Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cleome rutidosperma

Genus Cleome (Capparaceae)
ca. 170 described spp. mainly distributed throughout the tropical and temperate regions. 6 spp. are found in China while most of them are exotic. Only 1 native Cleome species in Hong Kong which is C. viscosa.

Cleome is traditionally belonged to the family Capparaceae. Some recent studies suggested to include Capparaceae into Brassicaceae while some suggested to seperate Cleome to its own family Cleomaceae. Phylogeny of Capparaceae and Brassicaceae is still a hot topic for taxonomists.

Cleome rutidosperma is originated from west tropical Africa and now a common weed spreading in SE Asia, Sumatra and Java. It is a lowland ruderal (A plant growing in waste places) which can be found in the margin of farmlands in Hong Kong. It is a minor weed so far which does not affect agricultural practices.

In Sumatra, people is used to mix the seed of C. rutidosperma with tobacco to enhance it and squeezed juice of leaves is used as eye drop. Young leaves are also edible while they are boiled as food in the past.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Passiflora foetida

Genus Passiflora (Passifloraceae)
ca. 350 spp. mainly distributed in tropical and subtropical America, rarely in Asia and Australia. 19 spp. in China and 2 spp. in Hong Kong.

"foetida" in Passiflora foetida means that the plant is fetid where some gardeners complain about it but some also reported that no odor is noted.

Passiflora foetida is a perennial herbaceous vine, as most of Passiflora species do, that originates from tropical America, but is now a pantropic weed. It is a common weed in many places of the Pacific and Atlantic, where it favors wet areas but also tolerates arid condition. It climbs over low vegetation on roadsides and in other disturbed places. It is now listed in the Global Invasive Species Database due to its invasive nature. Monitoring and management of this toxic plant (Some parts of the plants are toxic if ingested) is recommended in tropical areas where it is present.

It is widely cultivated in the world for medicinal and culinary purposes. The fruits are edible which has a sweet taste. They are readily eaten and dispersed by birds.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bischofia polycarpa

Genus Bischofia Bl. (Euphorbiaceae)
Consisted of only 2 species distributed from India and Sri Lanka to Indonesia, Australia and Polynesia. Both B. polycarpa and B. javanica occur in China and cultivated in Hong Kong. It is an isolated genus in Euphorbiaceae without any morphologically similar neighbors.

It is commonly believed that simpler structure and development of reproductive organs in seed plants are an indication of evolutionary advancement. A Recent study suggested that B. javanica is more primitive than B. polycarpa because the former has a more complicated inflorescence.

B. polycarpa is not native to Hong Kong while the closest locality is in N. Guangdong. It is a good street tree as it is photophilous, thermophilous, drought-tolerate and resistant to wind. It is an economic timber tree for furnitures and other decorative materials. The fruits are also very attractive to birds.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Platysternon megacephalum

Platysternon megacephalum (Plastysternidae), also known as Big-headed turtle, is a medium-sized terrapin distributed in SE Asia. It mainly inhabits hill and mountain streams with fast-flowing water. It is good at climbing using its strong claws and long, tough tail. It is primarily nocturnal but can also be found during daytime on rainy days.

Big-headed turtle is carnivorous which presumably feeds on fish, frogs and invertebrates that can be found in the streams. Breeding habits in the wild are largely unknown although it is a very well-known pet species worldwide.

It is originally a common species in South East Asia including South China and Hong Kong. But it is heavily caught and sold in the pet and food markets recently which are the major threats to the species. It has been listed as endangered in the IUCN redlist since 2000. The localities of the species should be enclosed in order to cease the harvesting of the wild individuals.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Kaloula pulchra pulchra

Asian Painted Frog, Kaloula pulchra pulchra, is a common species ranged from much of South East Asia including Hong Kong. It is quite adaptable which is able to colonise the urban area and agricultural fields successfully while it is presumably originally a wetland/riverbank/forest edge species. It breeds in seasonal rain pools or ponds.

Asian Painted Frog acts like an ambush predator preying mainly on insects. It is able to expand itself when threatened and to secrete toxic substances from its body surface. It is also a tough species which survives in dry condition by burying itself in the ground and waiting for rain.

It is collected for consumption and pet trade (You can easily find a lot of caresheets for this speces in the internet) in many places in South East Asia but the threats to the species are not serious at this moment. It is listed as least concern in the 2007 IUCN redlist.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gardenia jasminoides var. jasminoides

Genus Gardenia Ellis (Rubiaceae)
ca. 250 species distributed in the tropics and subtropics; 5 spp. and 1 variety in China including 1 native sp. in Hong Kong.

Gardenia jasminoides is widely cultivated in the tropics and subtropics due to its ornamental and commercial uses. One of its uses is that the pulp of the fruits is used for coloring food yellow such as boiled beans, fish eggs, hot cakes, ices and noodles etc. Several parts of G. jasminoides are also used medicinally including roots, leaves and fruits.

It is a common and beautiful plant species in Hong Kong flowering from March to August.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sphenomorphus indicus

Sphenomorphus indicus and S. incognitus both occur in Hong Kong. They are very similar in appearance that S. incognitus collected in the past had been misidentified as S. indicus. There is only one clear-cut difference between the two species which is the presence of a patch of enlarged scales at the back of the thigh in S. incognitus. It seems that there is some different in habitat preference while S. incognitus prefers waterside but S. indicus is often encountered along forest paths.

S. indicus is distributed widely in South-east Asia including S. China, Bhutan, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, India and west Malaysia.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ferruginous Flycatcher (Muscicapa ferruginea)

Genus Muscicapa (Muscicapidae) is a kind of old world flycatchers consisting about 25 spp. They are widespread along Europe, Africa and Asia. Most of them are migratory and they mostly prefer forest and woodland habitats. Muscicapa flycatchers mainly feed on flying insects which are caught by sallying out from an exposed perch. Other Muscicapa flycatchers occuring in Hong Kong include Asian Brown Flycatcher, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Dark-sided Flycatcher and Brown-breasted Flycatcher.

Ferruginous flycatcher (Muscicapa ferruginea) is a monotypic species which breeds from the Himalayas east to central and western China and Taiwan. It winters in Sumatra and the Philippines.

A scarce spring migrant with only a few autumn records in Hong Kong.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Camellia crapnelliana

Genus Camellia L. (Theaceae)
An economically important genus providing valuable seed oil, tea and medicine. ca. 120 described species where most of them are in China (98 species including 13 spp. and 1 variety in Hong Kong).

Camellia crapnelliana was first collected from Mount Parker and described by W. J. Tutcher in 1903 (i.e. 克氏茶 in chinese). All Camellia species in Hong Kong are protected under Forestry Regulations Cap. 96A. C. crapnelliana is particularly rare which has also been listed as Vulnerable under IUCN red list and Rare and Precious Plants of Hong Kong.

The extracted seed oil is edible. It was introduced to Japan in 1968 but only a small number of plants have been cultivated because grafting on C.japonica or C.sasanqua is difficult.

Aster panduratus

Genus Aster L. (Asteraceae)
A large genus but taxonomically unclear. The number of the species under Aster varies depending on different approaches, ranged from 250 to 1000. They are mainly distributed in Asia, Europe and North America; ca. 100 spp. in China including 5 in Hong Kong.

Asteraceae is the second largest family in the Division Magnoliophyta (Angiosperms), with over 20,000 described species. (The largest is Orchidaceae, with about 25,000 described species).
The "flower" of Asteraceae is actually an inflorescence (Capitulum), consisting two types of florets: ray and disc florets. The petals of ray florets attract the pollinators and provide landing platform to them.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Uvaria macrophylla

Genus Uvaria L. (Annonaceae)
ca. 150 species distributed in the paleotropical region, i.e. Asia, Africa and North Australia;
10 native species in China including 4 in Hong Kong.

Flowers of U. macrophylla are protogynous (Bisexual but time sequence of presentation of pollen and stigma is seperated) which is a typical feature of Annonaceous flowers.
Smell fruity when matured.
A lovely colorful flower blooming in the summer!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lagerstroemia speciosa

Genus Lagerstroemia L. (Lythraceae)
ca. 55 species distributed in the tropical and subtropical region in Asia and Atlantic;
16 native species in China; 4 spp. (3 cultivated) in Hong Kong.

Lagerstroemia speciosa is a common ornamental tree in Guangdong, Guangxi and Fujian including Hong Kong. The seeds are very attractive to a local resident bird species, Grey-capped Greenfinch (Carduelis sinica).

Rubus reflexus

Genus Rubus L. (Rosaceae)
A big genus, ca. 700 species in the world (208 in China including 8 in Hong Kong);
Especially abundant in the north temperate zone while some of them are in the tropics and southern hemisphere.

Aggregate fruit berry-like. Most are edible. A lot of Rubus spp. are cultivated for commercial use in the Europe and America.