23 June 2013


The TulipMania has been over for a while now and the current theme is the Flight of Fancy. Hence I feel the timing is just right to highlight some other flights of fancy in the outdoor gardens.

Bignoniaceae - an amazing Family of plants with winged seeds!
I wrote about the floriferous Tabebuia chrysantha 2 months ago but look how the trees looked like recently. The flowering phenomenon was clearly over and in place of the amazing yellow blooms were clusters of unappealing, brown, dried bean-like capsules that split along its length to reveal masses of winged seeds. The extremely light seed covered by a winged-like membrane, is an important characteristic of plants from the Bignoniaceae Family, which helps to carry it by wind across long distances away from the parent plant to aid in its dispersal and spread. 

Isn't it amazing to know the lengths that plants will go to in order to extend its range of colonization?

Butterflies and caterpillars - creepy crawlies or flying gems of nature?
Garden Party at the Meadows Toilet
Over at the less visited southern end of the gardens, a garden party was secretly happening ahead of GB's first anniversary garden bash, despite the haze situation. At the flower beds beside the Meadows toilet are lots of pretty flowers and interesting plants. One of these plants that will not be missed is the vibrantly coloured flowers of the Asclepias curassavica (Common Name: Blood Flower) which are attracting masses of butterflies and caterpillars. If anyone is afraid of creepy-crawlies, I hope this little corner can help to change their minds and in turn they can help to educate others.

The photos of the butterflies Plain Tiger, Choco
late Pansy, Blue Glassy Tiger and Blue Pansy were captured having a whale (or can I say a butterfly?) of a time feeding on the nectar of many flowers and chemicals of some other plants e.g. Crotalaria, Eupatorium, with the caterpillars of the Plain Tiger butterfly shown towards the end.

A Crimson Dropwing dragonfly also decided to drop by to partake in the party.

Life Cycle
Did you know that the caterpillars shown here are actually part of the life cycle of the Plain Tiger butterfly? They say when you truly love someone, you have to embrace the good and bad and love everything about the person. Corny as it may sound but if you love butterflies, then you have to accept their eggs, caterpillars and pupae. In fact, I feel the caterpillars are pretty in their own sort of way. I hope we can all teach others not to be afraid of them because the caterpillars of butterflies do not bite, sting or cause allergies unlike those of some moths.

Did you
 know that the life span of a butterfly from the egg stage to the adult butterfly is relatively short-lived between 4-8 weeks.

Host and Nectar Plants

A lot of the butterflies were congregating at this spot because of the host plants and range of nectar plants here.

If anyone is a picky eater, don't feel too bad because butterflies are way more picky in their eating habits. It is an indisputable fact that butterflies have very few specific host plants for them to lay their eggs on and to feed their caterpillars. The butterflies would rather die if they cannot find their host plants to lay their eggs on and similarly, the caterpillars would starve to death if they do not have their host plant leaves to munch on. Don't go around telling kids to pluck any leaves in the gardens to feed caterpillars because it doesn't work that way!

On the other hand, butterflies are less selective about their nectar plants and have a wider range of flowers to feed on. However, this doesn't mean flowers of any plant species would be good enough to feed a butterfly. Like all other insects, butterflies and certain plants have evolved intricate relationships such that the morphology of some flowers provide access to only butterflies to feed on their nectar to facilitate pollination. Typically, such flowers are relatively small, single-petaled (single whorl of petals) and have a long, fused tubular corolla (collective term for petals). This means flowers such as Rose, Hibiscus, Gardenia and Balsam are not suitable nectar plants. Good nectar plants include Lantana, Stachytarpheta, Duranta and Bidens etc because the long proboscis of a butterfly can reach down the throat of the corolla to feed on the nectar.

Examples of butterflies and their host plants:

  • Common Grass Yellow - Caesalpinia pulcherrima (Common Name: Peacock Flower) 
  • Plain Tiger - Asclepias curassavica, Calotropis gigantea (Common Name: Crown Flower) 
  • Leopard - Salix babylonica (Common Name: Weeping Willow), Flacourtia inermis (Common Name: Batoko Plum, Rukam Masam, Plum of Martinique) 
  • Painted Jezebel - Dendrophthoe pentandra (Common Name: Mistletoe) 
  • Mottled Emigrant - Senna alata (Common Name: Seven Golden Candlesticks) 
  • Tawny Coster - Passiflora foetida (Common Name: Stinking Passionflower, Love-in-a-Mist)
Other Interesting Plants
At this little plot beside the Meadows toilet are also planted with lots of other shrubs popular or commonly planted in kampungs in the past. Check out some of the following plants to learn more about them:

  • Cosmos bipinnatus cultivars (Common Name: Garden Cosmos) 
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa (Common Name: Roselle) 
  • Impatiens balsamina (Common Name: Balsam) 
  • Mirabilis jalapa (Common Name: Four O'clock Flower) 
  • Tagetes patula cultivars (Common Name: Marigold) 
All in all, this small tranquil corner of the gardens is a good educational platform for anyone to learn more about the interesting world of flora and some of their associated fauna.