The Exceptional Flowers, Plants and Trees of Sarawak
A journey to Sarawak is guaranteed to be dotted with colourful and exotic flowers, majestic trees and fascinating plants. Being close to the equator and enjoying a high rainfall around the year gives Sarawak an ideal climate for its plant and tree life to flourish. More than 8,000 species of vascular plants, over 2,000 species of trees, as much as 1000 types of orchids, 757 species of fern and 260 palm species are estimated to make up the Sarawak flora. Included in this impressive assortment of natural living organisms are the world’s biggest flower, trees able to grow as tall as 60 metres, carnivorous flowers and a spectacular range of delicately beautiful orchids.
It is said that Sarawak and its surrounding areas have the most varied and wide-ranging collection of orchids on earth. Around a third of the 3,000 species of orchids in Borneo can be found in the Sarawak region and more discoveries are made every year. Some of the most recent discoveries include the delicate Podochilus marsupialis and the beautiful Trichoglottis tinekereae.
Big and Beautiful
The Rafflesia Arnoldii not only looks like a flower from the age of dinosaurs, it is also dinosaur size. Known as the biggest flower on earth, the Rafflesia Arnoldii grows to around a metre in width and can weigh 11kg. This rare beauty only lives a few days and can be found in the tropical rainforests of Sarawak. It was appropriately selected as one of three national flowers of Indonesia. Another large flower is the titan arum, the largest un-branched clustered flower in the world. Although both enormous flowers look very exotic and interesting, it would not be wise to try planting them in your garden. The characteristic smell of both the Rafflesia and the titan arum is that of decaying flesh. It serves a dual purpose: to keep humans away and to attract pollinators.
Flesh Eating Plants
Another intriguing plant species found in the Sarawak region is the Nepenthes, known as the pitcher plant. There are around 30 different species including climbers like the Kuching spotted pitcher and non-climbers like the Bau green pitcher. These peculiar plants are known as carnivorous plants because of their sinister way of getting nutrition. Instead of drawing nutrients from the soil, like other plants, pitcher plants thrive in nutrient-poor soil and instead ‘eat’ insects, spiders, and other tiny creatures like crustaceans, lizards and mice. To attract its prey, the Nepenthes has a receptacle filled with liquid. Instead of getting what appears to be sustenance, the oblivious creature drowns and becomes sustenance for the plant.
Magnificent Trees and Shrubs
The diversity of the tree life in Sarawak is astounding; a whopping 1,175 tree species have been recorded in a 52 hectare plot in Lambir Hills, a national park in Sarawak, alone. Besides providing oxygen and a habitat for many animals and insects, the trees and shrubs of Sarawak are making significant contributions to medical research. Tree latex is being researched for its efficacy in curing strains of HIV, the langsat tree contains anti-malaria compounds and pharmacologic research has found that the Sarawak shrub may be effective in treating cancer.