Categories
Species Guide: Rare Fruit Trees

Kedondong

The egg-shaped fruits of Spondias dulcis. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Golden Apple, Ambarella, Jew Plum

Malay name: Kedondong

Scientific name: Spondias dulcis

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A small tree of 9-12 m tall. Leaves are divided into pointed leaflets. It bears small, white, clustered flowers. Fruits are egg-shaped, turn from green to golden yellow when ripe.

Flower cluster of Spondias dulcis. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds, hardwood stem cuttings, stumps, air-layering or grafting

Ecological function: The flowers of this tree attract pollinators. It is planted as a living fence.

Pollinator: Bees

Soil: Sand, loam, clay

Moisture: Well-drained soils

Shade: No shade, semi-shade

Use: The fruits may be eaten raw, cooked or made into juice, jellies, pickles or flavorings. Young leaves are used as a seasoning or cooked as a vegetable. Mature leaves are used in salads.

Categories
Species Guide: Common Fruit Trees

Durian Belanda

The durian-like fruits of Annona muricata L. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Soursop

Malay name: Durian Belanda

Scientific name: Annona muricata L.

Conservation status: Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (tropical Americas)

Description

A shrub or small tree that grows 3-10 m tall. Stems are slender and low-branching. Leaves are glossy, alternately arranged and give an offensive smell. The upperside of leaves is darker than the underside. Flowers are borne on trunk and branches. Flowers comprise 3 outer petals and 3 inner petals. The outer petals are fleshy, spreading and yellow-green, while inner petals are pale yellow and close-set. Fruit is somewhat egg-shaped, dark green when ripe and covered with soft, short spines.

A durian belanda tree with its spreading, upright branches. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds or cuttings

Ecological function: The flowers of this tree attract pollinators. It is a caterpillar food plant.

Pollinator: Insects, flies, bees

Soil: Sand, loam, clay

Moisture: Moist, well-drained, fertile soils

Shade: No shade, semi-shade

Use: Fruits are eaten raw or cooked.

Categories
Species Guide: Common Fruit Trees

Limau Purut

A wrinkled fruit and two-parted leaves of Citrus hystrix. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Kaffir Lime

Malay name: Limau Purut

Scientific name: Citrus hystrix

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A shrub or tree that grows 3-12 m tall. Stems are thorny, crooked and thin. Leaves are dark green, glossy and pinched in the middle. Fruits are round to egg-shaped, often has a nipple-like structure at the tip. Fruit skin is wrinkled and bumpy, turns from green to yellow before dropping from the tree.

A shrubby, many-branched limau purut tree. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial shrub or tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds, cuttings or air-layering

Ecological function: It is a food plant for Atlas Moth caterpillar. The flowers of this plant attract pollinators.

Pollinator: Honeybees

Soil: Loamy soils

Moisture: Moist, well-drained, fertile soils

Shade: No data

Use: Fruits are edible. Leaves and fruit peels are used as flavouring.

Categories
Species Guide: Common Fruit Trees

Jambu Batu

A guava tree. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Guava

Malay name: Jambu Batu

Scientific name: Psidium guajava L.

Conservation status: Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (Central America and northern South America)

Description

A tree that reaches up to 10 m tall. Tree bark is smooth and copper-coloured. Leaves are egg-shaped, fragrant and oppositely arranged. Flowers are white, with 4-5 petals. It produces round, egg-shaped or pear-shaped fruits with a crown-like structure. The fruits turn from green to yellow when ripe.

A flower of this guava tree is visited by an insect. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds, cuttings or grafting

Ecological function: The flowers of this tree attract pollinators. Its fruits are eaten by fruit-feeding animals. It is hardy and drought-tolerant. It provides shade. It is useful for vertical layering in home gardens and permaculture.

Pollinator: Insects, mainly honeybees

Soil: Sand, loam, clay, organic soils

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils

Shade: No shade, light shade

Use: The ripe fruit is eaten raw or served as salad or dessert.

Categories
Species Guide: Common Fruit Trees

Belimbing

A belimbing fruit. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Starfruit

Malay name: Belimbing

Scientific name: Averrhoa carambola L.

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A much-branched tree that is around 3-5 m tall. Leaves develop into smaller, oppositely-arranged leaflets. It bears lilac flowers which are grouped in small clusters. Fruits are waxy, yellow, star-shaped in cross section.

A belimbing tree. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds or grafting

Ecological function: The flowers of this tree attract pollinators.

Pollinator: Bees, flies

Soil: Sand, loam, clay, organic soils

Moisture: Well-drained soils

Shade: No shade

Use: The ripe fruit is eaten raw or blended into fruit juice.

Categories
How-to

How to make a rain garden

A nice rain garden surrounded by various plants

A rain garden is a temporary, water holding basin that captures water runoff from walkways, roofs, lawns or other impervious surfaces. It is a sunken area filled with water-absorbing plants and well-drained soils.

The main function of a rain garden is to manage inconsistent rainfall. A rain garden can soak up to 30% more water than a lawn. It helps to recharge groundwater supply, supports wildlife habitats and removes pollutants from water.  

Planning and site selection

Create your rain garden on a slight slope so that it receives water easily. Keep it at least 3 m away from buildings. Try not to position the garden over septic systems and under trees as these places are easily damaged by high soil moisture. Avoid filled areas, steep slopes or sites with very sandy soils.

Design the garden with its longest end perpendicular to the slope to maximise the border that intercepts water runoff. The length of the garden should be twice its width to provide enough space for plants to absorb water. Make sure the outlet of the garden leads into an area that can handle large amounts of water at a time.

Digging a trench that directs water to the main drain. Photo by Siti Syuhada

The size of the garden depends on the size of the impervious surface draining into it. It should be 20% to 30% the size of the impervious surface. The deeper the basin and the greater the draining capacity of the soil, the greater the volume of water that a rain garden can accommodate.

Digging

A rain garden is usually 10-20 cm deep, depending on the soil type, slope and size of the garden. Make sure the garden bed is level to avoid water pooling on one side. A well-designed garden will drain within 12 to 48 hours. This ensures the health of the plants and prevents mosquito breeding.

Replace heavy soil with a fast-draining mixture that consists of one-half sand, one-quarter compost and one-quarter topsoil.

A brownish puddle after rainfall. Photo by Siti Syuhada

Pile stones and extra soil on the downhill side of the garden to act as a berm (raised edge) and create a bowl where water can pool to a depth of about 15 cm.

If water does not naturally flow to your rain garden, dig a trench, 7-10cm deep, from your downpipe to the garden. Line the trench with landscape fabric and cover it with stones to create a streambed effect.

Planting

Interestingly, a rain garden is not meant to be a place for wetland plants. Instead, you should grow plants that tolerate temporary flooding and drought, since water will come and go. Choose some hardy, preferably native, plants that require little maintenance.

Try to have a variety of plants with different forms and sizes. Trees and large shrubs deflect and slow rainwater flow. Tall grasses filter out impurities, suck up water and prevent silt from entering ponds or rivers. Short, deep-rooted plants maintain soil structure and direct water into the ground.

Generally, rain gardens have three planting zones that are characterised by soil moisture. Select plants for each zone according to their water needs.

Planting zones of a rain garden

Bottom: plants that tolerate wet conditions

Slope: plants that tolerate occasional standing water

Edge: plants that prefer drier soils

Maintenance

Mulch the garden with compost or shredded bark. Mulching helps to prevent erosion, conserve moisture and suppress weeds. If the water that flows into the garden washes out the mulch, place one or two rocks to break up the flow.

Water new plants regularly, including the drought-tolerant ones. This will encourage deep roots that absorb water more efficiently.

Weed the garden to allow the selected plants to get established. Prune plants that overgrow to keep the inlet and outlet clear of obstructions. Introduce groundcovers and decorative rocks to prevent soil erosion.

Asiatic pennywort is a good groundcover as it can withstand flooding. Photo by Siti Syuhada

References:

Myers, M. (2013, December 12). Plant a Rain Garden. Retrieved from Birds and Blooms Web site: https://www.birdsandblooms.com/gardening/flower-gardening/plant-rain-garden/

Pitcher, J. C. (2008). Rain Garden. Seattle. Retrieved from https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2102/2016/03/Rain-Garden_LowRes_Page_2.jpg

Sweetser, R. (2020, July 26). Create a Rain Garden: Two Designs and Plant List . Retrieved from The Old Farmer’s Almanac Web site: https://www.almanac.com/content/rain-gardens-two-designs-and-plant-list

Categories
Uncategorized

Soil Organisms


Earthworm, Cacing tanah

They has no legs. Their bodies are long, slender, soft and segmented. Although they cannot see or hear, they are sensitive to light and vibration.

Local name: Cacing tanah

Ecological function: Ecosystem engineer, detritivore, prey-predator relationship

Level in food chain: Primary and secondary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Omnivore, detritivore, geophagous (soil-eating)

Food item: Soil, decaying and living plant matter, fungi, bacteria and other microscopic animals

Microhabitat:  Soil, litter

Importance: Improve soil structure and fertility by burrowing and casting



Ant, Semut

They have a thin waist and are usually wingless. They build nests in soil. They live in colonies and are divided into queens and workers.

Local name: Semut

Ecological function: Detritivore, predator, scavenger

Level in food chain: Primary and secondary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Omnivore, detritivore

Food item: Seeds, fruits, plant saps, fungi, milk of aphids and other true bugs, insect eggs and larvae, small living or dead invertebrates

Microhabitat:  Almost everywhere

Importance: Improve soil structure and fertility by feeding and nesting



Termite, Anai-anai

They have thick waists, short legs and straight antennae. The workers and solders are wingless, soft-bodied and cream-white. The swarmers (reproductive adults) have two pairs of long wings and are covered by hard exoskeletons that are brown in colour.

Local name: Anai-anai

Ecological function: Detritivore, prey-predator relationship

Level in food chain: Primary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Herbivore, detritivore

Food item: Wood, grass, leaves, humus, manure of plant-eating animals, and materials of vegetative origin such as paper, cardboard and cotton

Microhabitat:  Decaying wood, soil, man-made environments such as buildings

Importance: Promote nutrient cycling by breaking down woody materials



Beetle, Kumbang

They have two sets of wing. Underneath their thick, hard forewings are the folded, fragile wings for flying.

Local name: Kumbang

Ecological function: Pollinator, decomposer, scavenger, predator, prey-predator relationship

Level in food chain: Primary and secondary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Omnivore, detritivore, coprophagous (faeces-eating)

Food item: Living plant materials, fungi, eggs, faeces, other small animals

Microhabitat: Almost everywhere

Importance: Improve soil structure and fertility by feeding and foraging


Bob Goldstein, UNC Chapel Hill http://bio.unc.edu/people/faculty/goldstein/, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nematode, Cacing gelang

They are long, slender, tapered at both ends. Their bodies are smooth and unsegmented.

Local name: Cacing gelang

Ecological function: Decomposer, parasite, predator, prey-predator relationship

Level in food chain: Decomposer; primary and secondary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Herbivore, microbivore, detritivore, omnivore or carnivore

Food item: Organic debris, plant roots, bacteria, algae, fungi, other nematodes

Microhabitat: Animals and plants, soil, freshwater and marine

Importance: Promote nutrient cycling by decomposition and feeding


S.E. Thorpe, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mite, Hama

They have four pairs of legs. They may appear as tiny white dots moving across soil surface.

Local name: Hama

Ecological function: Parasite, predator, detritivore

Level in food chain: Primary and secondary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Herbivore, detritivore, microbivore, carnivore

Food item: Decaying organic matter, bacteria, algae, fungi, nematodes, other mites, various stages of insects

Microhabitat: Animals and plants, soil, freshwater and marine

Importance: Promote nutrient cycling by decomposition and feeding


Mvuijlst, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Springtail

Also known as Collembola, they are wingless and soft-bodied soil dwellers. When disturbed, they extend their forked tails to spring into the air. They have a tube-like structure under their abdomen to take up water.

Local name: –

Ecological function: Detritivore, predator

Level in food chain: Primary and secondary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Detritivore, microbivore, carnivore

Food item: Bacteria, fungi, lichens, algae, decaying vegetation. Some feed on dead animals, other springtails and small invertebrates, plant roots and young plants.

Microhabitat: Organic debris and places of high moisture; leaf litter, soil, sand, under stones or tree bark, in tree canopies, caves and nests of ant and termite

Importance: Promote nutrient cycling by feeding


Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS). 2000. Soil Biology Primer. Rev. ed. Ankeny, IA: Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Protozoa

They are microscopic and one-celled. Most of them have hair-like structures or arm-like outgrowths for feeding and movement.

Local name: –

Ecological function: Mutualist, parasite, predator, prey-predator relationship

Level in food chain: Primary, secondary and tertiary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Microbivore, herbivore, omnivore or carnivore

Food item: Algae, bacteria, fungi, other protozoa and small invertebrates

Microhabitat: Marine, freshwater and soil

Importance: Promote nutrient cycling by mineralising nutrients and controling bacteria population


Palica, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Centipede, Lipan

Their bodies are long, flattened and segmented. They have one pair of legs per segment. They use their modified front legs to inject venom into their prey.

Local name: Lipan

Ecological function: Predator, scavenger

Level in food chain: Secondary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Carnivore

Food item: Insects and other small animals; dead or decaying plants or animals

Microhabitat: Usually found in rotting materials

Importance: Improve soil structure by tunneling


Fungi, Kulat

They do not move. Their bodies are made up of threadlike structures. They release digestive enzymes to break down their food and absorb nutrients.

Local name: Kulat

Ecological function: Decomposer, mutualist, parasite

Level in food chain: Decomposer; primary and secondary consumer

Feeding behaviour: Decomposer

Food item: Dead or decaying materials such as wood, leaf litter, paper, textile and leather. Mutualistic fungi work with algae or plants and get nutrients in return. Parasitic fungi invade living plants and animals and obtain nourishment from their hosts.

Microhabitat: Soil, litter, freshwater or marine

Importance: Promote nutrient cycling by decomposition

Categories
Species Guide: Rare Fruit Trees

Cermai

A cermai tree with its upright branches. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Star Gooseberry, Malay Gooseberry, Otaheite Gooseberry

Malay name: Cermai

Scientific name: Phyllanthus acidus (L.) Skeels

Conservation status: Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (Brazil)

Description

A shrub or small tree of 2-9 m tall. Leaves are egg-shaped and alternately arranged. Flowers are arranged in long clusters. Fruits are round, lobed, pale yellow when ripe.

The leaf arrangement resembles that of bilimbi (Averrhoa bilimbi) tree. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds, buddings, greenwood cuttings or air-layering

Ecological function: The flowers of this tree attract pollinators. It is a caterpillar food plant.

Pollinator: Bees

Soil: Fertile loamy soils

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils

Shade: No shade, part day shade

Use: This tree is planted as an ornamental plant. The fruits and young leaves of this tree are edible. Its bark is used as a tanning agent in India.

Categories
Species Guide: Rare Fruit Trees

Beruas

Fruits of beruas. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Seashore Mangosteen

Malay name: Beruas, Manggis Hutan

Scientific name: Garcinia celebica L.

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A small to medium-sized tree that grows up to 30 m tall. Tree crown is dense and conical. It produces whitish latex. Leaves are somewhat elliptic, leathery, oppositely arranged. It bears small, four-petaled flowers that are white to cream-yellow. It produces round, fleshy fruits with pinkish red fruit skin and yellowish pulp that tastes sour.

The yellowish pulp of beruas fruit. Photo by Goh Shang Ming
A beruas tree with its spreading crown. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds

Ecological function: The flowers of this plant attract pollinators. Its fruits are eaten by primates and small mammals. Its dense crown may provide roosting spots for animals like fruit bats. It is used as rootstock for mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana).

Pollinator: Insects

Soil: Sand, loam, clay. It tolerates saline soils

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils. It tolerates to drought and heavy rainfall

Shade: No shade, partial shade

Use: The fruits are edible. The tree is planted as an ornamental plant.

Categories
Species Guide: Rare Fruit Trees

Belimbing Buluh

A belimbing buluh tree with radial leaf clusters. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Cucumber Tree, Tree Sorrel, Bilimbi

Malay name: Belimbing Buluh, Belimbing Masam

Scientific name: Averrhoa bilimbi L.

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A small tree of 5-10m tall. Trunks are short and divided into upright branches. Leaves are oblong, usually clustered at the branch tips. It bears small, fragrant, purplish-red flowers which are grouped into drooping clusters. Each cluster comprises about 60 flowers. Fruits are somewhat cylindrical or slightly pentagonal, glossy, green to light yellow.

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds

Ecological function: The flowers attract pollinators. It is a caterpillar food plant. This plant is bird-attracting.

Pollinator: Bees, butterflies, self-pollinate

Soil: Fertile loamy soils

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils

Shade: No shade

Use: The fruits are edible. It is often used as souring agent for dishes and beverages.