Thursday, December 3, 2009

Commersonia bartramia

Which family do you think the above specimen is belonging to? Four of us had different guesses after meeting this strange and unfamiliar tree which include Moraceae, Sterculiaceae, Elaeocarpaceae and Euphorbiaceae. The answer is Sterculiaceae or Tiliaceae depending on taxonomic treatment. Meeting unfamiliar species is always funny and exciting in the field which is like an assessment to your identification, integration, logical thinking and association skills.

Only one species under the genus Commersonia, Commersonia bartramia, is distributed in China which is mainly distributed in southern parts of China including Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan and Yunnan. It flowers in winter but the exact date depends on regions and altitude. It has considerable economic uses where bark and fiber are used for weaving.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Leopard, Panthera pardus

Leopard (Panthera pardus) is belonging to the "Big Cats" genus, Panthera, which contains four members including Lion, Tiger, Jaguar and Leopard. Leopard is the smallest member within the genus. It has a broad distribution which ranged from most of sub-Saharan Africa, Arabian Peninsula, India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia. It has a status of Near-threatened according to the IUCN Red List (ver. 2009.1) with decreasing population trend.

These photographs were taken in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya. This individual completely ignored the vehicles and humans surrounding it and was trying to hunt. It even made use of the vehicles to hide itself from the prey. It is quite rare to find Leopards during the daytime according to the guides as they are mainly active at night and resting on trees during the daytime.

Unidentified Eunoymus

An Euonymus species found on Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, is recently recognized not recorded before. It is quite surprised that there is still unidentified/unrecorded woody species in Hong Kong as they seem not to be easily overlooked in the previous extensive surveys conducted by various parties, including AFCD, KFBG and HKU etc. Even though specimens of flowers and fruits have been collected, the identity of this species is still unsolved, which means, it is probably a new species in Guangdong, or even China. Identification work is supposed to be done by IBSC, South China Institute of Botany.

This Euonymus species is highly restricted to a small area in Hong Kong, which is thought to be a very rare species in Hong Kong. It looks like another commoner Euonymus, E. laxiflorus, when flower or fruit is not observed. You might find its flowering season in early June where its fruits mature in December.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Neolucanus sp.

Coleoptera, largely known as beetles, is the largest member amongst all insects in the world. There are about 350,000 described species within the family in the world which represents more than 40% of all insects and nearly 30% of all animal species. However, the number of the described insects is still thought to be highly underestimated.

The photographed Neolucanus sp. was found at high elevation in Hong Kong. I've seen a number of this species appearing mainly around late May to Mid July these two years.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Euphoria atoto

Genus Euphorbia L. (Euphorbiaceae)
Euphorbia is the type genus of Euphorbiaceae while all species have milky juice. All succulent Euphorbia spp. contains poisonous sap in which people maybe poisoned by even touching the plant. Some of the poison are extremely dangerous. Euphorbia is a huge genus having around 2,000 species dispersed over nearly the whole world. Over 80 could be found in China including 11 in Hong Kong.

Euphorbia atoto inhabits sandy seashore area giving its common name Littoral Euphorbia. It is a restricted species in Hong Kong but quite widespread in South and South-east Asia even to Australia. Flowers are tiny and unisexual which is quite hard to see clearly in the field.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Trip to Northeastern Guangxi

Have been to Guilin (桂林) and Longji (龍脊) from late April till early May. A peaceful place to stay and visit while the scenaries are spectacular. It is said that the rice terraces in Longji would be fully flooded at the end of May giving that the most spectacular scene each year. It's really worthy to visit there more than one time to see the different scenes in different times of a year.

I'd also spent one and a half day to visit Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge (程陽風雨橋) which is quite far away from Guilin (about 100 km away from Guilin). It is actually part of the buildings by Dong Minority in Guangxi. The buildings in that village all looks traditional as all of them are made by wood. People are nice and the food are great. It's worthy to go if you are interested in these cultural heritage.

I walked from Yang Ti (楊堤) to Xing Ping (興坪) in order to have a new experience to visit Li River (漓江) apart from joining the boat trip. Not much good view could be seen along the way but you can get closer look on the local villages and farmlands. The walk is not short which spends you about 6 hours to finish.

Styrax faberi (白花龍) was commonly seen in the Longji area.

Weigela japonica var. sinica (半邊月) was abundant in the Longji area. It's quite unexpected that it is belonging to the family Caprifoliaceae (忍冬科) while I originally thought it is something inside Myrtaceae (桃金娘科).

Several individuals of Rhododendron stamenium (長蕊杜鵑) was seen in the Longji area. It does look like Rhododendron moulmainense (羊角杜鵑) which is native to Hong Kong but the flowers of the former are smaller and the stamens are longer. They belong to the same subgenus.

Polygonatum cyrtonema (多花黃精) was also seen in the Longji area.

I enjoyed photographing Lyonia ovalifolia var. lanceolata (狹葉南燭) very much as Lyonia is very rare in Hong Kong and the flowers are so delicate.

Liquidambar formosana (楓香) could be commonly found in Guilin and Longji.

Arisaema erubescens (一把傘天南星) is very common in Longji area while it is so localized in Hong Kong. Montane habitat might be not enough for it to grow in Hong Kong.

Actinidia chrysantha (金花獼猴桃) could be found in both Guangdong and Guangxi provinces.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hylarana latouchii

Hylarana latouchii belongs to the family Ranidae which is distributed in South China, including Hong Kong, and Taiwan. It is a common species inhabiting forests and breeds in marshes, pools and also slow-flowing streams. It is listed as Least Concern according to the IUCN 2008 Red List which indicates that the species has a stable population with significant size.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Iris speculatrix

Genus Iris (Iridaceae)
A genus with about 200-300 species which is widely distributed in the north temperate region. They inhabit a variety of habitats ranging from montane areas, grassy slopes to riverbanks. Iris has a very old history in horticulture as all shows spectacular flowers.

Iris speculatrix is also known as Hong Kong Iris as this species was firstly discovered on Hong Kong Island around a century ago. It is found that this species is actually distributed widely in South China after more detailed surveys were done in the mainland. I. speculatrix is indeed rare in Hong Kong which is listed as rare and precious plant species in Hong Kong. It is also protected under the Forests and Countryside Ordinance (Cap. 96) from being over-collected for ornamental uses.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chicks of Barn Swallow

Chicks of Barn Swallow had been seen waiting and seeking for food in their nest desperately. This is a fantastic scene to see!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Aristolochia thwaitesii

Genus Aristolochia L. (Aristolochiaceae)
Aristolochia is widely know as Birthworts which refers to the shape of the flowers as it resembles a birth canal. It contains about 400 species which is mainly distributed in tropical , subtropical and temperate regions of the Old World and also Australia. There are 45 species in China including 5 in Hong Kong. Other genera in Aristolochiaceae could be found in China include Asarum (細辛屬), Saruma (馬蹄香屬) and Thottea (綫果兜鈴屬).

Flowers of Aristolochia are protogynous, where the pistil gets mature before anthers. Pollinators carrying pollens are attracted by the flowers and enter the flowers. They are then trapped by the flowers as the retroactive hairs in the throat of the flowers help preventing the pollinators from escaping. After that, the flowers wither and the anthers dehisce. Pollens are then released onto the trapped pollinators. They are released afterward and visit other flowers to carry pollination again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Breeding Swallows in Hong Kong

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) is an abundant passage migrant in Hong Kong especially in Spring while some are summer visitors which breed in Hong Kong. It nests in a variety of places which has a widespread breeding distribution in Hong Kong. Nesting birds are thought bringing fortune and they are used to be protected by local people in Hong Kong.

Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica) is used to be an uncommon passage migrants and also winter visitors in Hong Kong. It is also found to be a breeding species in Hong Kong recently which nests in northern New Terrestories. The architecture of its nest is different from that of Barn Swallow which could be easily identified.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Flora in Nanling, Guangdong (Part 3)

A prolonged and severe cold spell in winter 2008 had brought a ecological disaster to the forests in Nanling National Nature Reserve. Over 90% of the trees were destroyed during that period which caused an unbelievably huge economical and ecological destruction. It was estimated that the forest might need about 30 years to recover. Most of the forest areas with closed canopy in previous years has become open woodland or shrubland areas with open canopy. Trees were particularly suffered from the frost damage. It is noted that the Cunninghamia lanceolata plantations suffered the most where fallen China fir were seen everywhere.

The natural environment in Nanling and Mangshan is one of the best in Guangdong province. It is however susceptible to tourism and management should be made with ecological and geological sense.

Mecodium badium (露蕨) shows a lips-like indusium.

One individual of Buxus megistophylla (大葉黃楊) was seen in XiuHuangShan.

Epimedium sagittatum (三枝九葉草) is a well-known herbaceous plant with high medicinal value. It belongs to the genus Epimedium (淫羊霍屬).

Chirita fimbrisepala (螞蝗七) is widely growing on steep and moist rocks in waterfall group in Nanling Nature Reserve.

Acer fabri (羅浮槭) is widely distributed in Guangdong but not including Hong Kong.

Rubus corchorifolius (山莓) has axillary inflorescence with single flower. There is not many Rubus spp. showing this kind of inflorescence in Guangdong.

Stachyurus chinensis (中國旌節花) belongs to a small family Stachyuraceae with about 17 species which is mainly restricted to East Asia. The whole family doesn't exist in Hong Kong. This species is widely distributed in Central and South China and also Vietnam.