DixPix Photographs





'Asterid 1' is not an extra-planetary body, nor does it contain the Aster family.  It is one of those strange names arising from Phylogeny, the DNA reclassification of life forms.  It does, however, handily encompass three Botanical Orders, namely Lamiales (named for the Mint Family); Gentianales (named for the Gentian Family) and Solanales (named for the Potato Family).  Most of the genera involved in these orders are better represented in the Neotropics and in cooler climates than in the rain forests of southeast Asia.


Teak trees may not be everyone's idea of a mint, but it does belong to Lamiaceae, the Mint Family.  Here are the fruit.  Known in polite circles as Tectona grandis, the famous wood is protected by special oils and a high silica content.  It is now almost entirely sourced from plantations, the largest supplier being Indonesia, where it is called Jati. Click to see big picture (449x480 pixels; 112 KB)
Oddly, rubbing the leaves of Teak plants produces a red stain.  Demonstrated here at a teak plantation in the Darien Province of Panama.
The Chinese Hat Plant (Holmskioldia sanguinea) doesn't look like a typical mint either, and began its journey from the Himalayas to tropical gardens as a verbena.  It belongs to one of several genera, however, who were switched to the mint family after revealing their DNA.  It does have the square branches typical of the mints. Click to see big picture (567x480 pixels; 85 KB)
A yellow verision of the Hat Plant is sometimes listed as Holmskioldia citrina, but it is not clear that it is not just a horicultural bastardization of the red version. hatplant
The Clerodendrum genus is another group of southeast Asians which got booted into the mint family as the result of 'ethnic cleansing'.  This is the Pagoda Flower, C. paniculatum which is known in Indonesia as Pangil-pangil. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 145 KB)
The Pagoda Flower plant is attractive, but the flowers themselves deserve a closer look. Click to see big picture (570x480 pixels; 73 KB)
Clerodendrum speciosissimum (C. fallax for minimalists) was spread from Africa to the Pacific Islands before anyone asked where it came from.  Indonesia got lucky, however, as the most common name for this pan-tropical beauty is the Java Glorybower. Click to see big picture (607x480 pixels; 97 KB)
The Skyflower or Golden Dewdrop has been allowed to stay in the Verbena Family.  It is an invasive shrub, naturalized in Indonesia under the alias of Sinyo Nakal, from tropical America.  The latin handle is Duranta repens. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 72 KB)
The Vervain or Snakeweed is a complex of invasive species of the Stachytarpheta genus.  S. cayennensis and S. jamaicensis compete and hybridize across the tropics, which is just as well as telling them apart is a headache.  Click to see big picture (536x480 pixels; 79 KB)
Judging by the odd shape of the leaf teeth, this is likely Stachytarpheta indica or Indian Snakeweed.  Despite the India allusion in both scientific and popular names, this species likely set out to infest the tropics from Africa. Click to see big picture (640x465 pixels; 62 KB)
One species that has thoroughly conquered the tropics and subtropics is Lantana camara.  Hardy, invasive, attractive and toxic to livestock, the Borneo example on the left has even got ants protecting it.  There are several other species in the genus, but most of those were left behind in the Americas.  The Indonesians call it Saliara. Click to see big picture (640x436 pixels; 97 KB)
Acanthaceae, the Acanthus Family is a large one, 250 genera and about ten times that many species.  It mainly specializes in herb, vines and shrubs, but seems less at home in southeast Asia than elsewhere in the tropics.  
Asystasia gangetica is an extremely varied species, widespread in the old world tropics.  This appears to be the micrantha subspecies whose origins were likely in Africa. Click to see big picture (640x476 pixels; 78 KB)
And this is more likely the gangetica subspecies, thought to have originated in Asia.  The colors vary Click to see big picture (411x480 pixels; 64 KB)
Thunbergia erecta (approx.) is a vine, also of the Acanthus Family and widely planted in gardens.  In English it goes by names such as the Bush Clock Vine and King's Mantle. Click to see big picture (637x480 pixels; 106 KB)
A side view of the flower in Sarawak.  It was originally native to both Asia and West Africa.  There are several species of Thunbergia in Indonesia, however, complicating identification. Click to see big picture (564x480 pixels; 117 KB)
Also known as Clock Vine is Thunbergia mysorensis, of south Indian origin.  For obvious reasons in has become a garden favorite. clockvine
Ruellia tuberosa is a pan-tropical weed which erupted from tropical America.  It goes by many names including the odd one of Popping Pod.  It has been invasive in Indonesia for a long time, and is known there as Pletekan. Click to see big picture (563x480 pixels; 92 KB)
From timberline on Mt. Kinabalu, this is the Borneo Eyebright, Euphrasia borneensis.  The genus has been exiled from the Figworts to the Orobanaceae Family, which suggests that it might be a root parasite, albeit attractive. eyebright
The Gesneriaceae family is a major, but poorly represented in southeast Asia.  This however is Aeschynanthus radicans, whose flowers have given it the name of Lipstick Plant.  It graces the uplands from Malaysia to Java, this being from Sabah.  Unlike the other 185 species of this unpronounceable genus, this one has become known as a houseplant. lipstick plant
Switching now to the Gentianales Order, starting with the Apocyanaceae or Dogbane Family.  
It's everywhere, the yellow flowers of Allamanda cathartica, which in bahasa is known as Bunga Loceng.  Neotropical in origin, it has become naturalized through much of southeast Asia. Click to see big picture (631x480 pixels; 98 KB)
The fruit of Alamanda  is more unusual than the flower, but all parts of the plant are poisonous.  In sub-lethal doses it can be used to induce vomiting, which gives rise to the species name 'cathartica'. Click to see big picture (440x480 pixels; 81 KB)
But when it comes to poisonous, the Strychnine Plant (Strychnos ignatii) is famous.  The seeds were long used for rat poison, and in the Indo-malaysian area, where the plant is known as Akar Binah, the roots were a source of arrow and dart poison.  Oddly, in sub-lethal doses, it acts to enhance athletics.  The family is Loganiaceae. Click to see big picture (640x437 pixels; 96 KB)
Rubiaceae, the Coffee Family is huge in the tropics, with over 600 genera. It also contains some odd and interesting species.  The family seems to be of more importance in the Neotropics, however, than in Asia.   
The Ixora genus contains over 500 species before getting into cultivars.  It is pan-tropical, but mainly from southeast Asia where it is often used for hedges.  The red flowered varieties have sacred symbolism in the Hindu religion. Click to see big picture (478x480 pixels; 116 KB)
The yellow flowered shrubs are often Ixora javanica, but there are no guarantees.  One reason for the popularity of the genus is that they flower continuously. Click to see big picture (539x480 pixels; 109 KB)
And for the purists, several species of Ixora can produce white flowers. Click to see big picture (507x480 pixels; 65 KB)
The oddball Mussaenda genus uses a few brightly colored leaves to emphasize their flowers. This appears to be M. flava, an African native which has been widely planted and has widely escaped. Click to see big picture (640x456 pixels; 73 KB)
This example from central Sumatra is likely the native species Mussaenda frondosa.  The local name for this type of plant is Janda Kaya, translating as 'rich widow'.  Identification is complicated by there being both male and female flowers for each species. Click to see big picture (584x480 pixels; 110 KB)
Red-flag Mussaenda tend to be assigned to the erythrophylla species of African origin and known as Ashanati Blood.  Not all are, however, and this one looks definitely strange.  Cultivars abound. Click to see big picture (523x480 pixels; 91 KB)
Morinda citrifolia is a tree native from southeast Asia to Australia, and known in Indonesia as Mengkudu. The usual English name is Noni, but there are others such as Beach Mulberry in view of it often growing on coastlines.  The odd-looking fruit is edible but odorous and traditionally classed as survival food. Click to see big picture (640x443 pixels; 105 KB)
The fruit is actually a composite made of the seeds of many flowers, this photo showing the progression.  The species is used in traditional medicine and there are nature-product claims made, but scientific testing has given little support. Click to see big picture (640x407 pixels; 76 KB)
Flowers of the Hedyotis genus, found at timberline of Mt. Kinabalu, Sabah.  This is likely H. pulchella, although the data is scanty. Click to see big picture (541x480 pixels; 65 KB)
The rather strange 'drooling' flower of this bush near timberline on Mt. Kinabalu marks it as Coprosma sundana, which is found at altitude from Malaysia to Australia.  coprosma
Solanaceae is usually called the Potato Family, although a few prefer to name it after the poisonous nightshade.  In addition to potatoes, it has given us tomatoes and eggplants and the curse of tobacco.  It entails a huge number of species, but mainly in the western hemisphere.  
Solanum torvum (approx.) is known in Indonesia as Terung Pipit, but also as Terung Hutan, which translates as 'eggplant of the forest'.  Although encouraged in gardens, it also grows wild, as here in northern Borneo. Click to see big picture (359x480 pixels; 80 KB)
These pods and enclosed fruit from an open area in Sumatra are likely Physalis minima, a pan-tropical export of the Americas, where it goes by names such as Sunberry and thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.  It is also very edible and know locally as Ceplukan or Ciplukan, but if asking for it remember that C=Ch in bahasa. Click to see big picture (303x480 pixels; 71 KB)
There are many species of Solanum which are either native, or more often transferred from tropical America.  Thorny examples such as this weed from Sabah would be known in Latin America as a 'mala mujer'. Click to see big picture (493x480 pixels; 78 KB)
Convolvulaceae is known as the Morning Glory Family, and is renown mainly for its flowering vines.  There are about 60 genera and some 1650 species world-wide.  
The Railway Creeper or Ivy-leaved Morning Glory (Ipomoea cairica) is a very invasive vine which is now virtually world-wide.  The origin is likely north Africa--Arabia, as the reference to Cairo would suggest.  In Brazil it is used against rheumatism, but here in Sarawak it is a handsome nuisance. Click to see big picture (420x480 pixels; 60 KB)
The Beach Morning Glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae) is also known as Goats Foot due to its split-hoof shaped leaves.  As a result of floating seeds, it has invaded tropical beaches globally.  In bahasa it is known as Tapak Kuda. Click to see big picture (598x480 pixels; 99 KB)
Water Spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) is an edible water weed which is global in the tropics and sub-tropics and locally invasive.  In folk medicine it has been used for insomnia and headaches.  In cuisine, it is mainly appreciated in southeast Asia, being known as Kangkung in Malaysia and Indonesia. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 73 KB)