Native Indonesian Plants

Written by jacob j. wright
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Native Indonesian Plants
Bali is one island in the archipelago of Indonesia. (Michele Westmorland/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Over 17,000 different islands comprise the equatorial nation of Indonesia--nestled between Asia and Australia. While not even two per cent of the world's land area, Indonesia boasts 11 per cent of the world's plant species. Cloaked in thousands of hectares of tropical rainforests, this nation has many native plants--including many trees, shrubs and epiphytic plants (that clasp their roots onto other plants for support, such as orchids).

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Trees

The books "Tropical and Subtropical Trees and "Tropical Flowering Plants" list several trees native to Indonesia, including timber and ornamental species. Some native timber trees are mast tree (Polyalthia longiflora), ironwood/na (Mesua ferrea) and teak (Tectona grandis). Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) flower oils gave rise to the Chanel No. 5 perfume, according to author Barwick. Trees with particularly showy flowers are Tabernaemontana pandacaqui, orchid tree (Bauhinia variegata), maple-leaved bayur (Pterospermum acerifolium), apple-blossom cassia (Cassia javanica), golden shower (Cassia fistula) and sorrowless tree (Saraca indica). Ornate leaves don the umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) and Fairchild's sterculia (Sterculia ceramica). Elephant apple (Dillenia spp.), Malay apple (Syzygium malaccense), Java apple (Syzigium samarangense) and starfruit (Averrhoa carambola) are all native to Indonesia.

Native Indonesian Plants
Orchid tree blossoms. (bauhinias image by Unclesam from Fotolia.com)

Herbaceous Plants

Lush foliage or showy flowers mark the most ornate aspects of some of Indonesia's herbaceous natives. Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum) is from Sulawesi, while several species of elephant ears hail from various islands across the nation: Alocasia cuprea, Alocasia longiloba and Alocasia plumbea. Voodoo lily/arum plants abound, especially on Sumatra and include the species Amorphophallus lambii, Amorphophallus gigas and Amorphophallis titanum. Many species of bat flowers (Tacca spp.) grow in the warm, wet rainforests across Indonesia, too. Gold birds (Burbidgea schizocheila), Malay ginger (Costus speciosus), hidden lilies (Curcuma sumtrana and Curcuma pheaocaulis), torch ginger (Etlingera elatior) and hidden ginger (Zingiber neglectum) die back in the winter dry season but bloom in the rainy season.

Native Indonesian Plants
The red-coral bracts of torch ginger. (tropical flower with waterfall background image by Diane Stamatelatos from Fotolia.com)

Palms

Betal nut palm (Areca catechu), clustering fishtail palm (Caryota mitis) and sealing wax palm (Cyrtostachys renda) grow naturally across the hot, moist and humid lowlands of Indonesia. Two palms naturalised in Indonesia today, according to the authors of "An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms," are the coconut (Cocus nucifera) and the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis).

Orchids

Calanthe vestits and Phaius tankervilliae are two deciduous perennial orchids native to Indonesia. The orchid group or genus called Dendrobium hails from all parts of Asia; one species of Indonesia is the butterfly dendrobium (Dendrobium bigibbum), which grows in trees. Jewel-orchid (Haemaria discolour) grows in soil and is evergreen. Other large orchid genera native across parts of Indonesia include moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), ground orchids (Spathoglottis) and slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum).

Native Indonesian Plants
Many wild moth orchid species grow naturally across Indonesia. (Orchids image by Patricia Molina from Fotolia.com)

Vines

Woody stemmed vines native to Indonesia include shooting-star hoya (Hoya multiflora) and Hoya purpureofusca. Others of vines of note are bower-vine (Pandorea jasminoides), Rangoon creeper (Quisqualis indica) and shower-of-gold vine (Tristellateia australasiae).

Native Indonesian Plants
Hoya vines make good houseplants, too. (hoya carnosa image by Alexander Maksimov from Fotolia.com)

Shrubs

Suckering and spreading shrubs native across Indonesia include Indian glory-bower (Clerodendrum indicum) and Java glory-bower (Clerodendrum speciossisimum). Sometimes growing out of soil and on rotting organic matter on tree trunks is the rose-grape medinilla (Medinilla myriantha) and coral medinilla (Medinilla scortechinii). Other shrubs from Indonesia are white flag (Mussaenda frondosa) and orange jessamine (Murraya paniculata).

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