Elaine Yim is bowled over by the beauty of the Kinta Weed
KINTA Valley in Perak is famous for its picturesque rainforests, age-old limestone hills and cave temples. It is also known for its tasty Tambun pomeloes and Ipoh bean sprouts.
During its heyday, Kinta Valley was the richest tin-producing district in the world. It is also home to an indigenous wild orchid known as Kinta Weed.
The name was derived from the fact that it used to grow abundantly in the wetlands of former mining areas of the valley. But its population has dwindled drastically due to illegal collection, poaching and habitat loss caused by deforestation, development, logging and farming activities.
Once on the verge of extinction, it is now listed under Appendix II of CITES List as a rare and endangered species.
Those who are lucky to witness the spectacular sight of this lovely orchid flourishing and flowering freely in its natural environment are awed and touched by the profound beauty of what Mother Nature has bestowed upon us. Sadly, I have never seen this orchid in the wild. I have only seen pictures of it from nature enthusiasts who blog about their trips to the outback. Hopefully, this pristine condition is preserved for our future generations.
However, city dwellers can catch a glimpse of this rare jewel at the rooftop Secret Garden at 1 Utama in Petaling Jaya.
You can’t get this endemic orchid from any nursery. If you do come across it in a nursery, please do not buy it as we do not want to encourage illegal collection that may lead to its extinction.
ORCHIDS IN GENERAL
There are about 2,000 species of orchids in Malaysia. Orchids are generally divided into three groups:
• Terrestrial or ground orchids are rooted in the soil or ground, e.g. Arundina and Spathoglottis.
• Epiphytic orchids which live away from the ground on rocks and trees, e.g. Dendrobium and Phalaenopsis.
• Climbing orchids which have long stems and aerial as well as grounded roots, e.g. Vanda, Arachnis and Renanthera.
Scientific name: Papilionanthe hookeriana
Synonym: Vanda hookeriana
Common names: Kinta Weed, Swamp Orchid, Pencil Orchid.
Category: Climbing Orchid
Distribution: Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. It is native to Perak, Terengganu and Johor. It is also found in Borneo and Sumatra.
Vanda Miis Joaquim, the National Flower of Singapore is a hybrid of P. hookeriana and P. teres.
Papilionanthe hookeriana is a semi-aquatic climbing orchid often found in open, lowland swamps. In its natural habitat, it exists happily side-by-side with the Hanguana malayana and another orchid, Thrixpermum Centipeda.
It grows slowly and requires lots of sun and moisture. The long and slender stems are capable of growing continuously. Aerial roots, which emerge along the stems, will attach themselves to any support they come in contact with.
There is a kink about 2cm below each leaf tip. This unique feature is also found in Vanda Miss Joaquim.
When the plants have reached the top of their support, they will begin to flower. P. hookeriana produces spectacular light mauve coloured flowers with a broad and beautiful purple lip heavily dotted with dark purple splotches. Each spray has between two and 10 flowers. Well-established plants will flower continuously.
After the flowers wither off they may form seed capsules that ripen and split open, releasing the minute dust-like seeds into the air.
Endemic species are plants that occur naturally in one specific place. They can’t survive in a different habitat or environment.
• Be aware of the rare and endangered species of orchids in the country.
• Arrange trips to see native orchids in their natural environment. Observe how delicate and vulnerable they are.
• Do not buy orchids that are brought in from jungles and forest reserves. Buy from reputable orchid breeders.
• Do not remove the orchids from their natural environment.
• Report forest fires, poaching and logging activities.