Monday, 25 December 2017

Renaissance Art - Canestra di frutta

Basket of Fruit ( Italian: Canestra di frutta) (c.1599) is a still life oil painting by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610), which hangs in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library), Milan.

It shows a wicker basket perched on the edge of a ledge. The basket contains a selection of summer fruit.

Caravaggio's Fruit: A Mirror on Baroque Horticulture
Jules Janick
Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Purdue University, West Lafayette Indiana 479076-2010

“ The uppermost fruit is a good-sized, light-red peach1  (Prunus persica) attached to a stem with wormholes in the leafi resembling damage by oriental fruit moth (Orthosia hibisci).

Beneath it is a single bicolored apple2 (Malus pumila), shown from a stem perspective with two insect entry holes, probably codling moth, one of which shows secondary rot at the edge;
one blushed yellow pear3 with insect predations resembling damage by leaf roller (Archips argyospita);
four figs (Ficus carica), two white4a and two purple4b—the purple ones dead ripe and splitting along the sides, plus a large fig leaf with a prominent fungal scorch lesion resembling anthracnose (Glomerella cingulata);
and a single unblemished quince5 (Cydonia oblonga) with a leafy spur showing fungal spotsii.

There are four clusters of grapes (Vitis vinifera), black6a, red6b, golden6c, and white6d; the red cluster on the right shows several mummied fruit, while the two clusters on the left each show an overripe berry. There are two grape leaves, one severely desiccated and shrivelediii while the other contains spotsiv and evidence of an egg mass. “

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Plantation's Manager Bungalow - Hatter's Castle 1923 Carey Island

Carey island was named after Edward Valentine John Carey, an Englishman planter whom  acquired the island from the Sultan Alaedin Sulaiman Shah to start a rubber plantation.   Carey began the plantation under Jugra Land Ltd and Carey Ltd.  The Island was divided into four estates : North, South, West and East. 

There are seven managers’ and engineers’ bungalow on Carey Island.   Hatter’s  Castle was built in 1923 by engineer C.L.Gjorup for himself to live in, with a flat at the top for the General Manager,  Mr James French when he visited. 

All the timber for constructing Hatter’s Castle was cut from the estate as they cleared the jungle, bricks were backed locally, and the furniture was made locally by Chinese craftsmen.  There was a water storage system which collects rain water off the roofs and piping it into sealed underground tanks.

The name of the bungalow was inspired by A.J.Cronin’s novel of the same name.   The ‘Hat’ was the domed roof over the first floor terrace which was removed in the 1950s because the wooden structure was decaying.

Gjorup also built the Club House and the bunds and water gates.  In addition,  Gjorup also built two other estate bungalow in similar style at Sogomana in Perak and Telok Merbau Estate in Selangor

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Citrus Scab

Pathogen :
[ fungus ] Elsinoe fawcettii

Symptoms :
Leaf & fruit –  young foliar lesions superficially resemble young citrus canker, may have a slight water soaked margin.  
As pustules develop, the small elevated pink spots become more defined and may form conical depressions nearby.  
When pustules mature, they become warty and crack.  
Scab pustules colour may progress to yellowish brown and eventually to a dirty grey.

Prevention and Control :
Citrus scab can be controlled using resistant cultivars, and by fungicide application.


Friday, 24 November 2017

Pitcher Plant @ Seremban2

Nepenthes gracilis

Synonyms : N. korthalsiana, N. longinodis, N. laevis, N. angustifolia,
Common name : Slender pitcher-plant
Native : Borneo, Indochina, Kalimantan, Malaya, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Thai.
Characteristics : climber, perennial, autotrophic, terrestrial
Habitat : lowland peat swamp forest or disturbed area with poor soils
Description : Flower : dioecious, yellow, raceme, polycarpic.  Fruit : brown, simple, capsule.
Propagation : seeds, cuttings.
Conservation : UCN Red List of Threatened Species - Least Concern (2000)

p.s. special thanks to Patrick Ong @ fb for ID

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Wayside Alien Fabaceae ( Mimosoideae ) @ Seremban2

Leucaena leucocephala ( petai belalang ) has been described as a ‘miracle tree’ for its multiple uses, yet also dubbed as a ‘conflict tree’ as a noxious weed.

Described as the world’s most widely used forage tree legume by FAO, L. leucocephala in an excellent source of high-protein fodder for animal feed and excellent firewood, and efficient in nitrogen fixation.  The young shoots, young pods, and mature seeds are consumed as food for human.  However, it contains mimosine, a toxic amino acid to non-ruminant vertebrates.

Yet, it is listed as one of the 100 worst invasive alien species by IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group.  It can grow wide range of soil and rainfall environment, grows quickly and forms dense thickets and produces large quantity of seeds.

Key words : allelopathic, N-fixation, mimosine. 

Neptunia plena ( aquatic sensitive plant ) is an invasive plant thriving on waterlogged area and watercourses.  It is not confined to wetlands but tolerates considerable flooding.  During dry period, the plants become dormant and persist as seeds.  It can lead to increased algal blooms reduce water quality by preventing light penetration and reduce oxygenation of water. 

N. plena and N. oleracea are both referred as ‘water mimosa’.  Water mimosa is a restricted invasive plant under Queensland’s Biosecurity Act 2014.

Key words : allelopathic, N-fixation, mimosine. thigmonasty

Mimosa pudica ( sensitive plant )  is most probably the well-known for its rapid plant movement.  It is most often grown as potted plants for its curiosity value.  It also became an ideal plant for experiments regarding plant habituation and memory.

M. pudica has been listed in the Global Invasive Species Databease 2010.

Key words : allelopathic, N-fixation, nyctinastic, mimosine. thigmonasty

Mimosa diplotricha ( giant sensitive plant ) includes 3 varieties : diplotricha, odibilis and inermis

Although M. diplotricha is an excellent ground cover and green manure, it is restricted invasive plant under Queensland’s Biosecurity Act 2014.

Key words : allelopathic, heliophytic, N-fixation, nyctinastic, mimosine. thigmonasty

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

NST : Malaysian bonsai enthusiasts told to stop collecting endangered Mentigi trees

November 7, 2017 @ 2:15pm

KUALA TERENGGANU: Bonsai tree collectors have been told to stop collecting the highly-prized Mentigi tree (Pemphis acidula) which is now listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),

The Mentigi tree is a slow-growing species but a hardy plant which was once abundant along the rocky banks and broken corals in Pulau Redang, Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Kapas. It is not an easy plant to extricate as the roots are usually firmly embedded in rocks or boulders.

However, since the plants became popular as a bonsai specimen, it has become the target of collectors although most of the areas where it grows are gazetted forest reserves.

Removing the plant is punishable under Section 15 of the Forestry Act 1984 for taking forest produce from a permanent reserved forest.

Mentigi tree is now listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Photo by Ron Yeo of
“The Mentigi is a unique plant. It is hardy and slow-growing. Its natural habitat along rocky shores on the islands suggests that it is providing protection just like mangrove does to coastal areas,” said State Forestry director Datuk Ahmad Fadzil Abdul Majid.

He said collectors take great risks by removing the plants because a Mentigi tree would have its trunk roots firmly embedded in the rocks or boulders.

“Collectors need to chisel away the rocks and the process may take days. They have to endure that heat and wind. More than one person may be involved in collecting the plant. Even if they succeed, there is no guarantee that the tree will survive re-potting.

“So it is best to leave the trees where they are. It is not worth risking the dangers and the possibility of being caught removing a protected plant species from a forest reserve,” he added.

Meanwhile, a collector who declined to be named said a top grade medium-sized Mentigi bonsai could fetch as much as RM30,000 per plant.

“What is available among collectors now are plants that have been trained over many years. New plants cannot be immediately made into a show plant,” added the collector.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Fresh Produce @ Seremban2

a make-shift stall by farmer Afendi and his older brother.
Afendi can be reach via hp 018-351-1458

According to Afendi, they produce lots of bunga kantan
Bunga kantan is an essential ingredient for
asam laksa, kerabu, manok pansoh, arsik ikan, etc.

banana leaves are essential in South Indian cuisine - the meal is served on banana leaf!
 Apparently, Malay also used banana to wrap foodstuff :
nasi lemak, tempe ;
vessel for kueh koci, kueh abuk, pulut panggang, pisang bakar, 
pad for cooking lemang, kueh angku etc.

Banana's flower are consumed mainly as vegetable.

It can be just simply boiled, steamed ; 
consumed as kerabu salad, masak gulai, goreng pedas, etc

pisang berangan is usually consumed fresh.  
however, like all banana, berangan can be goreng ( sauté, fried or deepfried ),
and made into kerepek.

Pisang abu is widely used in pisang goreng.

According to Afendi, pisang kapas is the best banana
for cooking gulai, cucur, or pengat pisang.

ubi kayu must be properly cooked before consume.
Raw cassava contains  cyanogenic glucosides, linamarin and lotaustralin, 
which upon degraded by enzyme linamarase, liberating hydrogen cyanide.
Ubi kayu can be consumed after steamed, boiled or baked.
It is usually make into kueh bingka, kuih puli, tapai ubi,
dessert ubi kayu bersantan, kerepek, etc.

Keladi can masak lemak pedas, or asam pedas.

Lemongrass is used in cooking tomyam, satay, rendang, asam laksa, etc ;
minuman teh serai madu.

Ulam raja - a major ingredient in nasi ulam utara.
Best consumed fresh as salad.

Pucuk paku are usually just masak lemak pedas, goreng sambal, etc.

Daun salam, also known as Indonesian bayleaf.
It is used as rempah.

Daun pandan is widely used for its fragrant,
especially in making kueh : kueh talam, bingka pandan, seri kaya.
It is also used in cooking ayam goreng pandan.

Daun ubi is cooked as vegetable :
pucuk ubi tumbuk, masak lemak with or without chili.

Kangkung, best for goreng sambal !

The mini round green brinjal is usually cooked as 
Terung pipit berlada, sambal terung pipit, or the universal masak lemak.

Cili padi is a HOT chili, can be used in all dishes.
Use extreme caution !

Betik muda is unriped mature papaya.
It is used in betik muda masak bening, tumis santan, kerabu, lemak cili, 
som tum ( Thai papaya salad ) etc

Solanum lasiocarpum ?

Solanum lasiocarpum Dunal

Synonyms :
Solanum lasiocarpum var domesticum Heiser
Solanum lasiocarpum var velutinum Dunal
Solanum ferox L.
Solanum ferox var. lasiocarpun (Dunal) Miq.
Solanum hirsutum Roxb.
Solanum immane Hance ex Walpers
Solanum quadriloculare Spreng.
Solanum zeylanicum Blanco.

Found this at Pasar Borneo today, together with the terung Iban, Solanum aethiopicum.  It is almost identical to the former, just a lot smaller in size, with more showy hair.
The trader, an Iban lady said that the fruits were acquired from Pahang, from a certain Orang Asli.  According to her again, it had been a long time since she encountered this type of hairy yellow round terung.  There are abundant supply of hairy terung in Sarawak when she was still young.  Apparently, it is not cultivated anymore for its fruit.

Is this the fruit of Solanum lasiocarpum

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

NST : What's That Smell? Secrets of Famously Pungent Durian Fruit Revealed

October 9, 2017

WASHINGTON: Scientists have answered one of nature’s most pungent questions: what gives the world’s smelliest fruit its distinctive aroma.

Scientists in Singapore said on Monday they have mapped the genome of the durian, known throughout Southeast Asia as the “king of fruits” for its unique smell, flavour and formidable spiny appearance.

They identified a group of genes responsible for odour compounds called volatile sulfur compounds, and found that these genes become highly activated as the fruit ripens, driving its unusual smell.

“The durian smell has been described as a mix of an onion-like sulfury aroma with notes of sweet fruitiness and savory soup-seasoning. A key component of the durian smell are volatile sulphur compounds, or VSCs, which have been characterised as decaying, onion-like, rotten eggs, sulfury and fried shallots,” said geneticist Bin Tean Teh, deputy director of the National Cancer Center Singapore, co-leader of the study published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Unlike other plant species that typically have one or two copies of these genes, this species boasted four copies, demonstrating that VSC production is, as Teh put it, “turbocharged” in durian fruits.

The researchers said this odour may be important to the durian in the wild, helping to attract animals to eat it and disperse its seeds.

The scientists sequenced the genome of the Musang King variety of durian, discovering it has about 46,000 genes, nearly double the number in the human genome.

They were able to trace the evolution of the fruit back 65 million years, finding an ancient relationship to the cacao tree, whose seeds produce chocolate.

“Most of us in Singapore have grown up with the durian, and we are very familiar with it,” said geneticist Patrick Tan, a professor at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. “However, even within the same family, there are individuals that love the taste, while others have learned to simply tolerate it, especially during durian season. For those who have never experienced durian before, it can indeed elicit opposing emotions of devotion and revulsion.”

The researchers said there are at least 30 other durian species, some edible, some inedible, and some with other distinctive features. Several are endangered.

Durian is economically important, with imports to China last year worth US$600 million to US$800 million, the researchers said. --REUTERS

Sunday, 8 October 2017

A Tree Once Used to Treat Leprosy

October 8, 2017, Sunday Rintos Mail,

STANDING about 10 metres high within the compound of the Rajah Charles Brooke Memorial (RCBM) Hospital is a chaulmoogra tree.

Its fissured bark is brown and pink in colour while the branches are round and the leaves simple, and alternate with stalks between 0.7 centimetres and 2.2 centimetres long.

The tree has countless fruits, about six to 10 centimetres in diameter and round, while the rind is thick and woody.

Many of the fruits – brown when young and black when ripe – can be picked up from the ground. Found in the fruits are several seeds, brown when young, and tomentose as they ripen.

The seeds are ovoid and irregular, about an inch or more in length and an inch wide.

The chaulmoogra has the botanical name of Hydnocarpus wightiana while its family name is Flacourtiaceae. In English, it’s sometimes referred to as the Soorty Oil Tree.

It is believed the chaulmoogra tree at RCMB Hospital is the only one in Borneo, the largest and the most important forested land area in Asia.

The forests of Borneo are estimated to be extraordinarily around 130 million years old, and presumably older than the Amazon rainforests.

Borneo has more than 3,000 tree and 2,000 orchid species, and is the centre of distribution of dipterocarps with 267 species, 60 per cent of which is endemic (Ashton 1982; Whitmore and Tantra 1987) but surprisingly there is only one chaulmoogra tree.

And that solitary chaulmoogra tree was once the ‘heart’ of the RCBM Settlement because of its historical and medicinal value. RCMB Hospital doctors at the time used the oil distilled from the fruits to treat leprosy, now also known as Hansen’s Disease.

This was before the world knew leprosy was a bacterial disease. It is said leprosy patients at RCBM Hospital had to undergo painful twice-a-weekly intramuscular or intra-lesion injection.

Treating leprosy with Hydnocarpus oil proved effective if the disease had not spread too much but for some patients, the long-term efficacy was questionable.

However, the treatment of leprosy now has shifted to multi-drug therapy (MDT) and after just one monthly dose, patients are no longer infectious.

MDT was only used in Sarawak in 1987 and became the official treatment in 1989. It remains the best treatment available although researchers are developing a vaccine and a better early detection method.

Efforts are being made by the Heritage Society of RCBM Hospital to turn the site, where the tree now stands, into a chaulmoogra park.

Society president Angelina Jong said they had carried out research with the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC), confirming the plant as a Hydnocarpus species.

“We’re also working with SBC presently. They have made chaulmoogra ‘babies’ for us. We have over 20 of them – some still on the tree, some delivered. We have eight ‘babies’ currently.”

According to Jong, there is only one chaulmoogra tree in the whole of Borneo and it is found only at RCMB.

“The tree is the first treatment for leprosy. It’s not indigenous to Malaysia. We are not sure where the tree at RCMB came from but the chaulmoogra is indigenous to China, Egypt and India.

“We believe in 1900, immigrants China came to Kuching but most of them were heading to the farms in Sibu. They must have brought the seeds with them because the chaulmoogra is a medicine for skin disease. But how the tree was brought here, we don’t exactly know,” she explained.

Jong said they had tried asking for the seeds from the seed bank but the latter does not have any idea about chaulmoogra.

According to her, Hospital Sungai Buloh, Selangor, has three trees and it also wants to plant more.

“The hospital heard we are marcotting the tree and has asked FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) to marcot it for them. But two months ago, they called and told me FRIM wanted to know how we did it because their attempts failed.

“So if FRIM’s attempts are not successful but ours are, this means a breakthrough for Sarawak. So we’re going to have more chaulmoogra ‘babies’ for the proposed the chaulmoogra park at RCBM leprosarium,” she said.

Society patron and Batu Kitang assemblyman Lo Khere Chiang is equally excited about the society’s efforts to turn some parts of RCBM into a chaulmoogra park.

“Imagine having a chaulmoogra park. Tourists will surely want to visit it and learn about its history.

“You tell tourists you can’t find a chaulmoogra tree in the whole of Borneo and you can only find one at the park. Everybody will come just to look at the tree,” he said.

It is said Hydnocarpus oil causes severe irritation when applied topically. People who drink the oil might have symptoms such as coughing, visual disorders, muscle pains and headaches.

The seeds are said to contain glycoside which makes them highly toxic and application without expert guidance is to be avoided.

For the record, RCBM Hospital was formerly called RCBM Settlement – mainly for Hansen’s Disease patients.

According to Jong, back in 1901, the first leprosy colony was located at Mile 5, Kuching-Serian Road.

Due to its proximity to town, it was relocated to Satang Island in May, 1924. But this did not last long due to logistics issues.

So on Oct 10, 1925, the settlement was again shifted – to a permanent site at Mile 13, Jalan Penrissen.

“This marked the inception of RCBM Settlement, and the residents started building their homes from scratch – without their loved ones beside them.

“They all lived together as a family separated by this cruel disease from all they owned in this world,” she said.

There are places of worship built on the site which still stand to this very day – a Roman Catholic Chapel, an Anglican Chapel, a Chinese temple, a surau, and a Rumah Kenyalang – each with its own burial plot.

The syringes and other equipment used to treat leprosy in the old days.
Braving it all

Jong said although in the old days, patients and families were separated by law, there were some families who braved it all by secretly building houses deep into the jungle just to be close with their isolated loved ones.

She said evidence of their secret lives and stumps from old houses could still be seen within the forests beyond the RCBM grounds.

She narrated that in 1953, Hamish McGregor, RCBM Settlement superintendent, decided to transform the whole place into something more systematic and organised.

“Eight-door and four-door dormitories were built and some of the residents were trained as patient-workers.

“Others were taught wood-work and farming to have some financial independence and business knowledge.”

Jong said the British left RCBM Settlement in 1962, after which Generawi Mok became the first local man to be in charge of RCBM Hospital, bringing with him a sense of humanity that touched the lives of many.

Eventually, those cured started leaving the settlement and building their own homes outside, she added.

“Those who did not have anywhere else to go were given plots of land, adjacent to the Hospital, and aided through the Malaysia Leprosy Relief Association (Malra). The new Rehabilitation Village is now called Kampung Sinar Baru.”

Jong noted that there are now still six in-house residents left at RCBM Hospital.

“They are growing old and living a life of loneliness without love from someone they can call their kin or a family to care for them in time of need.”

She pointed out that the stigmatisation and ostracism these cured residents had to put up with is similar to that faced by the patients themselves.

“The negative sentiments are still very strongly within the community and the emphasis should on public education to create awareness of the disease,” she said, adding the society’s aspirations are that one day Hansenites would no longer be discriminated against, and be accepted by society.

Jong said the society’s focus is on the welfare of Hansenites, cured patients as well as the conservation of old buildings and historical artefacts dating back to 1925 when Rajah Charles Brooke Memorial Hospital was a leprosarium.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Mangifera rufocostata - belunu

Native names : Asem kiat, belunu 

Range : Malaya, Sumatra and Borneo.

Habitat : Lowland, evergreen rain forest, usually on well-drained soils, at elevations up to 1,000 metres

Edible Uses : 
Fruit - The rather juicy, greenish-white flesh is extremely acid like a lime. The fruit is generally only eaten when better foods are not available. The brownish-green, globose fruit is up to 10cm in diameter, containing a single large seed

Thursday, 14 September 2017