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Good Friday

April 22, 2011

Just a few quick updates during the Easter holidays:

The official decision from the Mekong River Commission seems to be to wait while the effects of the Lao dam are fully investigated. I think it is a victory, because now people are aware what is going on and the criticism will grow stronger. Keep sending letters to the share holders (Thai banks)! Some say this is no victory at all, the companies keep working on the preparations confident nothing will stop profitable business, and they still move people out of the area.

Let’s turn the eyes to more happy news: Many new plants are in blossom at Dokmai Garden – I have little time to keep up with all newcomers. Below is the beautiful litter under the edible Malay apple tree (Syzygium malaccense, Myrtaceae).

Other plants in blossom at Dokmai Garden are Oncoba spinosa (Flacourtiaceae) which smells like cheap hospital soap and the Kenzo tree Mesua ferrea (Clusiaceae) which smells like the perfume of a queen. We also have great numbers of golden birdwing butterflies, more than ever thanks to our planting of Aristolochia tagala (Aristolochiaceae), food for its larva. This is the most beautiful stage of the garden in its young history, and I am happy we have a Tropical Gardening School student who can admire and document it. A bad side effect of the early rains is that santol (Sandoricum koetjape, Meliaceae) and cashew (Anacardium occidentale, Anacardiaceae) seem to have suffered, very few fruit primordia inspite of rich blossom.

The guineafowl have laid many eggs, but they do not seem to care for them. We shall see what happens.

The bignay fruit tree which I blogged about earlier is pollinated by wasps, bees, carrion flies and Lycaenidae butterflies. It is a real insect magnet! The flowers’ fragrance of carrion or ‘damp cockroach cage’ was quite powerful today.

The hole we dug out in search of the large Thai black tarantula (Haplopelma minax) and which we earlier deemed empty, turned out to be inhabited by a huge old lady, the size of my hand. She came out last night. She must have hid in a side-chamber under the root system of the tree when we dug and pierced her burrow down to 36 cm depth. Apparently the ten litres of water we poured into the hole before did not affect her either. She seemed like an old tired witch, and I could hear a clicking sound when her fangs hit the stick we used to probe her burrow. I took a picture of her when she turned aggressive, after which all three human spectators withdrew hastily. Such tarantulas are known to dart:

In the center you see the two swollen chelicerae carrying the fangs, which are bent under the body like sabers. When she strikes it is like a blow from a double pick-axe. Above the chelicerae you see two shiny eyes reflecting the camera flash (the other six eyes are directed upwards, sideways and backwards). Next to the fangs are the leg-like pair of pedipalps (sensory organs) which she has raised in the air, and you can see they are sandy underneath. Next to the pedipalps are two pairs of legs, the other two pairs are behind her (invisible here). The distance between her feet is about 8 cm.

Eric Danell

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 22, 2011 4:01 PM

    Flowers now means —– later on. But how much later?
    Also I know species of local trees which have already
    produced seedlings large enough to be potted up and
    I have done this for 2 already. Can you guess what they are?
    Hint they all grow very near streams.
    And now please blog about the seeds we are collecting now
    especially the one for the Lady Spirit.
    PS Saw lots of Cashew fruit on trees in VietNam last month.

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