Cryptcoryne xpurpurea – Yet another can of worms…

June 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Posted in cryptocoryne | 2 Comments

Hybrids have always been the most interesting group to study. While creating laboratory frankensteins is generally frowned upon by many, on the basis of ethical concerns, the occurrence of natural hybrids has astound countless. The driving motivations and mechanisms behind the hybridisation process, the reproduction biology of the hybrids and their survival are just some questions whose answers scientists are still working on.

Hybridisation occurrence in lower form organisms have long been recognised by researchers, with plants hybrids being far more rampant than animals. With many of them being polyploidic, the ability to form hybrids all so readily is much more common in plants, most noted in plants which have developed an ornamental use, e.g. orchids and pitcher plants. The number of orchid hybrids produced by the Singapore Botanic Gardens is so numerous, the records of well-known or famously-named ones are thick enough to be compiled into copious volumes (See Sander’s works on documenting orchid hybrids). The common occurrence of plant hybrids has made us almost take them for granted, like one couldn’t care less about Nepenthes xhookeriana, which is formed from the hybridisation of N. ampullaria and N. rafflesiana. Well, at least most folks don’t.

Natural hybridisation of Cryptocoryne spp. in comparison are far less common and precisely so, attracted quite a fair bit of attention from researchers and hobbyists alike. In Sri Lanka, we have C. xwillisii, previously C. nevillii, whose parentage has always been a source of mystery and confusion for many. Then there’s the famous C. xtimahensis whose narrow distribution has caused much of a mayhem within the crypt fanatics circle, especially in Japan where prices of a single stalk escalated to an unbelievable price of USD200. Then again, Japanese have always been known to pay the top dollar for anything new and crazy. Anyway, we’ve digressed…

A most recent contender in this world of hybrids is probably C. sp. “Kota Tinggi” which is postulated to be a hybrid formed from 3 species which can be found in the southern parts of Peninsula Malaysia. But as to which species the parentage turned out to be, this can of worms we leave it to the scientists to open.

And as if issues are not complex as they are already, a hybrid may formed from species which themselves exhibit geographical and morphological variation resulting in a permutation of possibilities. And C. xpurpurea provided that exact twist to the tale. C. xpurpurea, initially thought to be a species in its own right was first known from its variant found in Tasik Bera, Pahang, Peninsula Malaysia. The irony is said that when Rubber Ridley first found and cultivated it from specimens collected from Kota Tinggi, he exclaimed that this was the most easily cultivated species. Big words from a … well, big man. This claim was further backed up by De Wit more than half a century later (1964) who claimed it to be the most widely cultivated aquarium species in Europe at his point of writing.  Strange it seems that it seems like their claims turned out to be curses as this taxon completely vanquished itself from the aquarium trade for the next 50 years. Its circulation had never been revived since. Jacobsen classified this as a hybrid from C. griffithii and C. cordata var. cordata and promptly named it C. xpurpurea nothovar. purpurea; nothovar being the ICBN term for variation within hybrids. The secret population in Southern Johor, once thought to be lost has been rediscovered by Sasaki but this variant is  most famoulsy known from the protected conservation sites in Tasik Bera. Kudos to Ms. Sim Cheng Hua for her work in collaboration with Ramsar on its conservation. It has even made it onto a stamp in Malaysia!

Another variant to this hybrid was discovered by Sasaki in 1999 in Sampit, Kalimantan Tengah which was named by Jacobsen in 2002 as C. xpurpurea nothovar. borneoensis. Parentage traces back to C. griffithii and another variant of the cordata complex, C. cordata var. zonata. So does the story end here? Far from it…

According to Sasaki, the localities in the Sampit-Kasangan area yield loads of similarly looking crypts from various forms and colour morphs of C. cordata to C. edithae to undeterminable “cf.” forms of these two species. To add more spice to the “fun”, some forms of C. cordata are basically indiscriminate from C. edithae themselves!!!

A couple of years later, interesting news came from the northern parts of Borneo, from Lundu Sarawak where another “form” of C. xpurpurea seems to have been found. But then again, the big question is, “Is it C. xpurpurea?” C. griffthii ‘s distribution on this large island is known from Banjarmasin and the other selatan areas mentioned above with no known records in Sarawak. Then again, do the parent species have to be found alongside/near the hybrid localities? Apparently not as hypothesised for C. xtimahensis whose parentage are widely thought to be C. nurii and C. cordata var. cordata, both not found on this small red dot. Michael Lo, who saw the inflorescence in situ in Feb 2007 postulated this hybrid to be formed from C. cordata var. zonata and C. longicauda, the latter a widely distributed blackwater species in Sarawak. This new kid on the block is currently known as C. xpurpurea “Lundu”.

 I had the opportunity for some specimens in Mar 2008 and one of them promptly sent out a spathe for me about 3 months later.

 When I discovered the spathe, it was already quite developed, hence the duration of the “spathing” process could not be determined. The spathe looks rather different from the one Michael saw in his field trip, but such deviation could be expected given the differences in cultivation conditions.

Closeup of kettle contents

This is a rather easy crypt to cultivate in emerse conditions, given blackwater conditions. It sends of shoots rather prolifically and certainly took a very short time to become established when conditions are fulfilled. It makes a good “test drive” for anyone who wishes to venture into blackwater crypts and should do so before attempting more challenging species.

 

 

Hong Kong Dec 2007 (Part 4)

May 28, 2008 at 6:50 pm | Posted in travel | Leave a comment

Day 5

Last day in Hong Kong. Flight’s in the evening which leaves us basically the whole morning and afternoon to leisurely do any last minute shopping and sampling of food which we have yet to try over the last few days!

We started with dimsum! Determine to try Dao Heung 稻香 during this trip, we made it earlier down today after failing to try it yesterday. No queue! Working day perhaps. Only old folks and tai-tais in sight in the restaurant. We were allocated this corner table which had lousy lighting which is not conducive for photography at all. what the hell…

We ordered quite a bit of food this time round. Since it’s our last day in HK, might as well. Also, we might as well eat this than the sucky stuff they call “delicious snacks” on Jetstar. Havent had congee for the whole trip. I’m a big fan of Cantonese style porridge so this is probably my last chance in having it on this trip!

 

 

 The food here is comparable to Fa Yuen Restaurant but slightly more pricy. But overall, it was a pleasant dining experience. Throughout our visits to the dimsum restaurants, we did not have to share tables with anyone, though this is a cmmon practice in Hong Kong.

After breakfast, we decided to head downtown in the direction fo TST as it was still too early to go down to fish street to get some livestock which I had spotted the day before. Walked into a Bally boutique and got a wallet on impulse! Quite a steal really, considering that shopping in Hong Kong is tax-free. The same design would have costed me an additional SGD60 if ‘I’d gotten it back in Singapore.

We took a train down to Prince Edward to get to fish street and bought a range of Corydoras spp., mainly from 洞庭湖 and 日鲤。After that, we walked along Nathan Road down to Wing Wah where we bought some Lou Po Beng and chinese sausages made of both pork and liver! The latter, also known as 润肠, which adds much splendor to claypot rice, is quite hard to find in Singapore. So I made sure I got a good supply that would last me until my next trip to HK!

After doing our last min shopping, we walked slowly back to the hotel. We stopped by twice, firstly at Yee Soon Dairy Company 义顺牛奶公司 for their famous double skinned milk 双皮奶. I had a plained version whilst J had one with red bean topping.

As we walked further down, we came across Neptune Congee 海皇粥品 which we had tried on numerous occasions from our previous trips to HK. Since we still had spare case and time, as well as space in our tummies, we walked right in and ordered our favorite items, fried doughsticks rolled in rice flour sheets炸肠, and “sampan porridge” 艇仔粥. The former is yummy, creating textures on your palate from the soft steamed rice flour sheets in contrast with the crispy fried doughsticks. The latter is very traditional style cantonese porridge with a whole lot of ingredients from cuttlefish tentacles, to white fish slices, to pork tendons. Really interesting concoction as well.

Feeling very full and satisfied, we made our way slowly back to the hotel to do our last bit of packing before hopping onto A31 at the busstop opposite our hotel for the airport. As our seats had already been preassigned, there was no rush at all.

So ends our shopping and feasting galore in Hong Kong. Recalling the HK Tourism Board advert couple of years back, HK is indeed a paradise for 买东西吃东西, 买东西吃东西!

– end –

 

 

Hong Kong December 2007 (Part 3)

May 28, 2008 at 4:51 pm | Posted in travel | Leave a comment

4th Day

2nd last day in Hong Kong. We loved HK dimsum so much that we decided to have it again! We had intended to try Dao Heung 稻香渔港酒家 located just a stone’s throw away from our hotel but there was a queue when we reached there! So we decided to try 明星酒家 which is very close to 花园酒家 Fa Yuen Restaurant, the dimsum restaurant we went to on the 2nd day.

The selection here is about the same as in Fa Yuen but there are some unique items. Like the steamed glutinous rice. On top of that, we ordered the usual fanfare of cheong fun, siew mai, braised chicken feet and pan-fried carrot cake.

 

The glutinous rice turned out to be quite a mistake! The serving size was huge! Imagine a bamboo basket used in 鼎太丰 for serving 6 dumplings, packed with oily glutinous rice. Yes the initially aroma from the chinese sausages (腊肠) dried mushrooms and lotus leaves which was used to lay the bottom was overwhelmingly tempting. But after a small bowl-sized serving, we’d lost the craving for anymore. My mistake to have ordered it on impulse.

 

On the bright side, we found out about the large basin-like vessel we saw at Fa Yuen on the previous day. It was for rinsing the utensils and cockery! We found this out from observing two elderly men (ah peks!) enjoying their daily morning-over-the-breakfast-table-chat. They might be wondering why we were staring at them in such amazement and bewilderment! “Qi Xin!” must be what they had in mind…

 

After breakfast, we took the MTR down to Fortress Hill (炮台山)to continue our “factory outlet (FO) hunt”. This time round, a retailer carrying Adidas and Timberland shoes and apparel. The place is a distance away from the MTR station and require some “topo-ing”. The best way to find it is by the map located at the MTR station control. The tourist map we’d obtained from the hotel lobby is grossly out-of-scale, underestimating the distand between the MTR station and the building which the outlets are located at.

Honestly, the selection is quite disappointing. Perhaps its due to a previous two days of shopping that had somewhat desensitised us. J bought a tee-shirt from the Adidas outlet. I left with nothing. We were quite surprised to find a nice posh-looking hotel in the heartland of a residential district. But then again, if a factory outlet can be found here, nothing can be anymore surprising.

We also chanced upon this interesting gadget located outside the MacDonalds. It’s called the “MTR Fare Saver”. A tap of your octopus card on the sensor would provide an instant rebate of HKD2 on your next MTR ride. Quite cool eh? We make it a point to keep a look out for more of such gimmicks in other suburban parts of the island. So LC eh?

On the way back to the MTR station, we chanced upon an outlet of Wing Wah, which is known for selling traditional Hong Kong cookies and pastries like Lou Po Beng (老婆饼), which literally means “old wives’ biscuit”. Apart from the usual sticky water chestnut filling, Wing Wah seems to have revolutionalised this popular pastry to incorporate red bean paste, lotus seed paste and other traditional fillings albeit not typically found in Lou Po Beng. We were drawn in by the rich aroma of freshly baked pastries and got for ourselves a piping one with red bean filling. Yumz!

 We proceeded to take the MTR back to TST and transferred onto the KCR to go Hung Hom as part of our “FO hunt”. Next stop is a Adidas FO located at Man Yue Street which people had raved about over HWZ. Grrr… another disappointing place. Severely off season stocks, odd sizes… bought nothing here. but the visit to the Hung Hom train station was a first for us.

 Human-sized panda display at hung Hom KCR station

 A somewhat deserted carriage of the KCR

We took the northbound KCR to Mongkok. It beats taking the MTR really. Costs didn’t differ much and there isn’t the crowd one typically see on the latter. The Mongkok KCR stops directly opposite the latest shopping centre in this region “Grand Centrury Place” 旺角新世纪广场 where the famous Maxim Restaurant 美心皇宫 is situated. Though we were still rather full, we went up to Maxim’s just for the kick of it, using Maxims own specialised lift! When the lift door opened, we were immediately struck by the posh settings and the gigantic chandelier that hangs over our heads.

Not there to eat, we felt kinda out of place and promptly took the lift back to the ground floor. This new shopping mall is packed with shoppers and diners. There are several posh restaurants here it seems. We crossed the adjoining bridge that led us to Sai Yee Street (洗衣街)and quickly found ourselves back in familiar grounds, with the Tung Choi Street/Ladies Market area. We head for Fa Yuen Street 花园街 in hope to find an All Blacks Rugby Jersey which I’d been wanting to have for a long time. Fa Yuen Street is famous for its sports apparel outlets. But we were greeted with an interesting sight which reminded us strongly of 牛车水年货市场. Boxing Day is a public holiday in Hong Kong, so this place like others, is jammed packed with shoppers.

Its basically like a outdoor bazaar for everything and anything from fresh fruits to leather belts. Then we came across another recommended outlet on our list, 奇趣饼家 which is also famous for its delectable HK traditional goodies. The shop was packed with people so we decided to come back later after visiting Tung Choi Street.

 

 We settled for tunch at another Cha Can Teng in Tung Choi Street called Chan Kee 陈记. We had roast goose and suckling pig combo rice (烧鹅乳猪双拼饭)and black peppered beef hor fun (黑胡椒炒河)respectively. The latter was kinda interesting as it had pineapple to it. So the dish had some kinda sweet ‘n sour tangy taste to it. The rice combo was quite satisfying though the portion of the suckling pig could have been more generous.

After tunch, we walked down a stretch of Tung Choi again to get back to 奇趣饼家 to get some snacks and cookies to bring back home. We brought back quite an array of cookies, e.g. 鸡仔饼,核桃酥,摩挲饼,鲍鱼酥 etc. It'[s worthy to note that all the cookies are freshly baked from the shop. So sometimes, you might have to be prepared to wait for half an hour or so if your favorite is not out of the oven yet.

Here are those we bought.

 

 After a few days of FO hunting, we were quite beaten from the accumulated fatigue. So for the rest of the evening, we decided to go slow and strolled mindlessly down the streets down Ladies Market, crossing Nathan Road to tour Temple Street. We were having trouble deciding on what to eat, and finally settled on the place where we had claypot dinner on the very first night. Instead of the various types of claypot rice, we ordered 2 claypot dishes instead as well as the yummy “oyster tempura” we had on the first night. To our delight, it seems that the ingredients used in 八珍豆腐煲 is slightly different from the one we had on our dinner on Day 1. Apparently, they use whatever ingredients that’s available and complementary to the main ingredient tofu, once again displaying the innovativeness and creativity of the chinese cuisine.

After dinner, it started to drizzle a little and we proceeded to walk back briskly to our hotel. We decided to call it a night as we were both quite tired. But not before buying back some 糖水desserts from 明记 located in one of the alleys near Ning Po Street just opposite our hotel.

Black sesame paste 芝麻糊 for the hot and double-boiled papaya with sweet apricot seeds and white fungus (南杏雪耳炖木瓜)for the cold!

 Did some packing before we go to zzz… if not, it would be a mess the next day!!!

 

 

 

Hong Kong December 2007 (Part 2)

May 22, 2008 at 10:46 am | Posted in travel | Leave a comment

Day 3

We left the hotel early next morning to get across to Hong Kong Island. Purpose is to catch a glimpse of the changing of directions of the “Mid-levels” escalator which would bring one from Central up to Lam Kwai Fong/Soho area. It’s too early to go boozing at LKF but we wanted to try a recommended wan tan mee place along Wellington Street. From the wee hours of morning until 10 am, this longest escalator in Asia travels downwards bringing the residents from this area down to Central. At 10 am, an operator would come and reverse the direction of the escalator bringing people up.

 

沾仔记 is a famous noodle shop that specialises in selling wan tan mee . Having tried the other famous wantan mee joint  池记 at Times Square last year, we decided that there was too much MSG in the soup and the serving size was too small and give it a miss this year. Many reviews on the internet recommended 沾仔记 and here we are!

We ordered dace ball noodles 鳞球面 , beef noodles牛肉面, a plate of blanched KaiLan in oyster sauce 油菜 plus a bowl of wantan soup 云吞汤 on top of that. Packed with succulent shrimps, the wantans are huge, the size of baby fists! The serving is also a tad larger than 池记 and the soup is shrimp-based without all the MSG. Quite delectable!

 

After brunch, we walked down the same street to Lin Heung Lau which is one of the favorite haunts of the local for authentic Hong Kong dimsum, especially their “shrimp-based” items like har gao 虾饺. But we were filled to the brim from 沾仔记 and had to give it a miss. At least we know where it is now so it’s definitely going to be here during our next trip!

 Along Wellington Street, we stumbled upon another interesting sight, i.e. a very old dilapidated provision shop/sundry store situated just opposite to a bustling supermarket, bearing a sharp contrast to each other’s existence.

 After stroll down from the mid-levels, we took the opportunity to do something we never had the chance to try – take a tram from Central to Causeway Bay. Trams had been in use on Hong Kong Island for more than a century and is still pretty much in use today! The seats are not really comfy and the staircase leading to the upper deck is kinda steep and dangerous. It moves more slowly than a double-decker, which gives us a better glimpse of the sights and sounds of the Central Business District on Xmas Day.

 Time Square is packed with locals, tourists and maids! Lotsa people took the opportunity for some photo-taking. 池记 moved from Russell Street down to Percival Street. But we ain’t missing anything, I think. The takoyaki stall looks interesting though.  Serving looks generous and comes in interesting flavours! But we didn’t try as we were still very full from the wan tan galore earlier.

 Times Square is basically for window-shopping. After ploughing through the various levels, we stumbled upon an interesting CD shop that carries a good range of classical music CDs of lesser-known labels. Got myself a CD of the famous 1965 performance of Gulda playing Beethoven  PC No. 1 & 4 with VPO. Not that great a recording really. I’m not a big fan Gulda not poorer quality stereo I guess…

We went down to the basements 1 & 2 and saw Krispycreme! The donut craze in Singapore over the last year or so saw many outlets and franchaise springing up all over the island. The most successful is still Donut Factory of course, and then there’s the not-so-fantastic Munchie Donuts and some other spin-offs. I’m not really a huge donut fan but since my sis brought back Krisycreme from US sometime back, I’d became an instant convert! Absolutely sinful! And of course we won’t miss the chance of trying of their “season” range!

The xmas-themed ones are interesting but not memorable. The regular flavours are still the best! We both lik the “NY Cheesecake” which has a cream cheesy filling laced with crumble toppings! Another of our fav is the “Fudge Cake”. Delicious!

 After gorging down 6 donuts, we walked down Henessy Road in the direction of Wanchai to see if there are any other interesting finds. The wet market sight at Bowring Street was quite intriguing, still bustling and busy at 4 pm in the afternoon! Lots of stalls selling fresh and cheap seafood at only a fraction of what one would expect at Saikung or Tai’O.

 

 

Another interesting find was a shop that sells the traditional HK snack, 钵仔糕 (Bok Zai Gou) . Its basically made from a glutinous rice flour paste with flavoured with red-bean or brown sugar and steamed in a shallow saucer/bowl. Best eaten when hot. Hardly see anyone selling them nowadays.

 

We went back to the hotel to put down our shopping and take a rest before heading down to Tung Choi Street to visit the “fish street”. Been here numerous times, so didn’t bother taking any photographs. Perhaps I should the next time. :p

We settled for dinner at one of the 茶餐厅s at Portland Street 钵兰街 and had stir-fried beef with crispy noodles and roast goose and char siew rice (烧鹅叉烧双拼饭).

 

After that, we walked down the streets of Mongkok and checked camera lens prices at Man Shing and Wing Shing. Cheaper than Singapore. But just couldn’t bear spending more moolah.

We came across another 大良八记 stall and of course would not miss the chance of trying out more 糖水desserts! We had walnut paste 核桃仁湖 and 杨枝甘露, the signature cold dessert made of sago, mango puree and pomelo pulp. Simply yummy!

 

 What an eventful day!

 

 

 

Hong Kong December 2007 (Part 1)

May 16, 2008 at 3:24 pm | Posted in travel | Leave a comment

Apart from dabbling with bits of nature, I love travelling. Hong Kong has been one of the destinations which I’d been repeatedly visiting over the last couple of years.  Great food, great shopping, there’s fish street which is like the “aquaria hobbyist haven” in the east.

J and I love Hong Kong. Oh well.. its more like I couldn’t afford the time to go for longer holidays. And J likes the shopping and the food there. So off we went, our 3rd trip to HK last Dec. But the trip started off with a disaster…

Day 1

I couldn’t wake up on time for the early morning flight! I was fighting hard to stay awake the night before, knowing that I have to get to the airport at 5 am in the morning. At 3 am, I just couldn’t take it anymore, the zee monster is finally catching up with me, fast engulfing my determination to stay awake…

When I opened my eyes, dawn had broke. My initial reaction was “Oh f***!!!!” Checked my clock and it was already 7.10 am. Missed my flight…. “Oh f***!!!” Checked my handphone (which was in silent mode) … 27 miss calls from J… I knew I was in deep shit. Called J… J was still at the airport, sounding rather calm. That made it all the more scarier… made a frantic search online for tickets. Jetstar was fully booked for that afternoon. Booked Tiger Airways which flies that very afternoon to Macau. Booked flight to Macau, reach the airport at 10 am to meet up with J. Waited til 2 pm for the flight to Macau . Had some north indian vegetarian lunch set. J is an airline staff so there was some discount. Not bad really despite how it looked. The spinach with goat cheese was… interesting to say the least. could have been worse I thought.

Bromeliads Xmas arrangement at the Changi Airport

Off we went, flight to Macau. bumped into a student and her whole entourage of family members. Yes 14 of them from the elderly grandma to the teeny cousin who could barely speak. And some of them would be sitting beside and around J and I. what coincidence… what luck…double yikes…

Finally reached Macau in the late evening. Took a taxi to the ferry terminal. Collect the ferry tickets which I had booked earlier online while back at Changi Airport. Off we were TRYING to get a ferry to Hong Kong. Yes, despite having proper tickets, the boarding system is horrid. People do not board according to their ferry timings. One can TRY to get onto an earlier ferry than the one on their ticket IF there are empty seats on deck. And why would there be empty seats one might think. Cos Because some passengers might have got on an even earlier crossing. In short… what a mess! So here we are jostling between lanes trying to get onto an earlier crossing but efforts prove futile. We waited patiently for our crossing timing and were amongst the first to get on deck. Finally after a day of drama, we finally reached our hotel in HK some time past 9 pm. Thankfully unlike in Singapore, shops over there don’t close that early. By the time we made it onto the streets after checking in our luggage, it was already 10pm. We headed straight for the Ladies’ Night Market (女人街)and teh infamous Temple Street Night Market (庙街夜市)for a late dinner. Piping hot claypot dishes seemed to be a good idea as there was a breezy chill lingering in the air. 16 degrees.. not bad at all.  

 

We slowly strolled back to our hotel along Nathan Road. Familiar sight, familiar sounds… yes, we are finally back in Hong Kong…

 Day 2

We awoke to a refreshing start. After having missed one whole day of activities on the planned itinerary, there was a greater sense of urgency to make the upcoming days more “eventful”. More food to try, more places to go, more shops to visit, more things to buy…

Love dimsum in Hong Kong. Anyone who’s tasted dimsum in HK wouldn’t want to have it anywhere else in the world (apart from maybe Red Star along Havelock Road and Tung Lok but these are exceptional exceptions!). So off we went to one of the recommended dimsum places “花园酒家” which is surprisingly near our hotel. A quick check with the bellboy made us realised that we had walked down that street umpteen times during our numerous visits to HK and weirdly had never gone in before. Oh well, here’s our chance.

We ordered the usual fanfare, 烧卖(steamed minced pork dumpling), 花生焖凤爪 (braised chicken feet with peanuts), 豆鼓蒸排骨鱼漂 (steamed pork ribs and fish maw with black bean paste),春卷 (deep fried spring rolls), 雀巢芋角 (deep fried yam puffs) and our all-time favourite 叉烧肠粉 (steam rice flour sheets with char siew filling).  Quite a delectable spread and the quality is commendable! Really lived up to the recommendations. Note that there is a difference in pricing for “yumcha” (饮茶)*** at different timing of the day. So be sure to ask for the menu and order chit which correspond to that particular timing. There are also special orders which are made available only at certain ordering hours. As with all yumcha restaurants big and small in HK, there is a “drink fee” (茶水费)which is calculated per pax, regardless of how many refills of tea you ask for. And it helps to be able to speak a bit of cantonese here, try to act like a local and you would be treated like one and not “one of the delectable tourists“ Just a word of caution :p

***Yumcha (饮茶)which literally means “drinking tea” is an activity unique to the Chinese diaspora. It can be found within old teahouses in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and parts of China, and even in some old chinese restaurants in the ”Chinatown” (唐人街)areas of Perth, Vancouver, LA etc. Much like wasting the lazy afternoon away in a coffeeshop in Turkey or a brauhaus in Germany, it entails more than just the physical act of “drinking or eating”. Confucius once said, “饮食男女,人之大欲存焉” showing how pivotal the events of “drinking and eating” is to the basic needs of Man as well as the development of his complex culture and social bonds. Yumcha is a means by which old friends come together to chit-chat, relay information, pour their hearts out to one another, settle disputes, catch up with old times or basically to laze the day away together. Much like why monkeys spend long hours grooming one another, the event is simple but the implications are far-reaching.

After breakfast, we headed down to Tung Chung where a whole array of factory outlets congregate. Got for myself some apparel from Adidas and PRL while J got a very good deal for a pair of DKNY pants at Club21 with a 90% discount! There’s some pretty nice shopping here, not to mention a fantastic supermarket which is very well-stocked in all sorts of foodstuff dead and alive. There’s also a good range of condiments and seasonings which we can’t get in Singapore. Bought a bottle of pre-fab seasoning for making delicious braised beef brisket with white radish. one of my favorite cantonese dishes!

 

 

 

Lunch was settled very briefly at the “food court” in the same building. Seems like this kinda modernised hawker centre concept had been brought over Hong Kong, and not surprisingly, by “Food Republic” which has outlets like Vivocity and Suntec Convention Centre. We saw some familiar local delights like “Char Kway Teow” and “Hainanese Chicken Rice” but decided to settle for something more exotic. Tried a stall selling Taiwanee braised pork rice and J had some kinda fusion concoction that vaguely resembles the Japanese Katsudon but with a cheese and egg topping.

For dessert, we decided to try a selection of “kueh kueh” which we thought to be traditional Hong Kong snacks. Comes in three flavours namely 三色豆糕,椰奶红豆糕,桂花糕.Turned out to be made from agar jelly instead of being glutinous rice flour or sago flour based. Looks interesting but the taste was quite disappointing.  

 

 Took a long MTR ride back to our hotel to put down our shopping before head down towards Tsimshatsui for some window shopping and dinner. As it was Xmas eve, we had expect to see a brilliant fireworks display like the ones we saw last year (yes! we were in HK the previous xmasd as well) The fireworks  would nicely compliment the lighting display presented by the buildings of the financial and business district across the Victoria Harbour from Admirality to Causeway Bay. It attracted a huge crowd last year and we were expecting the same this year as well. True enough, traffic was not allowed along the Tsimshatsui (TST) stretch of Nathan Road from Jordan MTR all the way down to the Avenue of Stars. The human crowd was moving like a mob literally down the roads where cars would normally move. We chose for ourselves a nice location where I could place my camera at a slightly elevated position to get a good view of the much-anticipated display of pyrotechnics. The lighting diplay began promptly at the designated time but no fireworks. Everyone looked kinda puzzled. 5 min later, still no sign of any spark up in the sky. And when the lighting display finally ended, the crowd was visibly disappointed, and so were we. Oh well, at least we did get a paranormic view of the lighting display.

 We then walked down Nathan Road and made our way slowy back to the hotel. On the way, we stopped by for some shots at the Peninsula Hotel and did some shopping at HMV and Adidas in TST.

 

The celebration of christmas was to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ and thus many churhces in Hong Kong took the opportunity to get onto the streets to carol and evanglise the Christian faith. We saw many church groups, presumably from their music and youth ministries in full force. Some quietly singing hymns, only to be overpowered by other adjacent groups fully armoured with a whole brass band trombones and all! What’s more interesting is while we were along HanKow Street in TST, we saw another religious procession by the Hindu community in Hong Kong.

 

 

The colourful world of C. minima

May 14, 2008 at 12:59 pm | Posted in cryptocoryne | Leave a comment

Of all the Cyptocoryne species, the one which is arguably one of the most intriguing is Cryptocoryne minima. It has a reasonably wide distribution with variants found in several parts in Peninsula Malaysia from Perak to Selangor. And there are even forms which are found on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra. “So what?” one might think. C. ciliata can be found from India all the way to Papua. C. longicauda could be found in abundance in Borneo and have had records in the southern states of Johor as well as Pulau Bangka off  the eastern coast of Sumatra and even within the tributaries of Central Sumatra! C. cordata, as I’d mentioned in an earlier posting too, has a fairly wide distribution. So what makes C. minima so intriguing?

C. minima  is the only crypt species to date that exhibits a myriad of psychedelic colours in their spathe limbs across geographical variants and had caused researchers in the past to have described ‘new species’ out of them, i.e. “C. amicorum” , “C. gasseri“, “C. zewaldiae” out of them. Jacobsen however lowered these to geographical forms of the same taxon, and this has become the widely accepted school of thought. This unsurpassable display of a broad spectrum of polychromatic forms is a definite first in Cryptocoryne morphology and perhaps extending to even those from the other genera of the massive Araceae family.

Last June, I had the opportunity to travel north to the state of Perak in Peninsula Malaysia to sample a population of C. minima. This unique locality is known to produce spathes of two colour morphs – one yellow, and the other, purple. Failing to see any opened spathes, specimens from two locations were sampled. Regrettably only the yellow form was collected, from the colour of the spathes which were sent out subsequently.  

C. minima is a very prolific bloomer. The Pondok Tanjung variant i have seem to be sending out spathes all year round!

These bloomed sometime in earlier Dec 2007. Not been checking my crypts very vigilantly then and missed out on the first few days of the bloom. Bad news – the limb was “limpy” when I saw the spathes. Not the best shots… oh well… The good news – another spathe was developing the same pot.

The 3rd spathe opened later. Took the opportunity to get a better shot. Now we know why they are called ” minima”. The spathes are rather small compared to other crypt species. The size is probably comparable to that of C. pygmaea, another species noted for their “petite” quality. I have not seen my C. pygmaea in flower before. Hopefull these two species can throw out spathes at the same time for a good comparison!

Notice how long the spathe limb is. Seems to be longer than the main body (tube + kettle) of the spathe! Love the surface texture!

Another pot sent out spathes in March. Didn’t bother taking anymore pictures as I thought I had a good clear shot from previous blooms. Need to wait for one to bloom to check out its “gut contents”!

Recently received specimens of C. minima from Tanjung Malim, another site lies at the borders of Perak and Selangor. Wonder what their spathes would turn out to be like. Let me know if you have interesting variants of C. minima for exchange. 🙂

 

 

 

Tropica Online Catalogue

May 7, 2008 at 12:58 pm | Posted in cryptocoryne | Leave a comment

Found an online plant catalogue by Tropica. More updated compared to the printed form which I’d bought 2-3 years back. Helpful for those who want to know a bit more about the aquatic plants common in the market. The pages are interactive and can be downloaded for offline reference. Still trying to figure out a way to download the manual as a whole though.

http://www.e-pages.dk/tropica/4/

Tropica is of course the world’s leading exporter of aquatic plants suitable for the planted tank. Based in Denmark, they have specialised greenhouses to cultivate plants from the tropics ensuring a constant supply throughout the world. But it is of course worthy to note that part of their stock cultivation process is  “outsourced” to plant farms all over the world, one of the most noted ones being Oriental Aquarium Pte. Ltd. in Singapore (http://www.orientalaquarium.com/).

Hence many of Tropica’s plants in its catalogue were actually flown from Singapore to Denmark, before making their way back here again, via Tropica’s local distributor in Singapore, Far East Aquatics at Simon Road. So, it comes as no surprise that it didn’t take long for Singaporean hobbyists found ways to bypass this channel,  to purchase “Tropica” quality plants without having to pay for the premium of their “return airtickets” to and fro Denmark. 🙂

 

 

 

Red-leafed cordata

May 7, 2008 at 8:40 am | Posted in cryptocoryne | Leave a comment

Cryptocoryne cordata var. cordata is a very common crypt species in Peninsula Malaysia, probably surpassed by only C. ciliata in terms of distribution. It has several geographical forms which can be found on Sumatra “var. diderici and also across the South China Sea in Borneo e.g. “var. Gabrowski” and “var. zonata“. Apart from these, there are also interesting cultivars and forms e.g. “blassii” and the popular pink-veined form “Rosanevig” . The elusive C. edithae from Banjarmasin is another similar yet unique species. Thus, any attempt to unravel the taxa and forms within the “cordata complex” would be like opening a can of worms.

From last June’s collection, we found two crypts which resemble that of C. cordata var. cordata. One of them has an opened spathe typical of C. cordata var. cordata. Under cultivation, something interesting happened.

The leaves developed a brilliant reddish hue. We know that the development of tiny red-pinkish spots on the leaves members from the cordata complex is quite common. But to have the whole patch being red is quite unique (or at least I thought so!). This was initially attributed as a character found on young leaves. But as the leaves mature, the reddish hue seemed to persist. It would not be long before the whole plant exhibits such characteristics. Both pots I have are behaving similarly and leaves of runners are also red. Oddly, cultivation conditions e.g. fertilisation, lighting, water parameters have not changed dramatically over the last year or so. So what exactly is the trigger the plants to develop such intensely red leaves? Only time will tell…

 

 

 

Kota Tinggi – A Reprise Part 1 : schulzei

May 7, 2008 at 6:26 am | Posted in cryptocoryne, fieldtrip, nature | Leave a comment

Bright sunny morning on the last weekend of June 2007, Azmi, Old man Vincent, Edmund and I went on a fieldtrip to Kota Tinggi to visit some crypt collections there. This was a very last minute arrangement. None of us could commit our time to a proper fieldtrip but all of us were dying to get our feet wet somewhere. No nets this time round though… a full-fledged fieldtrip just for the group of amphibious aroids we all love, Cryptocoryne.

We met up at Lakeside MRT. Everyone was late. :p After about an hour from the designated meeting time, we were finally on our way across the causeway. Much to our surprise, clearing customs was a breeze on this weekend morning. Singaporeans are known to flock across the border for cheap groceries, cheap petrol, cheap makan, cheap shopping, cheap massages, pirated DVDs,  etc… perhaps not this weekend, I thought.

We stopped by a small “restoran” at Kampung Masjidee for its famous sambal prata. Apart from the usual curry and gula, this place serves their prata with sambal made from chilli padi! Sedap and shiok! Started with just a simple combo of one telur and one kosong. But couldn’t resist ordering another telur. Better don’t eat too much… would have problems finding place to berak later. :p

And after brief shopping at a provision shop for plastic bags and portable water, we were on our way to the first location, the home of Cryptocoryne schulzei.

This is a beautifully preserved location. Very low water levels and slow flowing due to the dry season in full swing. To my surprise, the population we immediately saw was not in deep shade but baking under the full sun. And yet, they are surviving well with spathes bursting open in full glory merely inches from one another. A spectacular sight to behold.

A emerse population with many opened spathes

 A standard portrait of an opened spathe.

 

 Most specimens have very short spathes. Some growing in deeper waters sent out longer spathes, and necessarily so to prevent the throat and tube from being flooded.

It was a real treat to observe a myriad display of foliage morphology.

 

Another population under shade had more subdued green leaves growing to a modest size.

An opened syncarpium. Seeds collected from within later grew into the large population of C. schulzei which I currently have. 🙂

Despite the sand + clay based (loamy?) substrate, a population of Barclaya sp. growing near by suggests that the waters are actually rather acidic.

And finally, what a spectacle to behold!

 

Kota Tinggi – A Reprise Part 2 : Kota Tinggi

May 2, 2008 at 4:13 pm | Posted in cryptocoryne, fieldtrip, nature | Leave a comment

This is a reprise of a fieldtrip report I’d put up on www.petfrd.com last year shortly after the crypt collection trip in Southern Peninsula Malaysia(PM). I thought it would be good to put it up here again. Special thanks to Azmi and old man Vincent for being such good sport and great pals!

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24 Jun 2007 (Sunday)

Making use of my precious weekends, Azmi suggested visiting some cryptocoryne localities in Southern PM. He hasn’t been here in quite a while as well.  He’s like an amphibious creature trapped within the concrete jungles of modern civilisation. I’d longed for this trip for a long time now and the fresh air of the country would certainly do me some good. Vincent Mah is always good company. Too bad Rashid couldn’t join us. He’s gotta attend to his daughters as school reopens for a new semester the following day.

This is the second stop for the day actually. The first was C. schulzei (a field trip report reprise would follow suit soon so Akan Datang!). Back in the car, Azmi pre-empted us to be mentally prepared on what we were about to see – the deplorable state he’d witnessed the last time he was here. But that was some months back from this trip. Hopefully things had gotten better… and not made a turn for the worse… We kept our fingers crossed.

All of a sudden, we stopped in the middle of nowhere. No rivers, no jungle, no streams… a highly unlikely place to find a crypt I thought to myself. Here we are, facing a matured oil-palm plantation, not unlike those we’d seen along the way after cross the Causeway, and will certainly continue to see as we head north later.

There, somewhere tugged within this matured oil-palm plantation, was a small mudpool whose water levels had dropped to a pathetic low, barely reaching our ankles. The air reeked of an obnoxious stench, almost prompting us to heave the sambal prata from Kampung Masjidee we’d savoured with much delight earlier in the morning. True enough, there was an infestation of cyanobacteria within that stagnant pool. To call it a mud pool seemed much of an overrating really. But there seems to be no appropriate term for it. The place is basically nondescript. Deplorable seemed much of an understatement now. And there it was, in the middle of “nothing” was an open spathe of Cryptocoryne sp. Kota Tinggi, a likely natural hybrid of the other Crypt species that can be found in PM.

         The small population was confined to a space no bigger than a queen-sized bed.  We weren’t sure if there are other populations of this Kota Tinggi crypt elsewhere. We certainly hoped that there are as this population, at the rate things are going, would hardly be able to sustain itself over long periods of time. From what we can see, we weren’t the only ones who had been here recently; there were signs of plants being removed from the place.

 A little effluent running through the plantation

 

The “mud pool”

 

Some matured specimens collected, with rust-colored undersides, very narrowly ovate leaves.

 Some young runners display a very interesting morph – limegreen lancolate leaves. Couldn’t have mistaken it for another species if not for the leaves of the old plant from which the runners were sent out from.

 In the same locality, we also found Cryptocoryne cordata var. cordata

“Close up” of the spathe. No macro shots though as I was carrying my trusty o’ Fuji S5000 P&S and not the NIkon.

Here, old man Vincent also found another population of a Cryptocoryne spp. The leaves look cordated but has markings which seem atypical of C. cordata var. cordata. Brought some specimens back. Just have to get them to send out spathes to reveal its true identity now. Perhaps it’ll turn out to be another population of C. sp. Kota Tinggi.

 

 

The old oil palm trees’ dense canopy foliage provided shade and most importantly, a means to reduce ground level water evaporation to enable this crypt to survive till now. Once the plantation becomes officially expired, the logging of the palms would bring about the demise of the crypt population as without the cover provided by the towering cash crop, it is almost certain that the crypts would bake to death under the blazing equatorial sun.

Cryptocoryne sp. Kota Tinggi is not difficult to cultivate under emerse conditions and it has been well-circulated within the hobby over the last 2 years. An acidic peat moss substrate would perfectly do the trick. It sends runners rather slowly but when the conditions are conducive, one would be invariably rewarded by its unique inflorescence.

 

 

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