Monday, November 18

Paya Maga rich in wild orchids, Ling discovers on expedition


KUCHING: There are still more floral species to be discovered in the pristine forest of Paya Maga in Lawas.

Environmental executive with the Botanical Research Centre in Semengoh Ling Chea Ying told The Borneo Post that the forest is very diverse and rich with plant species new to science.

“The site and the forest in the area definitely needs to be protected and there is much more to what we identified and recorded during our nine days of expedition high up in the mountain area in the Lawas District,” said Ling after she finished her talk on ‘Flora of Paya Maga’ at Sarawak Biodiversity Centre yesterday.

The forest has many rare plants and parasites but it is a heavenly paradise of orchids as the area contains a lot of mosses which trigger the plant to thrive.

She disclosed that there are many rare species of orchid and unfortunately the place is too far for orchid lovers to reach whereas on hindsight, the orchids thriving there are protected from being commercialised.

During the expedition, they discovered more than 25 species of orchid which have yet to be recorded aside from some 100 species that were well-studied and named around Gunung Murud.

Ling, who is currently documenting flowering orchids at the research centre, said that mathematically and statistically speaking, the forest of Paya Maga is home to a high density of orchid plants.

She pointed most the orchids are abundant and known but the problem is that in Sarawak, we have no expert in identifying correctly the species of orchids we have in the wild.

“Many species of orchids had been found by orchid researchers but we don’t know what species they found and sometimes they change the name which is no longer in use and there are constantly new species coming up.”

Ling pointed out that the orchid plants might look alike but genetically, the DNA may lead to new findings.

She said there were also many new records of orchid, meaning that they have not been found in Sarawak before but found elsewhere and recorded here for the first time, she reiterated.

In September to 0ctober 2010, Ling followed the expedition which was organised by Heart of Borneo Programme to document and collect flora from the forest of Paya Maga.

They collected specimens at Gunung Tuyo and near the waterfall at Gunong Metallan where a total of 279 plant specimens were collected comprising 233 species in 131 genera and 60 families of various life forms and habitat.

Orchidaceae is the most abundant and diverse family with 44 species from 21 genera documented.

Being less known botanically, the flora collected from Paya Maga appears rich in species and the expedition confirms its contribution to the biodiversity of Sarawak.

Paya Maga is located at Ulu Trusan, Lawas at an altitude of 1,500 to 1,800 metres. The site can be accessed via Kampung Long Tuyo by four wheel drive followed by a trek of around 5-6 hours.