05 April 2009

Flowerful day at Pulau Semakau

Back on Pulau Semakau with the Butterfly Circle and Dragonfly teams! And I was given a list of wildflowers to photograph. Since I wasn't sure what the names referred to, I went crazy and took as many wildflowers as I could!Coat buttons (Tridax procumbens) is a commonly seen plant. They belong to the daisy family, and each little 'button' is actually made up of many tiny flowers! These are packed in the centre of the large 'petals' which are actually bracts. The flowers turn into long seeds each with a fluffy parachute (called pappus). It is originally from the tropical Americas but has since made its way to many other places.Purple-leaved button weed (Borreria laevicaulis) is another 'button'-like plant that is commonly seen. It too has its tiny flowers packed into heads. It belongs to the same family as coffee and Ixora plants.Hairy spurge (Euphorbia hirta) also has tiny flowers packed in heads. This commonly seen plant belongs to the same Family as the Rubber tree and its sap contains a latex that is used in traditional medicine. The Chinese use the latex in cooling remedies, in Malaysia and Indonesia it is used to treat conjunctivitis and eye problems. It also has a reputation as a treatment for bronchitis and asthma. It was originally native to Central America.
Asystasia (Asystasia gagetica) is another commonly seen plant. The flowers apparently attract a lot of wasps which damage the blooms. The fruits are capsules that explode when ripe to disperse the seeds.Common snakeweed (Stachytarpheta indica) is a pretty plant that is commonly seen in our wild places. The Malays use the leaves to rub on sprains and bruises, while the Indonesians include the leaves in treatment of dysentery.Touch-me-not (Mimosa pudica) is a delight to children, who are greatly amused by the instant reaction of the leaves which fold up when touched. This habit of 'sleeping' leaves may have resulted in the traditional cure for insomniac children. The plant is included in a bath for the child or a small branch is placed under the child's pillow. The pretty pink flowers don't last very long especially on a hot day. The leaves are also used to treat swellings and wounds and ulcers.Kangkong puteri (Neptunia natans) is a yellow flowered mimosa-looking plant. It is a water plant that grows in water and floats by means of a 'curious white tissue along the stems'. The young stems are eaten as a vegetable (hence the Malay name which means 'Princess kangkong'), and the plant is also used in traditional medicine. I notice the yellow 'flowers' have a huge bunch of what look like stamens hanging on the bottom.
Petai jawa (Leucaena leucocephala) is actually a small tree, and looks like a giant mimosa. Originally from tropical America, the fast-growing tree is often planted for firewood, as a shade tree and for its fruits, which are eaten as a vegetable. It is also used in reforestation in parts of Southeast Asia. Traditional cures include the leaves to treat poisonous bites and stings, the seeds to treat intestinal worms and in a remedy for diabetes.This pretty yellow flowered plant that carpeted the ground, I am unable to find it's ID. This is probably Kachang batang (Macroptilium lathyroides), whose ID I stole off Federick Ho's excellent Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature blog. One of the petals of every flower appears to be twisted back. It has long skinny beans.Love-in-a-mist (Passiflora foetida) is a commonly seen vine with pretty but stinky flowers. The fruit is an orange berry held in a basket of moss-like leaves. The berry contains many seeds in a milky pulp and are edible when ripe. But they may contain hydrocyanic acid so don't eat too many.Kachang laut (Canavalia maritima) looks very much like Seashore morning glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae) when both are not flowering as the leaves look very similar and they both creep on sea shores. But they are easy to tell apart from the flowers. The seeds are contained in pods and are edible only after processing as they can contain toxins. Another plant that carpets the shores in succulent branches and leaves is Gelang laut (Sesuvium portulacastrum). 'Gelang laut' means 'garland of the sea' and the long spreading creeping plant does look like a lovely sea shore garland, especially with the tiny pink flowers. Apparently, the flowers close at night or on a cloudy day. In some parts of the world, the succulent is fed to livestock and also eaten as a vegetable.

Despite the very dry theme of the day, I did manage to get my booties wet and have a look at some mangrove trees. So, in keeping with the flowery theme, I also had a closer look at their blooms.These are the lovely flowers of Tengar (Ceriops tagal). The delicate white petals turn brown as they age.And finally, I actually get to see a 'zipped' petal of the Bakau putih (Bruguiera cylindrica). I have been reading about how the stamens are 'enclosed in pairs in a pouched petal' and how the pouch explodes when triggered, dousing pollinators with pollen. I just couldn't figure out what was meant until I saw, today, how two of the petals of this flower were still zipped up! The tassels at the tips of the petals are probably the trigger. Wow, that sure is cool!

Even grasses have amazing flowers. These plants are wind pollinated and thus dangle their bits in the breezes.Some have prickly 'fruits' that stick to our pants legs and annoy and irritate when these get into sensitive spots.And here's a closer look at what is probably some kind of sedge.

While the Butterfly guys found all kinds of butts, my only fluttery success was this large moth that suddenly fell out of a large bush onto the grasses infront of me.
It looks like a Lyssa zampa, the moth that sometimes occurs in large numbers everywhere in Singapore.After a brief struggle in the grasses, it fluttered off into the bushes again.

I had lots of fun today, and although the day ended with lightning and rain and a choppy ride back on the boat, the cheery company and colourful encounters made for a wonderful day out.

  • Foo Toik Shiew, 1985. Guide to the Wildflowers of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Wee Yeow Chin. 1992. A Guide to Medicinal Plants. The Singapore Science Centre. 160pp
  • Hsuan Keng, S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan.1998, The Concise Flora of Singapore II: Monoctyledons Singapore University Press. 215 pp.
  • Burkill, I. H., 1993. A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula. 3rd printing. Publication Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1: 1-1240; volume 2: 1241-2444.
  • Tomlinson, P. B., 1986. The Botany of Mangroves. Cambridge University Press. USA. 419 pp.

Also drop by Federick Ho's excellent Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature blog for more about our wild flowers and the little animals that live among them.


  1. Wow, wow. Fantastic flower shots and I learn some of the plants from your post. Thanks for mentioning my blog also. Due to a commitment, is a great pity that I missed this trip.

  2. We missed you too! I would have learnt so much from you. Well, perhaps another time?

  3. Lots of things to shoot eh? Despite the not-so-cooperative weather. Also to add that the Passiflora foetida is the caterpillar host plant of the Tawny Coster and Leopard Lacewing. The Costers were fluttering around yesterday, and Marcus was gritting his teeth in frustration, chasing a fluttering female which tested his patience.

  4. Yes, the wild butterflies were certainly plentiful among the wild flowers! I'm too lame to even think of shooting them. You guys are awesome at that!

    Of course the real 'usefulness' of wild flowers is for wild life. As you rightly pointed out. Thanks for sharing that!

  5. Random visitor here - I believe that's actually a grey butterfly, as it has the physiology of a butterfly and not a moth.

  6. Nice your blog. I'm from Brazil. I'm biologist and photographer.



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