Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blooming after Prolonged Drought

The prolonged drought that was experienced in the last month; ended on 19th March 2014, and then it rained everyday for the next 6 days caused many plants to bloom.
The mechanics of flowering in plants are only beginning to be understood by researchers, and most attribute to

  • length of day
  • temperature change
  • change in the 4 seasons
  • moisture
  • etc

For most of us, it is usually a case of dry weather follows by rain that will bring the plants to flower.
And that was what I have observed in the last few days of trekking in Bukit Timah areas that demonstrate this phenomenon, alas the continuous rain also brought down the many flowers that were in bloom; in a sense "sabotaging" the reproductive reason of the plants to bloom.
Taking advantage of the change in weather condition, many plants bloom at the same time, perhaps there is reason for quantity blooming which can attract the pollinators, and thus its survival.

The unprecedented dry season that Singapore faced caused much of the greenery to turn brown for lack of water.  Even the hardy epiphytes, the Bird Nest fern (Asplenium nidus) withered and the fronds collapsed.  Too late to some that fell from the anchorage from the host trees.

(Not a botanist, and thus many plants remain unidentified.  If per chance you know them, please let me know)
Taken at ZhengHua Park


And even in the nursery (Wallace Centre), these plants turned brown for wants of water. A rather peculiar sad event, for they should have been watered.



After the prolonged drought, it rained, nope it poured.  And did so for the next 6 days.  Many blooms but also got dislodged and carpet the paths with flowers and petals, and there were some undeveloped fruits as well.

"Dismantled" Flower parts - with pistils and petals strewn on the ground.

 And those flowers that turned into fruits, unfortunately were not spared when the rain came.

Unripened Fruits from the Fig Tree


This unique plant flowers on the trunk, just like some jackfruit species, or the cannonball tree.




But alas the rain stopped, and now it is back to the dry season, and the flowers withered and turned brown.
Flowers have withered on its trunk
(Similar species but found in a different location from the above specimen)
Along this track, these beautiful flowers from the Dipterocarpus caudatus covered the ground that we tracked, we may feel like a royalty walking on flowers covered aisle, but sad that so much energy of the plants have been wasted with the torrential downpour.
Most predominant was this plant (Dipterocarpus caudatus), literally the path was carpeted by its flowers.



Though it dropped from the trees, momentarily they were still a beauty to behold.  Till they turned into nourishment for the various plants.
 And another unknown plant, with its flower petals strewn on the ground!





Along Rifle Range Link, this tree with its bulbous florets dropped like mini lollipods on the ground.





But hardier plants taking advantage of the rain and shine, continuously blossom, and in this case, long tendrils of flowers.









Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Plant - Power to Survive!

Compiling various pictures that I have taken to show the power of the plant to survive.
Be it from a cut trunk, sprouting new leaves; to the desire to reach for the sun!  These plants showed the tenacity to survive in whatever that is necessary.  Although there is this particular phenomenon where the leaves are covered with "cyst", which I have no clue towards its survival, perhaps the leaves act as a form of sacrificial part such that the whole pant will still be able to survive, like a lizard losing its tail!

New Lives from a cut Trunk
This tree I was told was cut because while cutting down a dead tree along the Cycling Trial in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the contractor accidentally damaged the trunk.
As the root system is still intact, new lives sprout.




And even without roots!
These trunks that have been sawn, sprout new leaves from its trunks.  Suspect this to be Tiup tiup tree (Adinandra dumosa)




Creepers will do anything to reach for the sun
Without a solid trunk, this soft body plant relies on its tendrils to anchor itself to whatever means it can to climb toward the sun, and to photosynthesis.
And in the process of doing so, it can also snuff out some other plants especially the frond that requires to open to its full glory.
As can be seen, the creeper has basically twined itself such that the frond can never open, and if that happen to its other fronds, that palm will surely die.


Climbers using tendrils.
This front has been tightly wound by a creeper
Closeup of the packaging!
But run the risk that the strangulation deprived the host plant of the vital sunlight for its wrapped leaves, and that these leaves might just died!
And when it is shed from the host plant, the creepers will also be dislodged, and died with it!
As seen in the pictures below.




While other Sun Seeker, simply shoot up straight
This tree was observed in Teck Whye Park, initially it was like a rod shooting straight up, but having reached its full heights, branches and leaves spout, but the weight and its instability bend this long rod, and finally it just snapped.
Why did it behave in such manner?  I have no idea.



Even if they have to twist and twist to reach for the sun.






The Power of Roots
(Towards Dairy Farm)
Fig trees are renowned fro their roots, basically they can grow anywhere.
On this brick wall, a fig tree has taken roots, literally. With the spread of its many roots, it anchored well on the wall, perhaps tunneling into the crevice of the wall, or maybe with some form of special natural adhesive, this fig looks like its will envelope the wall in due time.




And the roots possess certain sticky chemical that it can even hang the plant upside down, and not only that, but to enable a sunbird to build its nest!



Crooked Tree - despite being broken, this plant still somehow managed to bend itself back!
Again in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, towards Wallace Centre, watch out for this fantastic survivor.
Apparently, its trunk snapped and pointed towards the ground, but somehow it still managed to heal itself, and continuous its upward growth, forming an inverse letter "N".




The regenerative power of the tree is tremendous, as also shown in the picture below, where a branch has somehow healed itself, and then sprout another branch but at 90 degree to the first!


This is a tall tree, and at the branch, possibly due to damage, another branch is growing upward from the main branch.
And a monitor lizard has somehow climbed that high!  See close up picture below for the monitor lizard.

The 90 degree bend is just the the left of the monitor lizard.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Elusive Taiwanese Mountains no more ....

In my previous blog, the Snow Mountain was proven elusive as we weather was unfavourable, and the fog was too thick for a safe climb, and our attempt to climb Jade Mountain was foiled by our inability to obtain permit to stay at the PaiYin Lodge (排雲山莊).
http://mountain-n-sea.blogspot.sg/2012_05_01_archive.html

We learnt our lesson, not to attempt to climb in the Taiwanese Mountains in late spring, but to aim for October and November period, where the weather is more favourable.  And this time, we climbed in October, and indeed the weather was fantastic!

Jade Mountain (玉山主峰) is the highest peak in Taiwan at 3,952m, and this is followed by Snow Mountain (雪山主峰) at 3,886 m, forming part of the famous 100 peaks (台灣百岳).
And beside these 2 peaks, we managed to climb 3 others peak belonging to this listing.

Snow Mountain
Located in the north of Taiwan, and a relative short drive to the Climbing Entrance (登山口), it will be a much anticipated climb, as we were not able to climb the last time due to foul weather.
Arriving at WuLing, the sky looked threatening, and we were thinking whether it will be another case of partial climb, and to be "washed" out by the weather again.

October and November, we were told are the stable months for climbing, less rain, and the typhoon season would have passed.  At the same time, it is also the autumn period, and leaves are turning from green.  If weather permit, the autumn scenery will be most wonderful.

With that wish, and anticipation, we started our climbing journey.

Wuling to JiKai Lodge, and then to 369 LodgeThis will be a short walk of about an hour from the entrance to Jikai Lodge where a night will be spent enjoying a night at the mountain.  The next day, we would proceed to the 369 Lodge which is quite a distance away.  Along the way, we would ascend our first summit, the Snow Mountain Eastern Peak (雪山東峰).

For the season hiker, they will bypass the JiKai Lodge, and aim for the 369 Lodge. And at 2 or 3 in the morning, proceed with the summit climb.


From this maple tree, though the green still outnumbered the yellow and orange, already it has added enough colour shading to put vibrant to this tree. 
A butterfly of Black and Red fluttered into our view, though its wings were a bit torn, it was still a beautiful sight. 

Wild grasses grew in abundance, and the cloud covered peak seems to dash our hope of sunny weather.
But onward our journey began, and steps we started to climb. Our guide, a gentleman in his early 50, led us our quest.

Our guide is also a botanist, and along the way, we have our botany lesson.  Unfortunately, the lesson was in Chinese, and much of the name was lost.
Many beautiful flowers adorned the path that we walked.  Though it was autumn, but the weather was still balmy for the many flowers to bloom.



A beautiful lobed leaf of an unknown plant.
"Old Man Beard" - a type of moss that only grow at high altitude with clean air and water, that cover this pine tree.
Toward 369 Lodge, one will have to pass the "Crying Slope", so name for the steep slope that all will have to traverse, but we eventually found out that when one descend, then the "Crying Slope" name applies.  For climbing down this stones strewn pathway, was more difficult than the ascending!
Along the way, we were bless with beautiful mountainous views.  The sky has clear, and occasionally we wish for some cloud covers to shield us from the glare and heat!  What an irony!



The Eastern Peak - though low, it was a joy in reaching this summit, as it also meant that we are near to our resting place.
The 10 of us that reached this summit.
Onward we went to our resting spot.


Though the tree may be dead, the trunk and weather beaten branches formed a very remarkable shape.





369 Mountain Lodge
Every year, the greetings will be different.  Refer to my other blog site for 2012 Greetings.
When daylight broke, and the clouds forming like a sea, enveloped the mountains, we paused in our climb, to view this majestic sight.
We started our summit climb at 2 am, and finaly reach this spot which will be the last 1 km to the summit.  Though it looked near, but it will be another 1.5 hr of arduous climb.  As can be seen from this picture, the path was filled with loose rocks and stones.
To the right, I saw a figure in white, and where I was, I wished I was already there.
Telling myself I will be that white spot, with determination I plodded on,
till at last I was that white spot, to be envied by somebody in my original spot!
Yea, the 2nd highest mountain summit in Taiwan.
The View from the Top.
A sparrow at the summit.  Unlike in some mountain, where the peak is barren, this peak though covered with gravels is also covered with grass.  But comes winter, these will be covered with layer of snow, and thus the name of this mountain.


Another intricate pattern of trunks and branches.
On the way down, we will pass many of these giants.

Retracing our footsteps to the entrance of the trail.
It may be midday, but in the forest, it can be dark.
I just love the mountain!














We were told it was the season of the "White Pearl" Fruit.  We found them in abundance, and this berry was refreshing to the taste.
Close up of the fruits.  A type of berry, and the ripen fruits were white.
A study in Blue!  the layer of mountains and ranges seem to overlap one another.


More intricate shape of the tree, and only possible on a mountain with howling wind, and merciless snow and storm, shaped this masterpiece!
















A tree that demonstrate the colours of Autumn.

Jade Mountain (玉山)
The highest mountain in Taiwan, and also the most popular.
Previously, we have tried applying for the permit to stay at the PaiYin Lodge, but was not successful, and similarly to previous attempt, we were again not successful.  Thus, we were left with one option, and that was to ascend and descend within the same day.
The criteria we were told, was to reach the PaiYin Lodge by noon, or we will have to turn back!
Not dissuaded, we decided to start our climb at 3 am from the DongPu Lodge.
At that hour, it was an additional of 2.8 km trekking from this lodge to the Entrance point, and that will be an hour of effort.
Unlike XueShan, to the local seasonal hikers, we were told that Yu Shan will be easier, for the path are wider, and much easier to trod.

For us, that was true, except the last half kilometre where we have to scale the rock face with the chain that have been provided, that part it was scary.

DongPu Lodge
The starting point of our climb from the lodge.

In the wee hour , we set forth on this 2.8 km track.
Signage of the YuShan Mountain Range.
In the treks, we will cover 86 of such bridges, and each of them marked from 1 to 86.

Every of such wooden bridge will be marked with this tag.  This is number 86, the last of the bridge , and after which will be the climb to the summit.








Sign pointing to the different summit.
One of the friendly bird, conditioned by the human traffic, waits at the resting point from food waste and careless discard.

The path becomes narrower, the nearer to the summit we reached. Barely 2 feet across, we have to walk with caution.
Due to the extensive rock falls, a covered walkway was built to protect climbers.


The precarious last half a kilometre, would see us climbing with aid from the metal chains.

And finally we reached the summit.  As can be seen from the outcrops, this summit is very unlike the XueShan peak which is more of a flat peak.
Cornerstone of YuShan




A research observatory, unfortunately on this same day, a helicopter carrying researcher crashed.  killing both crew and the lone researcher.





On the way down, we looked up, and saw where we have descended!












































Finally after 13 hours of trekking, we are back to the starting point.