.

In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy these photos.

Rough Ride into the Forest
Western Tarsier or evil Gollum: "Precious....."
Anglehead Lizard
Thomas's Flying Squirrel (a distant cousin)
Scarlet Minivet in the Tree Canopy
Beautiful Hoya Flowers

Lady’s Slippers – Sparkling in the Sun

The internet is fixed, I survived the Inquisition (the visit to the dentist) and the sun is shining again. Hence, I shall steer away from by series of “horror” inspired posts and post titles of late and instead have something so bright and sunshiny that it would make Edward Cullen sparkle like the Hope diamond.

Just before the dark clouds rolled in last week, I went to the Floral Festival at Putrajaya (Malaysia’s new administrative hub). As far as flower shows go, I have seen many which were much better but having said that, I thought that much effort had gone into organising it and it was much better than I had feared. The parts of the show that relied heavily on flower arrangement and human creativity was really sad but where the landscape was given to just simply showcasing the natural beauty of the flowers, it was wonderful.

Now obviously, there were lots to feast the eyes on but for me, one of the clear highlights was the exhibition of orchids. I do not know nearly enough about orchids as I would want. Although my mother was a fervent orchid planter in her younger days, I never learned anything beyond the basics which consisted primarily of the colloquial names of some of the plants such as “Lady’s Slipper” and “Spanish Dancer”.

Orchids may sound exotic but some species of orchid is found in almost every part of the world and is considered to be the second largest family of flowering plants. Asia probably has the most number of species of orchids and in Malaysia many species can be found i the jungle including terrestrial and epiphytic types.

Anyway, once again words seem to be getting in the way of my attempt at a photographic post. So let me just cut to the chase and introduce you to some Slipper Orchids (Cypripedioidea,). They are unusual because the flowers possess a pouch which traps insects and forces them to exit by pollinating the flower. There are 5 genera but the Paphiopedilum genus is found primarily in South East Asia.

Photo by LGS
Photo by LGS
Photo by LGS
Photo by LGS

It’s Dragonfruit

The answer to the question in the last post is Dragonfruit. The picture showed a field of dragonfruit plants being cultivated near the coastal area of Sepang in Malaysia. I like to thank the male readers for their imaginative contributions and suggestions which included specially modified rubber trees to mutated space aliens. My personal favorite was Mark’s suggestion.

“This is a bootleg photo of the harsh conditions plants in plant prison experience. Locked down in their individual units only to have the breezes and light of day for succor. OH to be free!”

If I had a prize to give out, it would have been for your creative suggestion, Mark.

The ladies seem fixated on it being aloe vera plants. This was quite close to the truth as it is in fact from the cactus family. It is however a pitaya or a dragonfruit plant.

As the pictures show, the pulp can either be white or red. This strange plant is a actually a native of Mexico and South America but is cultivated widely also in South East Asia. It is touted as a health food which is rich in vitamins, roughage and anti-oxidants. All I am saying is that it makes a weird looking fruit drink and if you have too much, your urine can turn pink!

What is This?

Dear Readers,

What is this? Your wisdom is needed to help explain this picture. My own immediate thought is that this is a picture showing the use of illegal “alien” labour to make cheap tires………but I could be wrong. I look forward to reading your suggestions and thoughts on the matter.

Your Lazy Blogger,


Growing at the Time of the Dinosaurs

Way back in October 2007, I posted about my trip to Australia for my nephew’s wedding. In that post, I mentioned that I “visited a beautiful garden and shared something with dinosaurs.” The beautiful garden was the amazing Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens which I also described in a following post. However, I totally forgot to elaborate on what I shared with the dinosaurs, which brings us to today’s post.

One of the key exhibits at the Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens is a tree whose closest relative is known only from fossils dating back some 2 million years ago, during the time of the dinosaurs.
It was discovered in 1994 by David Noble, a field officer of the Wollemi National Park in Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains, New South Wales. It was found in a difficult to reach valley whose exact location remains a closely guarded secret to help protect the remaining 100 or so trees of this species.

It was given the name Wollemia nobilis and is commonly known as the Wollemia Pine. It is however, in fact, not a pine but a conifer of the Araucariaceae family which includes the Kauri tree of New Zealand. Amongst its more interesting features is its dark knobbly bark which has often been described as resembling the Cocoa Pops cereal. The tree can grow to approximately 40 m high.

As a result of its status as a living fossil, there is much demand for the tree and a propagation program intended to supply botanical gardens has now successfully become a commercial venture. It is certainly one of the Mega-stars of the botanic world.

That being said, it was a little odd looking but after all that hype and anticipation, the experience was a little bit of an anti-climax. (all photos by LGS).

Squirrel’s Secret Spot 10 : Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens

This is a recent discovery but I enjoyed it so much that it immediately makes it to my Squirrel’s Secret Spot list. This is the Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens which is located about 1.5 hours drive from Sydney, Australia in part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Site. This Botanical Gardens is at 1000 m above sea level and specialises in higher altitude or cool climate plants. The bog plants in my last post was one of the attractions that piqued my interest.

However, it has a number of gardens and I enjoyed them all. Amongst the highlights are a section on desert plants from Australia as well as from South America and South Africa. There was a pine forest. There were the herb gardens and many more. The view into the valleys were also grand. Another attraction is the presence of the wollemi pine – which is a living fossil.

I had about an hour to spend there which was much too short. It could easily have taken a day just to see everything, two days to see and digest the information and many days just to enjoy the place. The pictures below all by LGS and for your enjoyment.

Unusual sighting of a lone grey squirrel in the gardens
Beautiful Flower

Brilliant Colors

Strange desert plant

Waratah Flower

Invasion of Flesh-Eating Plants

I love my B grade horror movies like the “Creature from the Black Lagoon”. These movies are so bad and full of genre cliches that they are superbly fun. I just enjoy yelling at the characters in the movie things like, “Look out behind” or “Stay away from the water!” or even “Don’t go down to the basement!”

Following up on Halloween, I thought of writing about flesh-eating plants. Even though “Invasion of Flesh-Eating Plants”, may seem like a good title for a B grade horror movie, I am actually writing about bog plants which are specially adapted to the low nitrogen levels in such environments. These plants are specially adapted to catch insects, digest them and to get the nitrogen they need from such sources.

During my recent trip to Australia, I had the opportunity to visit Mount Tomah Botanic Garden which is located 1000metres above sea level and is nestled within the world heritage listed Greater Blue Mountains area. The garden contains over 40,000 plants arranged according to geographical location and is home to a large variety of native wildlife. It also had a wonderful artificially created bog which housed a collection of these wonderfully strange plants.

This first beauty is the famous Venus Fly Trap (Dioneae muscipola). It is actually very small. The specimen in this picture was probably about just 2 inches across. If however, you encountered one that was about 8 feet tall, then you would have a close approximation to the fiendish plant from the musical/comedy-horror show, “Little Shop of Horrors”.

This second photo is of a plant that is found in most parts of Australia except Northern Territories and is called Fairy Aprons (Utricularia dichomata) and it’s small traps are said to resemble ladies purses.

This final one is one of my favorites and is a species of Sundew (Drosera). The insects are attracted to the red, sticky glogs at the end of the hairs and are trapped. The leaves then curl inwards and the insect slowly digested.

(All photos by LGS)

They make great pets, don’t cha think?