Thursday, March 19, 2015

Operation Hari Arbor, Urban jungle and the outlaw plant of SC

Kolo Mie -- everybody's favorite!
Kek Lapis Layer cake famous in Sarawak!

Happy Belated end of the Chinese New Year! When it all wrapped up in early March, everyone was ready to eat and enjoy a little dessert! It was also time to throw oranges in the river in hopes of inspiring love: kind of a local New Year's Valentine's Day tradition!

After a long long lapse, it is more than time to blog again!  While preparing my 3 presentations due this month, the old laptop decided to take an unannounced vacation.  This is the test run for the new laptop that came all the way from the Dell plant in mainland Malaysia. I know it must be getting to be spring time at Clemson, since I've seen Facebook images of Liverleafs and read  lots of  comments about "how strange the weather is" in SC.  That, AND everyone is on SPRING BREAK!

Since I'm just a little behind on my tales of the trip, let's think about what happens in Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo on Arbor Day, Hari Arbor. Arbor Day here in the equatorial tropics is March 3, since "spring" is really not all that different from "summer,""winter" or "fall"! The Sarawak Biodiversity Centre is not only concerned in going out to indigenous communities to learn about plants and their traditional uses, but also is involved with helping people learn to berfikir hijau -- think green!  SBC joined up with a lot of businesses, community orgs, and state govt offices to help plant trees around a newly finished highway north of town. These areas get a lot of rain, and without trees, disturbed roadsides erode fast! About 50 SBC folks (I must be non-modest and proudly say, one of the largest contingents involved!) joined hundreds of other volunteers way the hey before sunrise to get started on this monumental celebration of putting trees where they weren't before!

 Before we volunteers got to work, we stretched and warmed up to ZUMBA! You haven't  lived until you've joined your colleagues and work buddies for dance and exercise!! Our fantastic fearless leader, the wonderful  Margarita Naming, led the charge and kept up the team spirits of the  plum-coloured SBC powerhouse.

Part of the SBC team,  all warmed up and ready to plant trees! From left to right, Satomi Owari, Traditional Knowledge leader Margarita Naming, Dave Damrel, and the pride of Yale, Fulbrighter Luming Chen. 

Herbarium superstar Fazariah Kipali busts a Zumba move!

SBC tree-planters in action -- we'll never forget Tree #246!

Welcome to the Jungle (the Urban Jungle, that is!)

 Let's talk about the urban jungle. You never know what you'll find walking in Kuching itself, just on an evening stroll around town.  We found this lot -- some construction was going on -- so thck with plants we didn't see how a person could possibly take 2 steps in the at least waist  high seething mass of green. It was a mosh-pit of competition grasses voraciously elbowing sedges; there were orchids rising above clonal armies of ferns,  even vines of Nepenthes -- the Malaysian version of pitcher plant that becomes a vine. There on the outskirts of this photosynthetic free-for-all was an outlaw --- Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica)!  Ask anybody with the SC DNR and they'll tell you this is the (Wanted) Poster-child of the SE USA, famous for kicking out natives and setting up shop.

COGONGRASS - banned in SC!!!

Here it is acting all innocent-like. But that's only beccause the plants around it are even fiercer competitors!

Cogongrass and its rivals.
Your typical neighborhood orchids, growing wild in an urban construction zone!

Nepenthes Pitcher Plants, Malaysian-style

That's all for this entry -- next time look for the Purwodadi Botanical Garden, enjoy a little dance and Gamelan music in the Ramayana Ballet, visit the biggest Buddhist Temple in Southeast Asia, and check out some more fruits that never make it to the local Publix!

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