If I were to ask you whether these two birds are related, what would you say?
One of them looks like a Black Crow or Asian Glossy Starling (red eyes) while the other looks like a Spotted-necked Dove or Zebra Dove. So how can they possibly be related in whatsoever way? But what if I were to tell you that these two birds are one and the same; they represent the two faces of the Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus)? Read on…..
One bright sunny morning, there was a commotion among the branches of the Flame of the Forest tree across the street from my house. I quickly scanned the location of the noise with my camera and saw a black crow-like bird astride another brown-speckled bird like as though they were fighting. The black one had a noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia) in its beak, so it would appear that it had taken the fruit by force from the brown one. But as I continued snapping away, not daring to lift my eye from the camera sight, it became clear what the black bird was doing to the brown bird.
It seemed to be a ritual of sorts where the black one was offering a fruit (noni fruit) to the brown one. I later discovered the black one was a male Asian Koel, while the brown one was a female Asian Koel !
The female Koel was initially resisting the male’s overture but eventually succumbed to the male’s very persistent (and aggressive) offering. She finally accepted the fruit and the male looked on contentedly. What a show!
This morning I suddenly became aware of a new bird song floating in from somewhere in my neighbour’s Neem Tree. I quickly grabbed my camera but try as I may, I just could not sight the bird. Then just as I was about to put away my camera, the song wafted in overhead; this time from my disused TV antenna. And lo, it was indeed a new visitor to my garden. I managed to shoot a few shots before it flew off just as quickly as it had appeared. That was enough for me to google and discovered it was a Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) as can be seen from its distinguishing red patch near its cheek.
If there is a territorial dispute between an “angry” bird and a “cute” bird, who do you think will win?
I was taking some photos of a family of Pink-necked Green Pigeons feeding on a palm tree in my garden when a drama unfolded. A rather mean-looking Myna quietly crept up and startled the Green Pigeons who understandably flew away terrified. But then the head of the family decided that he was not going to let the Myna get away with it. And very much like a bullying incident, the bully had no stomach for a fight when the victim decided to fight back.
Watch the dispute between a Myna (“angry”) and a Pink-necked Green Pigeon (“cute”) and see the unexpected outcome… Cute overcomes Angry.
On a bright sunny morning, this nippy orange-coloured butterfly Tawny Coster (Acraea violae), flitted among the leaves of a Yellow Turnera or Holy Rose (Turnera ulmifolia) plant. It appeared to be searching for suitable spots to lay its eggs. The Tawny Coster’s dance is captured in the following stills.
The tiny Common Tailorbird is more commonly heard than seen. This is because it is a very loud singer for such a tiny bird but it is very difficult to make it out in the foliage overhead. Very often, by the time you finally sight it, you cannot even get the camera focused to shoot it.
So I consider myself extremely fortunate on this Sunday morning to notice it perched on the overhead cable in clear sight, noisily singing its heart out, calling to its mate.
In case you are curious…. it is a 2-note song, sung with gusto repeatedly: “Chu-it! Chu-it! Chu-it!”
Still remember your biology lesson? Insects have six legs while spiders are arachnids with eight legs.
Centipedes are arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda of the subphylum Myriapoda ( ref: Wikipedia) with 30 or 34 legs.
What about caterpillars? You know that a caterpillar will metamorphose into a butterfly ( 6 legs); so how many legs does a caterpillar have? Answer: 6 legs like an adult butterfly or moth. The rest are false legs (prolegs) which help the caterpillar hold onto plant surfaces and allow it to climb.
( ref: http://insects.about.com/od/butterfliesmoths/a/10-Cool-Facts-About-Caterpillars.htm )
For simplicity, let’s call them “bugs”. Here are some Bugs found in my garden.
I will update the gallery continually and hope to add to the collection from all around Malaysia. Hopefully, in time this will be a useful gallery of Bugs Around Malaysia.
Yesterday evening, a family of three Pink-necked Green Pigeons roosted on the power cable over my garden and posed for me.
The two males have colourful plumage that gives its name while the female has plain dull green feathers.
One of the males is really fat (the father?)…LOL
Added White-throated Kingfisher, Oriental Magpie-Robin and Olive-backed Sundird. Everyday, I just have to be patient and a new bird may come visiting.
Yesterday, three Javan Mynas visited my garden unexpectedly. Don’t they look like the “Angry Birds”?
This is a gallery of birds around Malaysia. So far, most of these are common birds that regularly visit my own garden. Occasionally I catch sight of some non-native migratory birds flying overhead in formation. That’s when your pulse quickens and you grab your camera (hopefully within reach) and pray that you have captured some decent shots.
Keep your eyes open and look out for these birds around your house and neighbourhood.
All these birds were in my garden, my sister’s garden, or around my neighbourhood. The beautiful Jungle Fowls were in Baling.
Please let me know if I’ve identified any of the birds wrongly.
I will be updating this gallery continually and hopefully in time this will be a useful gallery of Birds Around Malaysia.
After this, you will love the weeds in your garden. Here is a roundup of common weeds and wild plants with medicinal curative properties for natural remedies that you may find in your own garden or around your neighbourhood. These 10 plants are all found in my own garden; all photos are mine.
We have all, at one time or another, heard about some miracle plant that has natural medicinal curative properties but often we wonder about its efficacy and whether it has any adverse side effect. To help allay such concerns, I have compiled first person reports in my other website, www.free2cure.com If any of these medicinal weeds work for you, please send me a note (firstname.lastname@example.org) for me to add to the first-person reports in Free2Cure.
Healing Herbs of Malaysia – SIRIM
Herbs of Malaysia – J. Samy, M. Sugumaran and Kate Lee
Wonder of Herbs – G G Enterprise
Various other websites
1. Rat Ear (Pepper Elder, Ketumpang Air, Peperomia pellucida L.)
Most Malaysian gardens will have this small succulent medicinal weed growing profusely among the other plants especially in damp shady areas. Although it usually grows wild and is seldom cultivated, it can be eaten raw as “ulam”.
The plant eaten raw or blanched can treat gout, arthritis, rheumatism, kidney stone and gastro-intestinal problems. It is used as a paste to treat boils, pimples and burns. The juice is used to relieve cough, fever, common cold, headache, sore throat, diarrhoea, prostate problems and reduce high blood pressure.
a. Translation from Noraida Arifin’s Herba:
“Drink the fresh juice drink to avoid infection of the eyes, diarrhea, cough, flu and infections bladder as well as for lowering high blood pressure. The leaves contain antibacterial properties that can treat skin diseases such as boils, acne and sunburn. It also can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and it is also a remedy for joint pain and abdominal pain. The fluid of the stem is used to cure fever and headache.”
“Medicinal Uses: Infusion and decoction of leaves and stems are used for gout and arthritis. Externally, as a facial rinse for complexion problems. Pounded whole plant used as warm poultice for boils, pustules and pimples.
New uses Belongs to the “preferred list” of Philippine medicinal plants, being studied for its use in the treatment of arthritis and gout. For arthritis: Leaves and stems of the fresh plant may be eaten as salad. Or, as an infusion, put a 20-cm plant in 2 glasses of boiling water; and 1/2 cup of this infusion is taken morning and evening.”
Ingredients: Use the whole plant (4-5 mature plants). Use Chinese Wolfberry (3 table spoons). Use brown sugar (1 table spoon). Method : Put 4 bowls of water in a pot. Put peperomia plants, Chinese wolfberry and brown sugar into the pot. Boil up the pot and reduce to slow fire. Boil in slow fire till 8/10 of a bowl. Drink the tea when cool. Indication : Drink every two days. There should be improvement after a week. Continue until cure. During the course, you could be expected to get watery eyes.”
Fresh juice out of stem and leaves combats eye inflammation. Concoction of leaves are used as treatment for headache, fever, common colds, sore throat, cough, coughing, and diarrhea. Also used to fight against prostate problems. Mixture and decoction of leaves and stems ease gout and arthritis. Concoction of stems and leaves is good against high blood pressure. Concoction of leaves are used for abscesses, conjunctivitis, rheumatic pains, and gout. Externally, as a facial wash for skin problems. Pounded whole plant used as warm poultice for wounds, boils, and pimples.”
2. Seed On The Leaf (Pick-A-Back, Dukung Anak, Phyllanthus amarus (niruri) )
This is considered a ferocious medicinal weed, that does well in high soil moisture, sandy loam soil in full sunlight or partial shade. The stem is usually erect with thin branches that bear two rows of tiny alternating leaves. Both male and female flowers are borne underneath the leaves along the whole length of the branches, hence the name “Seed On The Leaf”.
The plant is also referred to as “stone breaker” as it is used to eliminate gallstones and kidney stones. It is an Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat bronchitis, anaemia, asthma, frequent menstruation and diabetes. It is also a diuretic for genital-urinary infections, urological disorders and kidney ailments, using a decoction of the young leaves and roots. The extracts have been commercialised as tonics to ease digestion, help food assimilation and for toning and improving liver functions. It is also used to treat jaundice, diarrhoea, and STD. The plant gained worldwide recognition in the 1980’s as having anti-viral effect against Hepatitis B. It has similar beneficial effects as green tea to combat stress and pollutants. The plant is now recognised for its anti-tumour ans anti-viral properties.
This grass-like medicinal weed is known as a sedge of the Cyperaceae family. It is quite a tenacious weed that seems to grow in some unlikely places in your garden. It has a characteristic three-sided erect stem about 5-10 cm tall with three thin longish grass-like leaves. Atop this crown of three leaves sits the whitish flower ball.
It is used to treat common colds, bronchitis, malaria, arthritis, joint pains and rheumatism. It is also used as a remedy for diarrhea, dysentery, stomach and intestinial problems.
This medicinal weed appears to be able grow well in any soil or light condition in the wild. In the garden it will take root in pots, on the open ground, under shady plants or in full sunlight. It is sensitive to touch (“thigmotropism”) or sudden movement believed to be a defensive trait to deter herbivores or possibly shake off insects. This stimuli may be transmitted to neighbouring leaves (” seismonastic movements”). The leaves also close during low light or night-time andre-open when bright (“nyctinastic movement”). The young plant may grow erect but soon droop and creep along the ground with age. It is prickly with unique woolly pink flowers.
It has a bitter and astringent taste and in Ayurveda, it is used for diarrhea (athisaara), Amoebic dysentery (raktaatisaara), gynecological disorders, skin diseases, bronchitis, general weakness and impotence. Most commonly used is the root, but leaves, flowers, bark, and fruit can also be used. (ref: http://mahmoodsgarden.com/references/plant-files/mimosa-pudica/ )
There are green and red varieties of this medicinal weed that grow well in damp shady areas. The red one is now quite popular and can be bought from wet markets. It is used to treat the heart and circulatory system. It is also used to nourish the kidneys and liver.
The plant has anti-virus and anti-bacteria properties. It is rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin C and is eaten as ulam. It is used to treat indigestion and fever, to promote bile secretion and induce milk secretion. The leaf poultice is applied on acne, pimples, carbuncle, conjunctivitis, sprains, burns and eczema.
The Tiny-leafed Creeper is a medicinal weed that grows mainly on old concrete walls and stone road surfaces as well as around the crevices of stones and rocks. The Big-leafed Creeper is the more common one found in many gardens among crevices. It belongs to the rubber family and the plant contains milky sap or latex.
Both the Tiny-leafed and Big-leafed Creepers are used to treat skin diseases such as itchiness, eczema, blistered skin, skin infection and shingles. The preparation involves boiling the creeper in water and using the solution to bathe the affected part. A small portion of the plant is crushed for its “milk” to apply on the affected part after washing it with the solution. Use about 15-30 grams of the plant to boil in water to drink. The whole plant is boiled for the tonic to treat bronchitis, asthma, cough and throat spasms. Be careful when extracting the “milk” as it is harmful to the eyes. Be warned too that prolonged and regular contact with the sap is carcinogenic.
This is a fairly common wild creeper found in many gardens. According to Wikipedia, there are over 500 species belonging to the family Passifloraceae. When I researched this ceeper which is growing wild in my garden, I was overwhelmed by the tremendous varieties of this flowery vine. It took a while to find a match and hence identify my flower, but even then there seems to be a few variations in the shape of the leaves. While the literature mentioned that the whole plant has an unpleasant smell, I did not notice any stink from my plant. Even the crushed leaf gave a not-too-unpleasant smell.
The shoots of this medicinal weed can be cooked and eaten, while the fruit is very sweet.
“Passion flower has been used to treat sleep disorders and historically in homeopathic medicine to treat pain, insomnia related to neurasthenia or hysteria, and nervous exhaustion.” (ref: http://www.drugs.com/npp/passion-flower.html)
8. Blue Billy Goat Weed (White Weed, Floss Flower, Rumput Tahi Babi, Ageratum houstonianum L.)
This medicinal weed, on the other hand, deserves its name, Rumput Tahi Babi, as it has a distinctive unpleasant smell. Apparently, this plant’s small flowers have colours ranging from purple to blue to lavender and pink. Mine is light purple. The seeds are small, light with fluffy hairs that are easily dispersed by wind. This weed thrives better in the cooler highlands and seems to be easily diseased in the lowlands, like in my garden.
The leaf poultice is applied and wrapped over cuts, wounds and boils. The juice extracted from the stem is dripped into an inflamed ear to treat the infection. Tea made from dried young shoots and leaves is used as a remedy for malaria, excessive menstrual bleeding, uterine disorder. This plant is also used as a contraceptive.
There is a very good chance that your garden may have at least one fern growing wild in a quiet corner or crack in the wall or on the trunk of one of your trees. I counted seven different types of ferns growing wild in my garden. Ferns are ubiquitous wild plants that spread by spores, since they do not flower and hence do not have seeds. It was quite a task to identify my fern which I at first thought was Goniophlebium percussum but I have now decided it belongs to the Nephrolepidaceae Family, since it exhibits the family’s characteristic of upright (erect) fonds. (When Boston Ferns are grown in hanging pots, the fonds hang down gracefully). The spores are also aligned closer to the edges of the leaves whereas the Goniophlebium’s spores are closer to the mid-rib of the leaf. What I am still uncertain about is whether my fern is Nephrolepis exaltata, Nephrolepis acutifolio, Nephrolepis biserrata, Nephrolepis cordifolio or Nephrolepis hirsutula.
To add to the confusion, “Some authorities place Nephrolepis in the family Davalliaceae (Davallia family), others in the Polypodiaceae (polypody family), and still others in the Oleandraceae (ladder fern family).” (ref: http://www.floridata.com/ref/n/neph_exa.cfm ).
The medicinal weed, Nephrolepis is used to treat general disorder of the liver system (Nephrolepis cordifolio ), general skin disorders such as blisters, boils, abscesses and sores (Nephrolepis cordifolio, Nephrolepis biserrata), renal disorders (Nephrolepis cordifolio) andmenstrual disorders (Nephrolepis exaltata). (ref: http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/moorea/ethnopteridology.html ). It is considered Considered antibacterial, antitussive, styptic, antifungal. (ref: http://stuartxchange.com/Bayabang.html ).
10. Congo Jute ( Sar Boh Chau, Pulut-pulut, Urena lobata L.)
I’ve saved the best for last, simply because I have written a “first-person” (on behalf of my mum-in-law) account of this miracle medicinal weed in www.free2cure.com
This wild plant has seeds like tiny prickly hedgehogs that cling to your clothings when you brush against it. It is a very hardy plant that grows well in bright sunlight and poor soil up to about 2 metres. The flowers are either pink or white, although it is believed that plant with white flowers has greater efficacy in the treatment of chronic renal failure.
The stems are cut in small pieces of about 3-4 cm each and dried for easier storage. Use about 5-6 pieces at a time to make soup or tea for the patient to drink. For details, go to www.free2cure.com
This plant is credited with saving my mum-in-law’s life when she was stricken by chronic renal failure at the age of 68, and the doctors had given up on her. We were told to prepare for the inevitable but then a kind soul told us about this plant. In a no-choice situation, we tried it and she recovered and went on to live a healthy life until the ripe old age of 89, when she passed away because of old age and not because of kidney failure.
The extract of the leaves and roots is also claimed to be used to treat diarrhoea, dysentery, gonorrhoea and malaria fever. A decoction of the leaves and roots drunk as a tea will relieve body aches caused by over exertion. An infusion of the roots is presecribed for difficult childbirth while a poultice of the leaves is used to treat wounds and skin diseases. In some places, the plant is mashed and and used to treat fractures, wounds and snake bites. The leaves and stems are used as a diuretic ( I guess this is the case of the treatment for my mum-in-law), while a decoction of the seeds is used to treat worms.
OK, there you have it. An overview of 10 medicinal weeds or wild plants commonly found in many gardens. Love ’em, for they may well come in handy to save you or a loved one. And if any of these weeds work for you, please write a first-person testimony in Free2Cure ( www.free2cure.com ) to help others.
We visited Janda Baik on 13-April-2014 en route to Genting Highland. Janda Baik is at an altitude of 600-800m above sea level, with a cool 22-28 deg. C climate. Here are some of the beautiful flowers found there.
Here is a gallery of flowers around Malaysia; some are common while some are not so common. You may recognise some of these from your garden, while some are usually found in the wild.
I will continually update the gallery, adding to the collection as I go around Malaysia. Hopefully this will in time become a useful gallery of Flowers Around Malaysia.
News on Bumblebees infected with Honeybee diseases.
Additional photos added.
Proverbs, anecdotes, poems and quotations influence all of us, to some extent, when we were growing up, whether we knew it or not and whether now in later life, we care to admit it or not. Some of them would have shaped our outlook, attitude and even our personality, hopefully for the better.
One such anecdote that greatly influenced me tells of a French entomologist August Magnan and his engineer friend discussing a bumblebee one evening in the 1930’s.
… because the bumblebee doesn’t know that it is not supposed to fly, it can and does fly …
The engineer apparently did a back-of-napkin calculation and “proved” that aerodynamically, it was not possible for the bumblebee to fly. But we all know and can see with our own eyes that a bumblebee can indeed fly. That day in my youth, when I first heard of this anecdote, it was not the science (that actually showed a bumblee can fly) that concerned me. The profound idea that struck me and stuck with me to this day was the lesson it conveyed; that just because the bumblebee doesn’t know that it is not supposed to fly, it can and does fly along happily, and it flies very well too, I might add.
And that’s the way my attitude is shaped; that one should not be seeking too much advice from others as to whether something can be done, if indeed that something is what you have a strong desire to achieve. Believe in yourself and just go ahead and do it. If the results are not forthcoming, your vision is not worth anything; dreams have no value until the results are achieved. And to get there, be a bumblebee.
Now it’s your turn. Which proverb, anecdote, poem or quotation provided a life’s lesson for you?
Footnote: When was the last time you actually saw a real live bumblebee? For me, it must have been years since I last saw one. So what are the odds of a bumblebee appearing and hovering around me just after I wrote about it? And what are the odds that I’ll have a camera (my iPhone) with a newly installed app “Burst Mode” to snap 100 shots with one click? I wrote the first draft yesterday and this morning a bumblebee paid me a visit. And I shot a few sequences of it darting among my flowers with my iPhone in Burst Mode. Not exactly tack-sharp pictures (I was quivering with excitement), but what a photo-moment it was. Click on the thumbnails below to see the flight sequences.
According to Bumblebee.org, “Bumblebees are large, hairy social insects with a lazy buzz and clumsy, bumbling flight. ”
Most people like the bumblebee as it very rarely stings anyone. When I was a kid, I thought the large, round, black blobs flying around our garden was a bumblebee. And even up to when I was writing this article and sharing the photos above of the unexpected “bumblebee” that visited me, I didn’t think I was wrong.
However, I learnt at Bumblebee.org that are six species of bumblebees and the black one is not one of them. See the photo of a “Bombus Pratorum” queen shown here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it here in our country.
Another view of a “Bombus Pratorum” bumblebee.
The black one looks like a Bumblebee but is actually a Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa violacea).
However, for me the black round blob that flies “when it shouldn’t be able to fly”, will always be the “bumblebee” to me. It epitomises the lesson adequately.