Friday, April 06, 2007

New ethnobotanic garden in Kuching, Sarawak

I have just been in Kuching to oversee the expansion of the ethnobotanic garden at the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC). The garden was designed according to my specifications and after one year, the results are terrific!

The garden was designed to display the plants used by the many different native communities of Sarawak. To obtain the plants, expeditions were made to the interior of Sarawak over the past three years. In one particularly tough expedition, I trekked 5 hours in wet weather and fading light to a village called Pa Lungan near the Indonesian border in the Bario Highlands to document and bring out a new species of banana, which we named Musa lokok. Musa lokok is now flowering and multiplying in the ethnobotanic garden, together with some tw0 hundred species of other plants, many of which will be new to science, including begonias, hoyas, orchids, aroids and ferns. Having the plants close at hand and concentrated in one location will allow comparative studies on the biology (growth and reproduction) of Bornean plants on an unprecedented scale. Eventually I expect to have over 500 species within a half-hectare area.

Already, conducted tours have been arranged for schoolchildren. Eventually tourists will be able to visit. The garden is close to the Orang Utan Centre at Semengok.

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