Mass flowering of Malaysia’s dipterocarp forests

PETALING JAYA: Many of Malaysia’s dipterocarp forests are undergoing mass flowering at the moment, with a “mosaic” of colours observed in the canopy of many rainforests.

The Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) said that it is a unique phenomenon that usually occurs intermittently but sometimes may see intervals of many years.

“The synchronous flowering and its amazing display of beautiful scenes in many hues amidst the green sea of rainforest is a sight to behold,” it said in a Facebook post.

Dipterocarpaceae are a family of plants that are tall and grand trees with distinctive formations, and which are rich in species diversity spread across tropical regions.

“In Malaysia, dipterocarp forests are not only ecosystems providing important functions and services, but are also habitats for valuable natural resources, including highly-prized timbers.

“The environmental cues for unusual mass flowerings in dipterocarp forests can be associated with prolonged droughts or a drop in minimum night-time temperature,” said FRIM.

Afzaa Aziz of the Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre (TRCRC) said that mass flowering or mass seeding refers to a synchronous production of seeds and fruits by a population of trees.

“The one this year is quite special because we are seeing so many at once all across Peninsula Malaysia,” she told The Star, adding that a mosaic of yellow, red, white colours could be observed in the green canopy.

She explained that the canopy of Malaysia’s rainforests are dominated by Dipterocarpaceae trees that they flower very sporadically, depending on the species.

She said once they have matured, the seeds can be collected for planting material for restoration efforts.

“In botany and especially in conservation, we have to monitor this very closely. If we want to safeguard and protect endangered tree species, we have to have human intervention to ensure that these seeds are carefully collected and gemmated for restoration efforts.

“If the seeds simply fall down and follow natural regeneration, very few seeds will survive,” she said.

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