Monday, March 23, 2015

Cruisin with a Kelapa in Kuching; Indonesia Visit: Horticultural Saints & Purwodadi Botanical Garden!

Crusin'with a kelapa
Visiting another herbarium -- during a lunch break!  All herbarium curators want to nose around and see how another herbarium is run and arranged.  I got a brief but delightful visit to the Sarawak FRC Herbarium -- a big, working one -- with my friend and fellow systematist Linda Liman (who you saw in an earlier blog).  On the way back to work we stopped for a soft drink --- from green kelapas (coconuts) that a gentleman was selling under a tree near the road. A hole is hacked in the top of the kelapa, a straw put in and the next thing you know, you are cruisin with a Kelapa.  It was great -- not too sweet --- a little big to put in your backpack, though when you are done!

The Tenacious Linda Liman (in yellow) on an Herbarium Quest



We are here in Indonesia for a visit to some beautiful botanical gardens, great herbaria and some shrines and temples -- also associated with plants!  Our first stop was the city of Malang -- up on the Tengger Plateau. This used to be a Dutch military colony -- since it is higher and cooler, the Dutch introduced apples and they are still grown today. We lived in Malang in 2008 for about half a year.  It is an area ringed by live volcanoes; Gunung Semeru the large one, nonchalantly puffing away.  Our first little journey on this blog is to a village outside of Malang --- Gunung Kawi.

This is a pilgrimage town for people coming to visit the graves of 2 popular Muslim saints, who are of fairly modern times. They are Mbah Djoego and Iman Soedjono, and they were patriots, war heroes (against the Dutch occupation), farmers/horticulturists and miracle workers.  They were not too successful against the Dutch, but they helped the people in the countryside a lot.

They are said to have brought in some rare horticultural trees, including one called the Cerme,  Dewa Ndaru or  "Tree of God." It is actually a shrub from South America, Eugenia uniflora, another common name is Surniname-cherry. It has a small but sweet, edible fruit. The one planted by Mbah Djoego is watched over  at all times and protected by the shrine keepers --- because it is a magic tree. Pilgrims want to get a leaf or a fruit, wrap it in a bank note and plant it at their home for good luck. Sorry -- no pictures were allowed of this money-tree! People present offerings of flowers at the shrine (an Indonesian custom for visiting most  important memorials, not just religious ones)  -- baskets of roses and scented Ylang-ylang flowers.

An interesting thing about this particular shrine is that it attracts Muslims and non-Muslims alike, because blessings and good fortune are not limited to just a single religion here.  There are some Chinese temples also at this site, not far from the main portal gate to the shrine.  You can get your fortune told at the Ciamsi house  -- knowing Indonesian helps in this situation!

Gunung Kawi Portal to shrine of Mbah Djoego and Iman Soedjono.

 The Two Saints Working Together to Spread Good Agricultural Practices

Fragrant Offerings of Roses and Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata -- in the Pawpaw family, Annonaceae)

The Ciamsi -- where fortunes are read

Inside the Ciamsi.  The red sticks (64 of them standing up in the cylinder) are shaken until one stick falls out from the cylinder.  This number on the stick gives you a fortune.


At Purwodadi: Earlier we saw flowers for prayers, but this time (above) we have a preyer on a flower, a Nelumbo nucifera

Kebun Raya Purwodadi, just outside of Malang, was the first garden I visited in Indonesia when we lived there 7 years ago. We were awed by its beauty, diversity, and the kindness of the people we met there, Esti and Deden Mudiana. Well, some things never change! The herbarium and garden both look better than ever, and Esti, Deden and the entire garden and herbarium staff made us feel like we were right at home.

Here's Garden Director Ken Fitria Clois Indrawardani and Dave, me, Esti and Deden Mudiana
Part of the Purwodadi Seed Collection on Display

Among the Herbarium Heroes: Pak Saniman, Pak Dwi Narko, Bu Fauzia and Bu Novi

But now let's get outside and see some of this fabulous collection of East Javan biodiversity!

Here's part of the palm collection, being showed off by Esti Mudiana and Mas Edi Sutoyo.


 What's this floating in the water? The fruit of Barringtonia asiatica,  "Fish Poison" Tree! It loves to grow near lakes and streams, but its toxic fruits mean that it can be a bad neighbor!

Mas Edi displaying the seed pod of Nelumbo nucifera.

Thanks for reading this far! Next time more of the splendor of East Java, and a trip west!

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