Seeing Orchids in Mt. Slamet (Orchid Indonesia Magazine, 2004)

Text/Photographer: Titik Kartitiani

Note: This was the journey to Mt. Slamet with Lestari Puji Rahayu. we had promised come to there together before married :). In the morning, after we finished the trek, when I still stayed in the based camp, I heard the earthquake, Jogja and my hometown, 5.9 reichter scale.

Mount Slamet is the highest mountain in Central Java. The volcano has created some attraction not only due to its recent sign of sudden activity after having been quiet for almost two decades, but also due to the wide variety of floral biology found there, especially orchids.

Soaring at 3,432 meters above sea level, Mt. Slamet had been almost dormant for 19 years. Some mountain climbers even considered this densely vegetated mountain as inactive. But in May this year some increased activity had caused alarm, it started getting busy erupting lava. Fortunately there was no casualty. Apparently similar activity occurred in 1989, 1992, 1997 and 1999, in another word, actually Mt. Slamet has never been really sleeping soundly. There are four active craters at its peak.

Geographically Mt. Slamet is located in the border of four regencies, namely : Brebes, Banyumas, Purbalingga and Pemalang, all are in the province of Central Java. In general its forest is divided into : hill dipterocarp forest, upper dipterocarp forest, montane forest and ericaceous forest or mountain forest. Practically orchids grow in almost all areas. Data available at the Botanical Garden of Baturaden recorded 22 species of orchids typically grow in Mt. Slamet. Certainly, there are a lot more species yet to be found. During our trip, we photographed those distributed in the areas of under 2,000 meters above sea level.

Phaius tankervillae
Phaius tankervillae
Phaius tankervillae
This terrestrial orchids can be found at the homes of the local population, where they serve as decoration at their front yards. Since they were planted not too far from their habitats, there is hardly any special care being applied, they thrive with just regular watering, This species also grow around South East Asia, India, Australia and the Pacific Island thrive, and they blossom frequently. Their flowers are showy and purple in color and having diameters between 5-7 cms.

Calanthe ceciliae

Calanthe ceciliae
Calanthe ceciliae
It was a pleasure to find this white terrestrial orchids. They grow perfectly in the forest. Its specific characteristic is that the flower has a thin ‘stick-like’ lengthy part. C. ceciliae bud has the diameter size of 5 cms. They are common in Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Thailand, Cambodia and Madagascar.

Calanthe flava
We almost missed this species due to it small size of only 1.5 cms, but the attractive yellow color gave them away. After having examined them closer, actually they were orchid species. They grew to the height of approximately 50 cms on the wet soil covered with decomposed vegetation, not a distance away from where we found C. ceciliae.

Macodes petola

Macodes petola
Macodes petola
Growing on the forest floor, this species has large and bright leaves. Even prior to the flowers blooming, the appearance of their leaves creates a certain charm. Here we found a number of clumps. The locals have recognized them as orchid species and they often collect them and grew them in pots, even though the numbers were not as many as phaius. The flowers of Macodes petola are small in size, only around 0.4 cms, with the distribution in Java, Bali and Kalimantan.

Coelogyne speciosa
We found this species at their natural habitat, at the height of approximately 2,000 meters above sea level. Piled at the side of the forest trekking track in a pitiful state, it seemed that they were struck by a tree that had been cut off. The flowers easily attract attention due to their large size, between 7-8 cms, greenish in color with brownish labellum. Ater further tracing, we located the mother plant not too far from where the flowers scattered. They grow under the trees, not on the soil, their roots attached to the roots of large trees. The size of the root is almost the same size as the leave.

Dendrobium montanum
This species grow on trees that received plenty of sun. They even grow not too far away from where the locals live. The color is white with yellow block on their labellum. The locals often collect and breed them by separating them away from their clusters, since the growth pattern is sympodial. Their distribution is in West and Central Java.

Bulbophyllum
This species has not yet been identified. Bulbophyllum was found in the area having the height of 2,000 meters above sea level. They grow on trees, the color of the flowers is yellow with bright yellow labellum. In overall the shape the bulbs form a triangle, with the size of each flower only about 5 millimeters.

Pholidata
Also located a short distance from where the Bulbophyllum grew, we found these small pink orchids dangling Further examination showed that the color of the labellum is maroon, the sepals and petals are pink, they thrived abundantly on trees.

The endangered loveable species
The forest of Mt. Slamet would have been remain in its natural state, had it not been tampered by human’s greed. Occasional fire or other natural distaters may have caused the changes in the vegetation, but nature would heal it. It will not be the case when human factors cause the destruction, it will take an excrusiatingly slow process to recover.

The last record at the end of 2006 indicated when the Napenthes was highly popular. Those Pitcher plants, or also called Monkey cups that had been comfortably perched on their trees, were snatched away recklessly to be exchanged with the tempting greens called money. People from big cities (especially Jakarta) ordered them from the local people to harvest them directly from their habitats.

The harvesting of Nepenthes was obvious along the climbing track starting from Baturaden. What made it more tragic, not only they took away the species that hung high above the ground, the trees where they hung and provided protecting shade were also cut off in order to get the species. The worst thing was that the species would never last when removed from their natural habitat. Two factors they didn’t understand were : the first being the reckless way they snatch the species that caused damage, and secondly, most of the Nephentes grew in the tableland of Mt. Slamet it would be difficult to survive in a lowland.

It is true that forest is the source of life. There is nothing awfully wrong in collecting germ plasma from the forest as long as destruction to the species is avoided when doing it for rebreeding or cross breeding. The commercial purpose will be achieved when the breeding is done at t he nursery. This will not only they help in conserving the nature, the breeding or cross breeding results will also be easy to do.

Some efforts to save the forest of Mt. Slamet are being carried out by a number of civil society oganisations, one of them is Kompleet (Komunitas Peduli Slamet). They teach the community to breed plants including orchids. When they collect them, they should leave enough so their existence will remain and allow them to breed.

Reference:
Native Orchids of Indonesia, Frankie Handoyo-Ramadani Prasetya (2006)

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