Poikilospermum suaveolens (Urticaceae) and birds

on 7th June 2012

Francis Yap visited the Jelutong Tower at Singapore’s Central Catchment Nature Reserve a few times in May 2012 to photograph birds. There by the tower, he noticed a plant bearing large round inflorescences. The image above shows a Van Hasselt’s Sunbird (Purple-throated) (Leptcoma brasiliana) with a flower in its bill. It would appear that the sunbird was eating the flower for the nectar it contains.

According to Prof. Hugh TW Tan and Prof. RT Corlett, both from the School of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, the plant is Poikilospermum suaveolens (Family: Urticaceae), an epiphytic climber.

Francis also documented an adult male Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati) (above left), a juvenile (above right) (photographed last year) as well as a Blue-winged Leafbird (C. cochinchinensis) taking the flowers (left).

He surfed the net and located images of leafbirds attracted to these same flowers: LINK 1 and LINK 2.

“My friends have also confirmed the sighting of a female Lesser Green Leafbird (C. cyanopogon) at the same location (Jelutong Tower, same plant) but I’ve missed that.” added Francis. “…there seems to be a preference for this particular plant by the leafbirds. I’ve seen the Blue-winged Leafbirds hunt for insects and they are known to frequent figging trees and the cherry tree (Muntingia calabura). Lastly, just a quick Google search reveals that this plant is the only known local host of the Chocolate Sailor butterfly: LINK.”

Francis Yap
June 2012

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YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

4 Responses

  1. Just like to add that when this epiphytic climber was in full bloom at Jelutong Tower, a male Greater Green Leafbird appeared to have claimed ownership of this prime real estate, chasing away any bird (bulbuls, sunbirds, flowerpeckers) and even squirrel (with little success though) that came to feed on the flowers. I had personally sighted all 3 species of leafbirds visiting this plant in a single morning.

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