Plant Formations in the Malayan BioProvince
Peter Martin Rhind
Malayan Mixed Lowland Dipterocarp Forest
These forests occur from sea level to an altitude of about 750 m. In Endau-Rompin they
can be broadly divided into two types. One is characterized by Dipterocarpus and Shorea,
and mainly occurs at altitudes below 250 m, and is common, for example, in the valleys of
the Endau River and its tributaries. The other is characterized by Dryobalanus aromatica,
which occurs normally at altitudes below 300 m; it is common, for example, in the
northeast and eastern areas of the Kinchin and Lamakoh valleys. Both these forests
contain massive trees with canopies up to 30 m high and emergents reaching 45-50 m,
and have many common trees. The main dipterocarps are Dipterocarpus baudi, D.
endemic S. bentongensis (Dipterocarpaceae). Dryobalanops aromatica is distributed
gregareously in various river valleys while the endemic Hopea johorensis
(Dipterocarpaceae), has a more patchy distribution but is often found in treefall gaps.
Other large trees include Artocarpus lanceifolius, Coelostegia borneensis, Dialium
platysepalum, Dillenia excelsa, Dyera costulata, Endospermum malaccensis, Koompassia
malaccensis, Parkia speciosa, Pouteria malaccensis, Scaphium macropodum, Swintonia
floribunda var. penangiana and the endemic Sarcotheca laxa var. sericea (Oxalidaceae).
Second tier species include Agostistachys borneensis, Aporusa microstachya,
(Dilleniaceae) and Schoutenia furfuracea (Tiliaceae). Palms are also significant
components with Oncospermum horridula being the most common species. Others such
as Arenga obtusifolium, Eugeissona tristis and Iguanura wallichiana are also common,
while Johannesteijsmannia altifrons and Orania sylvicola are more localised. Pinanga
distichathe and the endemic Rhopaloblaste singaporensis (Arecaceae) are more frequent
in the river valleys. Among the many lianas, common large woody species include Agelaea
tends to have a patchy appearence but normally includes herbs such as Curculigo latifolia,
(Hanguanaceae). The forest floor is also the habitat to various ferns such as Pleocnemia
Malayan Riverine Forest
In the Endau region these forests are characterized by an abundance of Ficus variegata,
Lianas are well represented by species of Bauhinia, Tetracera and the cucurbit Alsomitra
are also important. Typical bamboos include tall stands of Dendrocalamus hirtella and
thickets of Gigantochloa ligulata and Schizostachyum latifolium, while common palms are
Eleiodoxa conferta, Pholidocarpus kingianus and Salacca affinis. Common ground layer
herbs are Catimbium assimilis and Scaphochlamys sylvestris. In most cases a distinct
riverbank community can be distinguised. Here Tristania whitiana is the commonest tree
while other common ones include Glochidion rubrum and the endemic Dysoxylum
changes with trees such as Ctenolophon parvifolius, Deplanchea bancana, Ganua
of Fagerlindia fasciculata. On shady sections of riverbank the small endemic tufted fern
and bars a variety of pipeworts (Eriocaulon) make their appearance including the endemic
Malayan Limestone Forests
The enormous variation in Malayan limestone vegetation makes it difficult to summarize.
At the base of hills a fairly tall, closed canopy forest can be found comprising trees such as
(Annonaceae). The undergrowth is equally varied, but in the wetter areas where water
drips down from the rocky slopes and overhanging cliffs, a distinct herbaceous ground
layer including Alocasia lowii, Epithema saxatile, Monophyllaea horsfieldii the endemic
encountered. Moving on to the talus slopes the dominant trees are more likely to include
endemic Atalantia roxburghiana (Rutaceae). The herbs include Heterogonium pinnatum
and a number of Impatiens species such as the endemic Impatiens mirabilis
(Balsaminaceae). Where the slopes comprise boulder outcrops other endemic trees such
as the rare Diospyros adenophora (Ebenaceae) and Polyalthia brunneifolia (Annonaceae)
may become more conspicuous. Here the ground flora is usually sparse but may include
several species in sheltered niches such as the endemic Gymnostachyum decurrens
(Celastraceae). In the more sheltered gullies and valleys the typical trees and shrubs
include Agrostistachys gaudichaudii, Canthium didymum, Randia densiflora, Sauropus
suberosus, Sterculia rubiginosa and the endemic Fagraea curtisii (Loganiaceae). These
locations also include several endemic palms such as Arenga westerhoutii and Iguanura
tall), but the canopy typically remains closed and there may be several emergent trees
such as the endemic Madhuca ridleyi (Sapotaceae). Other trees and shrubs usually
include Cleistanthus gracilis, Decaspermum fruticosum, Eriobotrya bengalensis,
(Euphorbiaceae), Dehaasia curtsii (Lauraceae), Eugenia pendens (Myrtaceae), Glycosmis
(Anacardiaceae). Despite the shady conditions caused by the canopy there is
comparatively rich ground flora with many bryophytes and ferns. The flowering plants may
include Adenia nicobarica, species of Amorphophallus and the two endemic species
Malayan Heath Forest
Characteristic of nutrient poor, shallow podzols, these forests are largely confined to the
plateaux of Endau-Rompin and G. Panti with small patches on dry quartzite ridges such as
G. Jerai. In Endau-Rompin they consist of small trees (6-8 m tall) with small crowns.
Among the most abundant ones are Cotylelobium lanceolatum, Gluta aptera,
consists of the endemic or near endemic Styphelia malayana (Ericaceae) together with
ferns such as Dipterus conjugata, Gleichenia microphylla and Matonia pectinata mixed
with Pandanus monotheca or Gahnia tristis. In some of the moister, open areas rattan
become more conspicuous. Also because of the low nutrient status of these forests there
is a wealth plant species specializing in insectivory, myrmecophtism (ant-plant
associations) and parasitism. These include insectivors like Nepanthes ampullaria, N.
epiphytes like Pachycentria maingayi.
Malayan Mossy Forest
Small stands of mossy forest can be found, for example, in the hills below the northern and
northeastern rim of the Pandang Tremambun Plateau where the aspect and altitude is
conducive to mist formation, which after rain envelops the side of the plateau. The area,
which is strewn with boulders, supports a spindly forest of Gluta aptera, Rhodamnia
cinerea, Symplocos adenophylla, the endemic Arthrophyllum alternifolium (Araliaceae) and
tree ferns (Cyathea). As expected most of the rocks, tree trunks and exposed roots are
covered with mosses, liverworts and filmy ferns. Other epiphytes include Ficus deltoides
and Schefflera subulata.
Malayan Ridge Forest
Forest dominated by Shorea curtisii are well developed on the ridges of G. Beremban and
G. Besar. Other large trees include Anisoptera megistocarpa, Cotylelobium lanceolatum,
Heritiera simplicifolia, Swintonia floribunda var. penangiana and the endemic Gluta curtisii
(Anacardiaceae). Treelets such as Agrostistachys borneensis and Helicia rufescens often
form gregarious stands. However, the ground vegetation is almost absent apart from a few
scattered patches of Selaginella intermedia and the ferns Diplazium tomentosum and
Malayan Palm Forest
Forests dominated by the endemic palm Livistona endauensis (Arecaceae) are common
on the ridges and sandstone plateaus of eastern Endau-Rompin. They can reach heights
of 10 m and commonly include trees such as Gluta aptera, Shorea blumutensis, Tristania
merguensis, and the endemic Anisophyllea curtisii (Rhizophoraceae). Other less common
trees are Dacrydium beccarii, Erythroxylon cuneatum, Gordonia maingayi, Guioa bijuga,
(Araliaceae). The undergrowth, however, is poorly developed consisting of a few shrub
and herbs. Epiphytes are better represented. The crowns of Livistona palms, in particular,
provide habitat for a number of epiphytes. The fern Oleadra pistillaris is the most common
epiphytic species of these crowns but other include Embelia coriacea, Ficus deltoides,
Schefflera subulata and various clubmosses such as Lycopodium dalhousianum, L
nummularifolium and L. phlegmaria. Less common epiphytes is the normally ground-
rooted climber Nepenthes rafflesiana and Gahia tristis, which is more normally found as a
Further information required.
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Variations in topography, soils and vegetation. Journal of Biogeography, 9: 65-78.
Henderson, M. R. 1939. The flora of the limestone hills of the Malay Peninsula. Journal of
Latiff, A., Faridah Hanum, I., Zainudin Ibrahim, A., Goh, M. W. K., Loo, A. H. B. & Tan, H.
Leith, H. & Werger, M. J. A. 1989. Ecosystems of the World 14B - Tropical Rain Forests.
Ridley, H. N. 1967. The flora of the Malay Peninsula. Volumes 1-5. L. Reeve & Co Ltd.
Steenis, C. G. G. J. van. 1957. Outline of the vegetation types in Indonesia and some
Whitmore, T. C. 1978. The forests ecosystems of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei:
Resources Research Vol. XIV. UNESCO.
Wong, K. M., Saw, L. G. & Kochummen, K. M. 1987. A survey of the forests of the Endau-
Wyatt-Smith, J. 1959. Peat swamp forest in Malaya. Malayan Forester, 23: 5-32.