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Secondary forests:


Antherium flowers.


Wild Ginger plant.

Secondary forests take over the terrain where natural forests have been logged or cleared during shifting cultivation. It is different from its predecessor in terms of structure, productivity and composition. Pioneer species in secondary forests are Macaranga and Mallotus, which over time mature into an original forest albeit with a new composition.

The tropical rainforest of Malaysia is a hub of biodiversity. As much as the tall trees fight for sunshine at the top of the forest canopy, there are a variety of other plants that flourish on the jungle floor. These include climbers, epiphytes, herbs, parasites, saprophytes, shrubs and stranglers.

The fungi, classified into five major groups, namely the Oomycota, Zygomycota, Ascomycota, Basidiomycota and Deuteromycota, are a diverse group of saprobic, symbiotic or parasitic organisms. Nature has accorded them the task of decomposing organic matter and recycling nutrients to ensure the continued existence of the Malaysian forests.

Algae are found in Malaysia's rivers, ponds, lakes, mangroves and seas. There are about 600 genera with 2,000 species of algae in the country.

Lichens, which are organisms comprising fungi and blue-green algae in a symbiotic relationship, are found on tree trunks, branches and leaves in damp habitats at all altitudes.

Bryophytes are divided into three classes: liverworts, hornworts and mosses. These small green plants measuring less than 2 centimetres long are found in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. There are altogether about 1,800 species with more than one thousand found on Mount Kinabalu.

About 5.4 per cent of the world's fern population are found in Malaysia, numbering more than 650 species. Five hundred of these are found mainly in the lowland and montane forests of Peninsular Malaysia. About half of the ferns and fern allies in Malaysia are epiphytes, that is plants which grow on other plants for support. The three most common epiphytic ferns found here are the oak leaf, stag's horn and bird's nest ferns.

Cycads are said to be an ancient group of plants and were the principal components of terrestrial vegetation at around the time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. In Malaysia today, there are four species, three native and one introduced from South China and Japan in the nineteenth century.

Cycas rumphii or paku laut as they are known locally grow on the sandy shores and in the beach forests along the coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. They have thick cylindrical stems, and can grow up to a height of 7 metres. The older trees have huge pinnate leaves measuring 1m to 2m, with as many as 50 pairs of leaflets on both sides of the main leaf stem or rachis. Cycas macrocarpa, or paku gajah, is found in the lowland dipterocarp forests of Perak, Kelantan and Pahang; while Cycas pectinata, is a native of the limestone hills in Langkawi and Perlis. The imported Cycas revoluta has of late become popular with gardening enthusiasts.

Gnetum, the most well-known of which are the belinjau or melinjau, is a tropical genus consisting mostly of woody climbers as well as a few trees and shrubs. The 15 species found in Malaysia flourish at altitudes below 1,800 metres.

Palms are a common sight in Malaysia. In the Peninsula alone, there are about 210 species of palms, while in Sabah and Sarawak there about 300. Of these, 96 are endemic to Peninsular Malaysia, 14 to Sabah and 70 to Sarawak.

Some bamboos, a distinct sub-family of grasses, are native to Malaysia while others were introduced from neighbouring regions. In Malaysia, the 80 or so species are used both as raw material and ornamental purposes.

The herbs in Malaysia are well represented in both dicotyledon and monocotyledon families. They range in size from minute grasses to lofty banana plants a few metres tall.

Most Malaysian orchids, the ornaments of the trees in the Malaysian rainforest, are epiphytic plant forms. Some are terrestrial and a very small number are saprophytic. There are some 850 species covering 120 genera in Peninsular Malaysia, and another 2,500 species in Sabah and Sarawak. On Mount Kinabalu alone, there are 1,200 species. The tiger orchid, which is the largest in Malaysia, grows in a sturdy cluster; while the smallest is the inconspicuous plant of the Corybas species, only a few centimetres high.

There are more than 160 species of ginger (Zingiberaceae) in Peninsular Malaysia and about 155 species in Sabah and Sarawak. They are mostly abundant in the lowland forests between altitudes 200 to 500 metres.

Climbers abound in the Malaysian tropical rainforest, with about 1,000 species that constitute 8 per cent of the flowering plant flora. They come in an various shapes and sizes, ranging from the delicate, thin-stemmed herbaceous creepers to the sturdy, woody perennial climbers.

The insectivorous flowering plants in Malaysia fall under three families the bladderwort, sundew and the pitcher plant families. Altogether, there are about 47 species. The largest of the pitcher plants, Nepenthes raja, which can hold over two litres of water is unique to Sabah only.

Aquatic flowering plants are found in most freshwater bodies such as ponds, ditches, lakes, dams, rivers, irrigation canals and wet paddy fields. There are about 216 species in 30 families including monocotyledonous plants such as duckweed, jerangau, keladi bunting and sedges as well as dicotyledonous plants like kangkong, lotus and water lilies.


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