Count Your Blessings!

With love and passion, everyone can have a nice garden...Elaine Yim

Count Your Blessings!
Count The Garden By The Flowers, Never By The Leaves That Fall.
Count Your Life With Smiles And Not The Tears That Roll.
..... Author unknown.

Knowing me, Knowing you..... Aha.....!

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Malaysian Flora USDA Zone 11
Welcome to our exotic world of everlasting summers and tropical rainforests!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

UTAR Convocation 2011 - A Malaysian Graduation Experience

Picture 1 - Morning has broken over KL city - It's a bright new day!

Today, I shall put aside my gardening tales to share with you a memorable occasion in my life. Please click on the video at the end of the post to listen to the selected song. I hope you like this song too.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Asystasia sp

To me, Asystasia sounds like the name of a pretty lady or fairy princess from a distant land.

Asystasia sp is a scrambling plant with slender, wiry stems. It is best grown when mixed with other plants that can help hold it up. It should be pruned back whenever it begins to smother neighbouring plants. A free-flowering plant that should be grown in full sun. Propagate by cuttings. (Source: Tropical Horticulture and Gardening by Dr. Francis SP Ng).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Christia vespertilionis The Red Butterfly Wing

It was love at first sight when I saw this plant at a nursery. It has leaves that looked like purple butterflies in flight. I really liked it. I place the flower pot next to my blue daze and peace lily plants. I enjoyed its beauty for about a week or so before it suddenly dried up and left me for good, taking with it my 3 peace lily plants too. I think it died from some kind of disease because I find white spots on the soil.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

GBBD March 2011

1. Miniature roses

For March 2011 Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I have miniature roses.
Can you see the sun reflected on the water droplet?

2. Costus woodsonii

When the tiny flowers appear in this Costus woodsonii plant, it usually attract a lot of ants with its sugary liquid. The flowers are edible. This hairy caterpillar seem to have cut open the defensive wall of orange bracts that protect the yellow flowers and shifted in. The critter seems to eat the flower but not the leaves of this plant.

I wonder which butterfly/moth this baby belongs to?

“GBBD March 2011”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ for Autumn Belle on 16th March 2011.

3. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cultivars - double petaled vermillion red.

4. Tawny coaster butterfly on a palm tree.

This tawny coaster butterfly was drying its wings when I found it near my vegetable plants in the late evening. It walked on to my fingers and momentarily rested on my palm tree just before taking off in its maiden flight.

5. Blue throated sunbird

This looks like a blue throated yellow breasted, olive-backed sunbird sitting on my neighbour's longan tree.
Do you know its name?

6. A Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cultivar - single petal yellow with pink veins.

7. Turnera ulmifolia or yellow alder flower.

8. A pair of pigeons/quails on my neighbour's same longan tree. One was posing like a supermodel while the other one was very shy and somersaulted away when it saw me pointing my camera. I guess he doesn't like the paparazzi!

9. My azalea is still blooming.

Malvaviscus arboreus 

10. Malvaciscus arboreus flowers are always half-opened and pointing upwards. The leaves remind me of grape leaves.

11. Heliconia 'American Dwarf'

12. Anyone know the name of this bug on the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis plant?

My grateful thanks to Carol of May Dreams Garden for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. To view what's blooming around the world, visit here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Prayers and Support for Blotanists friends - Japan Earthquake 2011

Many of us have watched in horror at the massive destruction and tragedy in relation to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11th, 2011.

From our Blotanical community, we have 5 garden bloggers who are residing in Japan. They are ok now, but if you wish to convey your heartfelt messages of support to them, the following are their details with links attached.

  1. Mr Lrong - PotagerY and Malaysian in Japan (Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture)
  2. Mr Fer - My Little Garden in Japan (Yokohama)
  3. Mr Takaedo - Small Vege Garden in a Suburb (Osaka)
  4. Mr Nakashima Akira -Garden Life (USA City, Oita)
  5. Mr Adekun -Adekun's Japan Blog

This is another defining sad moment in our lifetime, so shocking no words can describe. I spent most of my free time watching CNN, BBC and NHK and I can't help thinking about the Hollywood movie 2012. What is happening to our world now? Is our Mother Earth sick and distressed?

I hope in this trying time, we could find strength in adversity, faith and hope. It has been proven so many times that during a crisis, the whole world can unite and stand as one, to offer assistance, prayers and help those affected.

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”  ..... Ryunosuke Satoro.

We can check with our country's NGOs and main news websites on ways we can volunteer / make donations. GOOGLE' s website has resources, emergency aid contact numbers and Google Person Finder on their homepage.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas) The Largest in the World? PBF Part 5 - Wordless Wednesday




“Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas) The Largest in the World? PBF Part 5 - Wordless Wednesday”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on March 9th, 2011.


To participate and/or view other entries, please visit Wordless Wednesday website here.

The moth has been sighted in John & Jacqs home garden in Malaysia. Her post is here.

Updated on 22 Aug 2011:

A pair of mating Atlas Moths
The male is on the left while the female is on the right. The female moth is larger, heavier but sexually passive. She does not stray far from her chrysalis but stay perched at an angle where the air currents can best carry her powerful pheromones. Male moths are smaller in size with more tapered wings. They are more active and they fly around nocturnally. Their large bushy antennae are equiped with chemoreceptors to help detect pheromones from several km away. This helps to track down their mate. Once mated, the female starts to lay eggs and hence begin another new life cycle of the Atlas Moth. The process of mating and oviposition can happen on the same day she is born!

Their life span is very short i.e. only 1-2 weeks and it seems that they live for the sole purpose of propagating the next generation. Such is the beauty of Nature!

There's a saying,
"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough".
~Rabindranath Tagore
Note: The image above has been published with permission from Ker Ai Choo. My grateful thank you very much.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rajah Brooke Birdwing, The National Butterfly of Malaysia - PBF P4

Male Rajah Brooke Birdwing (Trogonptera brookiana albescens)

At the Penang Butterfly Farm, I was very lucky to view and photograph this magnificient beauty. The Rajah Brooke Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana albescens) was discovered in 1855 by Alfred R. Wallace. He named it after Sir James Brooke (1803-1868) who was the first white Rajah of Sarawak. Sarawak is a state in Malaysia located in the island of Borneo.

The Rajah Brooke birdwing is the national butterfly of Malaysia.

This gorgeous red-head has been nicknamed, the 'Prince/Princess' of butterflies. Their wing span is about 15-17 cm or 5-7 inches. They are found mainly in the tropical rainforests of the Thai-Malay Peninsular, Borneo, the Natuna archipelago and also Sumatra.

Male butterflies have velvety black wings characterised by 7 tooth shaped electric green markings which make them look very elegant. The one in the picture above is perched on a yellow mussaenda flava plant.

Female Rajah Brooke Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana albescens)

The wings of the female birdwings are browner and there are prominent white flashes at the tips of the forewings and base of the hindwings.

Rajah Brooke Birdwing, The National Butterfly of Malaysia - PBF P4”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on March 8th, 2011.

Underside of male Rajah Brooke Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana albescens)

Sightings of these butterflies are rare and we can only find them at butterfly farms and certain protected areas. The Rajah Brooke Birdwing is listed as an endangered species under Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). It is also protected under our country's Protection of Wild Life Act 1972.

It was reported here in January 2010 that the removal of a historical pipeline in Gopeng for scrap metal have destroyed the largest site for Rajah Brooke birdwings in Ulu Geroh. Ulu Geroh is located in Ulu Kinta Forest Reserve and it is a major tourist attraction for viewing these butterflies in their natural habitat. The group of butterflies that congregate here may number as many as 100! In the past, the harvesting of this butterfly for sale as preserved specimens, gifts and souvenirs have led to declining populations. Our government is educating the local villagers around the area to act as stewards in looking after the butterflies and make a living from eco-tourism instead of catching them for sale.

I think that with the wonderful invention of the digital camera, many of us can take photos/videos for rememberance, thereby waiving the need for catching them alive and harming them in the process.

These butterflies feed on nectar from flowers of certain plants such as the bauhinia, mussaenda, ixora and lantana. Newly emerged males need to get potassium and sodium minerals to activate adult behaviour, hence the male butterflies will gather in a large group to sip nutrients from wet soil or mud puddles.

The above video, sourced from YouTube, shows a congregatory of male Rajah Brooke birdwings exhibiting their unique 'mud-puddling' behaviour . For more information, you can also visit the following sites:
  1. Learn About Butterflies Site by Adrian Hoskins, here
  2. The Star Online report, here.
  3. The Malaysian Nature Society article, here.
While I am not an activist, environmentalist, scientist or conservationist, I do hope that you will get to know more about this national treasure of ours afer reading my post. Their numbers are fast declining due to specimen collection and destruction of their habitats by deforestation and rapid development. We can also do our little part by not catching or harming them so that the butterflies will be prevented from extinction. Let our future generations enjoy the privilege of seeing them alive, fluttering and swirling around. What an unforgetable experience it shall be.

Specimen picture of male and female Rajah Brook Birdwing from Wikipedia

Question: What's the difference between the first 3 pictures and this one?

Answer: The last picture are dead specimens. If the butterfly becomes extinct, our future generations will not get to see the Rajah soaring to new heights but rather with their wings pinned up!

"We never know the worth of water till the well is dry." ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732.
"Because we don't think about future generations, they will never forget us." ~Henrik Tikkanen

Do you have a rare/protect/endangered species of butterfly in your country and which one is it?

And to all the ladies out there,

This is my entry for My World Tuesday, the link is here.
My grateful thanks to Mr Andy Loke, staff of Penang Butterfly Farm for explaining to me the differences between the pictures of a live, resting birdwing and that of a dead specimen.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Life Cycle of Butterflies - Penang Butterfly Farm Part 3

This post is about the life story of a butterfly. The photos I use here are taken from a few types of butterflies and not from a single type. I am very glad that visitors are allowed to take photographs at the farm. As I had only 2 hours to spare at the Penang Butterfly Farm, I took many photographs for knowledge and rememberance. A picture does speak a thousand words and from the photos, I would later be able to find more information from the internet and from books.

I would like to dedicate this post to Ms Carol Duke of Flower Hill Farm blog. Her post titled, "A Royal Begining ... The Metamorphosis of a Monarch Butterfly" and the subsequent posts thereafter had inspired me to know more about the butterflies of my own country and make my garden more wildlife friendly.

Blue Glassy Tiger (Parantica agleoides) with hair pencil on a misai kuching (cat whiskers) plant

Remember this guy from my last post with this weird thingy? Well, as Mr Andy from Penang Butterfly Farm pointed out, this structure is actually the 'hair-pencil' of a male butterfly for use in courtship and self-defence.

Question: How do butterflies mate?
Answer: From the internet

Male and female butterflies release pheromones into the surroundings. Pheromones are chemicals that acts as sexual stimulants or natural aphrodisiac for insects such as the butterflies. A male butterfly can detect the female's pheromones from a far distance and he can also seek out the females by sight. If they like each other, they will embark on a courtship flight which may last an hour or so or even overnight.

During courtship a male butterfly will flap his wings very fast and release a cloud of tiny scales just above the female's antannae. These scales contains pheromones. Some types of male butterflies have hair-pencils inside their abdomens which are released out when courting. The hair-pencils fans the female with pheromones. If Mr and Miss Butterfly like each other, they are ready to mate.

“The Life Cycle of Butterflies - Penang Butterfly Farm Part 3”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on March 4th, 2011.

A pair of New Lacewings (Cethosia cyane)
Love is like a butterfly: It goes where it pleases and it pleases wherever it goes.
 ~Author Unknown

Both butterflies are usually linked tail to tail and facing opposite directions when mating. The male butterfly passes a sperm packet or spermatorphore to the female. It then fertilizes each egg as it passes down the female's egg-laying tube. The butterflies can be in flight during the mating process but most often they choose to remain stationary.

1. Caterpillar's poo-poo of the Lacewing butterfly*

A female butterfly can lay the same batch of eggs on a variety of different plants. These are the plants that will provide food for the caterpillars of that particular butterfly. In their natural environment, the survival rate is normally about 2%. The egg stage is the 1st stage in the life cycle of a butterfly.

I'm so sorry, I didn't get to photograph any butterfly eggs at the farm so the above picture is actually the caterpillar's poo-poo. My grateful thanks to my learned friend, Andrea for pointing out that the above picture is caterpillar excreta.

By looking at the excreta, experts eyes can identify what stage of the instar or what type of butterfly.

2. Newly hatched caterpillars - 1st instar*

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.
~Richard Buckminster Fuller

The eggs will hatch into caterpillars who will feed on the leaves. This 2nd stage is called the larva stage. Caterpillars have a huge appetite as they are in their body building stage. They will molt or change skins about 5 times as they grow bigger and their body is also undergoing some changes.

*A caterpillar between molts is called an 'instar':
Egg --> 1st instar --> 2nd instar --> 3rd instar --> 4th instar --> 5th instar --> chrysalis --> imago

3.  Caterpillar of the Paper Kite (Idea leuconoe)*
The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.
~Attributed to George Carlin

This caterpillar is black and white banded with red spots, is a larvae of the Rice Paper Butterfly (Idea leuconoe) aka Paper Kite, White Tree Nymph.

4. Pupa of Blue Glassy Tiger (Parantica agleoides)*

When the caterpillar has grown big enough, it attaches itself to a safe place. It sheds off its skin to reveal a pupa or chrysallis. The outer layer of the pupa will harden to protect the developing butterfly. This is the 3rd stage of the life cycle. It is the most dangerous and vulnerable stage, having little or no protection from predators, and relying mainly on mimicry and camourflage. It takes about 1-2 weeks for the pupa to mature into an adult butterfly.

5. Pupa of the Local Tree Nymph (Idea hypermnestra)*

At the Penang Butterfly Farm, there is a Pupa Station where visitors can see the real live eggs, larvae, pupa and different types of butterflies emerging from the chrysallis. There is also an information centre and exhibition center where one can view preserved specimens.

6. Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
The 4th and final stage is when the adult butterfly emerges from the chrysallis. Adult butterflies live for a few days to a year depending on the species. Their main mission in life is to reproduce their future generation. Some butterflies can mate and lay eggs on the same day that they emerge from the chrysallis.

This place looks like a maternity or birthing centre for butterflies!

It is my first time watching butterflies emerging from their chrysallis. Also, my first time experience with a butterfly perched on my shoulder. In my home garden, I have seen the eggs, caterpillars and chrysallis. I have even seen newly born butterflies a few times and held them on my fingers but never once have I witness the birth of a butterfly.

7. Common Sailor (Neptis hylas papaja)
Seeing their whole life cycle and watching these creepy crawlies turn into such gorgeous butterflies gives me a feeling of rebirth. It's like starting life anew as a completely different individual. I also have this strange feeling.

Does this butterfly know or remember the part of its life as the caterpillar it was before?

8. Indian Yellow Nawab (Polyura jalysus)

Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable,
butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.
~Jeffrey Glassberg

Can you see lots of hearts/love shapes on the edge of its wings ?


This post has been updated on March 5th, 2011. My grateful thanks to Mr Andy Loke, staff of Penang Butterfly Farm for providing the information marked * and the identification of the caterpillars and butterflies.

Some related posts by wildlife friendly gardeners:
1. Andrea - Philippine Butterflies -  Butterfly pictures from a butterfly enthusiast.
2. Sunita, "The Butterfly Farmer" - Raising butterflies in a high rise apartment
3. Rhonda - "Caterpillar Club - Raising butterflies in a fish tank
4. Jack - Monarch Butterfly Feeding Station - Preparing for the return of migratory Monarchs

I am linking in to Fertilizer Friday this week, grateful thanks to Tootsie for hosting it here.


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