There was no question that today’s orchid of the day had to be Dimorphorchis lowii (Amalia’s favourite) This is a real orchid mystery as it is the only genus that produces two types of hermaphrodite (male and female combined) on a single spike. The top few flowers are yellow and rounded (two on this plant) while the lower flowers covering the long dangling spike (up to 3m long) are red and white and much finer. Even more surprisingly the top flowers are strongly fragrant and the lower ones aren’t. What is going on? The really exciting thing is that no one knowsas there is no good evidence of pollination biology. Are there two different pollinators?
The species is endemic to Borneo and we have seen it several times including under a Bornean Pit Viper in Mulu (below)
It is a really big growing orchid with thick leaves to 70cm long and thick pendulous stems up to 2m long. The flowers are very widely spaced on the long spikes. We have seen the plant flourishing in hot lowland forest low on trees with some shade.
Amalia is particularly excited to find that there is a second species, Dimorphorchis rossii which is smaller all round.
We will see if we can find this species again in the forest over the next two days.
High above Kuching sits the pointed tower of the Mayor of North Kuching. We visited him at the end of the day to support Tengku in her continuing campaign for species orchids in Kuching. The view from the top of the tower was amazing, and the building is wonderfully decorated in the towns symbol – cats.
Before seeing the Orangutang this morning we visited the botanical section of Semenggoh and met Ms Ling Chea Yiing who is in charge of it.(she is next to a plant of Dimorphorchis lowii in the photo) This was a great opportunity to get a close look at some of the orchids we have been seeing high in trees. These included:
Grammatophyllum speciosum (the largest orchid in the world by mass) which we had seen at Mulu,
The primitive orchid Neuwiedia veratrifolia,
A lovely terrestrial Tainia borneensis and many others.
At the Herbarium the living collection was particularly well grown and gave another opportunity for our team of enthusiasts to get stuck in.
The cymbidium above Ed’s head is Cymbidium finlaysonianum and nearby was Coelogyne asperata
The last few days has seen us take to the water in a number of ways.
Our expedition to Mulu involved some motorised long boats which sped us from our base in Mulu along the Melinau River to Henry’s village and to both Deer and Lang caves. Quite an experience just getting in and buckling up let alone the rapids (ok.. perhaps just the odd riffle!)
We took to the water again last night in one of the little passenger ferries across the Kuching River to explore the other side from the hotel giving us the opportunity to walk back across the fabulous bridge. Not a long crossing by any means but the ferryman could see we all knew what we were doing!
On Wednesday we must have looked like true professionals. Arriving at the jetty early in the morning we clambered into boats that skimmed the surface of both the Bako and Kuching Rivers at high speed taking us for yet another adventure on the Muara Tebas peninsula and Bako National Park.
Those that weren’t sure about about water transport before are now all very enthusiastic sailors!!
After the herbarium we travelled to meet Palm Oil Farmer, Wilson, who runs Sabaki Farm, where our partner scientist, Tengku, is carrying out her trials in reintroducing Dendrobium anosmum.
Tengku has planted rescued dendrobiums on several of Wilson’s Oil Palms and is monitoring them for growth, flowering, seed set and seedling establishment.
This beautiful orchid which was once common has become very rare because of the loss of lowland forest to agriculture and Palm oil in particular. This is the same habitat loss that is responsible for the loss of Orangutangs and Sun Bears, and caused the need for the sanctuary we saw earlier. For biodiversity to thrive it is really important that ways be found find space for it in places such as Wilson’s farm
The plants are doing really well and several were in flower. Wilson also showed us his sustainable methods including his heard of Buffalo, that maintain the area around the palms, avoiding chemical use, provide fertiliser, and transport for taking harvested palm fruit for processing.
Lets hope that this is just the start of something significant in the palm oil areas.