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Species Guide: Urban Wildflowers

Hairy Spurge

Hairy spurge, Gelang susu

Euphorbia hirta

A small, hardy plant with dull green or purplish-green leaves. The leaves are arranged opposite each other and have toothed margins. Its flowers are tiny and green, growing in clusters between the leaves. It grows on lawns and roadsides.

Status: Least concern, Naturalised (Possibly Indian origin)

Habit: Annual herbaceous

Cultivation: Planted by seeds or transplanting

Ecological Function: Ground cover

Pollinators:  Unknown

Soil: Sand, loam, organic soils

Moisture: Well drained soils

Shade: Partial shade, no shade

Categories
Species Guide: Urban Wildflowers

Corky passionflower

Corky passionflower

Passiflora suberosa

A common vine with pale green flowers. It has coiled tendrils for gripping and sometimes grows over other plants, smothering them. Its leaves have different shapes: some are long and narrow, and others are three-lobed. It produces dark-blue, berry-like fruits.

Status: Naturalised/Invasive (From Central/South America)

Habit: Perennial climber

Cultivation: Planted by seeds or transplanting

Ecological Function: Attracts pollinators, ground cover, produces fruit for animals. Butterfly host plant (Dryas iulia, Acraea terpescore)

Pollinators:  Small bees, large bees, butterflies

Soil: Sand, loam, organic soils

Moisture: Well drained soils

Shade: Partial shade, no shade

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How-to

How to start a wildflower garden

The simplest method is to not do anything and let a patch regrow with wild plants. You can remove any unwanted or dangerous plants through weeding, but there is not much maintenance involved with these patches. A wildflower patch that needs to be tended by humans is an oxymoron.

If you want a bit more control over which wildflowers grow in your patch. You can harvest seeds from existing patches of wildflowers and scatter them into your plot. Wildflowers from the dandelion family (Asteraceaa) have dandelion like seeds that you can blow into your patch. Others have small seeds, fruit or pods that you can harvest when the turn mature and brown. Just break the pods and release the seeds onto the surface of your patch.

Transplanting wildflowers is a bit risky since they wilt very fast. Try to not expose the roots of the plants and collect it with its surrounding soil.  Make sure that your patch is moist and watered regularly during the first few days to ensure that your plants don’t dry out. Some wildflowers grow by runners and can be planted similar to transplanting.

Not all your flowers might survive, but that’s perfectly fine. All plants require the correct amount of shade and the correct soil type. In other cases some of your plants will be outcompeted by other wildflowers or eaten by herbivores. These are all good learning opportunities to understand the ecology of these flowers better.

Try to allow a mix of different wildflower species to grow in your patch. This will make it more resilient and beneficial to the soil, as well as more useful to wildlife that forage for food in the patch.


This article is supported by The Habitat Foundation Conservation Grant

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Uncategorized

Wildflower meadows in Malaysia, a beginners guide

Naturally occurring wildflower patches are the first step in succession. These small sun loving plants are usually the first to colonise bare land. They then help to regenerate the soil and make it suitable for secondary vegetation like shrubs and small trees to grow.

It should be stated that modern wildflower meadows are not native ecosystems. Many wildflowers found along our roads and in our fields are not native to Malaysia. Some are escaped ornamental plants that have gone wild, others have been brought accidentally by trade and a few have been introduced because of their usefulness to humans.

However, a patch of many small flowers and shrubs are more beneficial to pollinators and wildlife than just a lawn of grass. Stingless bee farms often encourage the growth of wildflowers such as Beggarsticks (Bidens alba, Biden pilosa), Coralvines (Antigonon leptopus), Goat weed (Ageratum conyzoides) and Cupids shaving brushes (Emilia sonchifolia) due to the nectar and pollen that they produce.

Some wildflowers are also food plants adult butterflies and host plants for caterpillars. Passion flowers (Passiflora spp.) are the host plants for the Tawny Coster (Acraea terpescore) and Julia Heliconian (Dryas iulia), while the Touch-me-not plant (Mimosa pudica) is the host for Lesser Grass Blues (Zizina otis lampa) and the Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana).

Lavender Sorrel (Oxalis barrelieri)

Some wildflower patches produce fruit and seeds which are eaten by birds. The small sour fruit of the Lavender Sorrel (Oxalis barrelieri) are eaten by Zebra Doves (Geopelia striata) and other small birds. Insects such as grasshoppers, true bugs, crickets, ants and moths that hide in the wildflowers are also the food of insect eating birds. Occasionally smaller water birds will also forage these sites for insects too. Be careful if you intend to use any wildflowers, not all plants are safe to consume or use as medicines. Some wildflowers are harmful to humans and vertebrates, as they can contain poisons that can harm your liver or cause blindness. Be sure to ask an expert before you decide to use any part of a wildflower.

Star-of-Bethlehem (Hippobroma longiflora) produces toxic sap

This article is supported by The Habitat Foundation Conservation Grant