DixPix Photographs

     
INDONESIAN ARCHIPELAGO  
     
  FABACEAE, THE PEA FAMILY  

 

The Pea Family now usually goes under the banner of Fabaceae, although the older and more connected name of Leguminosae is still recognized.  It is a botanical heavy-weight, perhaps the third largest family after Asters and Orchids, with roughly 730 genera and 19,400 species.  The tropics of southeast Asia is not one of its strong points, however, and many of the species one meets there are imported.

Traditionally, most species may be assigned to one of three major divisions, which some authors have raised to virtual family level on their own right.  These are the Caesalpinioideae with about 2000 species, the Mimosoideae with 3400 and the overwhelming Faboideae with the remaining 14,000 species and counting. 

 

Starting with the Mimisoids, this is the famous Mimosa pudica, widely known as the Sensitive Plant as its leaves contract when touched.  It was neotropical, but is now pan-tropical and invasive in southeast Asia.    In Malaysia it is known as Pokok Semalu (shy plant) and in Indonesia as Putri Semalu (shy princess). Click to see big picture (640x395 pixels; 105 KB)
This species with recurved spines is likely Mimosa invisa.  It is also from the American tropics, but has long since naturalized.  Mimosas compensate for their weedy habits by nitrogen fixation. Click to see big picture (559x480 pixels; 82 KB)
Leucaena leucocephala is a Central American migrant which was likely originally planted as a cattle fodder, and for its edible seeds.  It was introduce early and is now a widespread weed in southeast Asia.  For some reason it is called White Leadtree, but in Indonesia goes by Lamtoro. Click to see big picture (572x480 pixels; 106 KB)
The Red Powder Puff tree, Calliandra haematocephala carries a Bolivian passport, but is now firmly ensconced in parts of southeast Asia.  The Indonesian name confuses it with the Australian bottle-brush species. Click to see big picture (534x480 pixels; 72 KB)
Sea Beans, Entada sp., are giant pods which have spread widely by floating down rivers and across seas.  This pods looks most like E. gigas, but as it is hanging above a river in Sabah, Borneo, E. rheedii seems more likely. Click to see big picture (257x480 pixels; 73 KB)
Bat pollinated, Parkia speciosa is a tree found through much of southeast Asia, the beans are here being sold in a small market in central Sumatra.  These are eaten raw or roasted but are an acquired taste, as the names Stink Bean and Bitter Bean will attest.  The local name is Petai. Click to see big picture (502x480 pixels; 95 KB)
Although originating farther west, the Fava Bean (Vicia faba) is widely grown in Indonesia where it is known as Kacang parang.  These are the unusual black and white flowers.
Acacia mangium is a tangle-bean tree known as Black Wattle in Australia or simply Mangium.  It is native to northern Australia and eastern Indonesia, but it is fast growing, and widely planted for wood and fodder.  The local name is Mangge Hutan. Click to see big picture (526x480 pixels; 83 KB)
In Sarawak, I am told that this is a Sepetir tree, Sindora sp.  Here switching from Mimosoid to Faboid divisions of the pea family. Click to see big picture (628x480 pixels; 145 KB)
Most Faboid species are herbs, often weeds.  This is Beach Bean, locally Kacang Laut, a common sight on tropical beaches.  It is likely Canavalia maritima, which can be somewhat psychoactive when smoked. Click to see big picture (606x480 pixels; 125 KB)
A closer look at the beach bean flower on a Sarawak coast. Canavalia maritima is also known as C. rosea.  It is the most widely noted coastal species, but there are some 70 others in the genus. Click to see big picture (462x480 pixels; 61 KB)
Known as Snail Vines or Butterfly Peas, this is likely Clitoria macrophylla, native to southeast Asia.  The roots contain a rotenoid compound of medicinal interest, but it is more often planted as ground cover in areas where the forest has been destroyed. Click to see big picture (640x441 pixels; 71 KB)
From the lower levels of Mt. Kinabalu, this attractive weed is likely a red variety of the genus Desmodium, which fields many species in the region. Click to see big picture (457x480 pixels; 46 KB)
Sesbania sesban is a shrub widely planted in Africa and Asia as fodder and nitrogen fixer.  It goes by the odd name of Egyptian Riverhemp, but Indonesians use terms such as Jayanti and Puri.  This photo is from eastern Africa.
Peacock Flower seems the most common of the many English names for this plant, native to the Caribbean.  It is now found throughout the tropics, and in bahasa is known as Jambul Merak or Kembang Merak.  (Merak is a peacock).   In Latin, Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Click to see big picture (495x480 pixels; 78 KB)
Under names such as Gango and Sappanwood, Caesalpinia sappan has been planted through much of the tropics from an origin in southeast Asia.  It has fine wood and produces a red dye, but the main use seems to be in folk medicine where it has anibacterial and other applications.  Photo from Tanzania.
The Candle Tree or Candelabra Bush is Mexican, but widely traveled and invasive in southeastern Asia.  The Indonesians call it Ketepeng Cina, but Galenggang is preferred in Malaysia.  It should properly be addressed as Cassia alata, and is the source of an effective fungicide. Click to see big picture (522x480 pixels; 122 KB)
Senna (or Cassia) siamea is also known as Senna sumatrana, both names connecting it to southeast Asia.  Indonesians call it Kassod, or Johar and it is used in some areas as a home remedy for cancer and as a sedative.  It is also part of local cuisines. Click to see big picture (391x480 pixels; 107 KB)
Cassia fistula has the elegance to become a pantropical item from southeast Asia, and indeed it is.  In Indonesia it is known as Tengguli and in the international scene as Golden Rain.  Photo from southern Mexico, where it is called Lluvia del Oro.
Saraca thaipingensis is native from Thailand to Australia.  Although not obvious here, it is "cauliflorous", meaning that the inflorescences of flowers are attached to trunks or older limbs. Click to see big picture (635x480 pixels; 139 KB)
The Bauhinia species, with their odd double-lobe leaves, are known as Orchid Trees.  There are over 200 species in the genus, but as this is from Sarawak, it is likely Bauhinia purpurea, known locally as Tapak Kuda. Click to see big picture (599x480 pixels; 86 KB)
This appears to be Bauhinia blakeana, which is actually a hybrid, but widely planted and common here in Saba, where it goes by the name of Tapak unta. Click to see big picture (583x480 pixels; 93 KB)
The Mengaris Tree, Koompassia excelsa, may be found from Thailand to Indonesia, and is one of the tallest tropical species, often standing clearly above the surrounding jungle.  It is quite common here in Borneo where it is known as Tualang or Tapang. Click to see big picture (614x480 pixels; 103 KB)
Because of its great height and smooth bark which makes climbing difficult, the Mengaris is a favorite site for the huge nests of the large honey bee Apis dorsata. Click to see big picture (556x480 pixels; 131 KB)