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Impatiens scortechinii Hook.f.
by Chan Yoke Mui

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Impatiens scortechinii Hook.f.

by Chan Yoke Mui

Impatiens belongs to the balsam family, Balsaminaceae, commonly known as Touch-me-not or Jewel Weed. Balsams are popular herbaceous garden plants, for example, I. balsamina (known as 'keembung' in Malay) is commonly cultivated in homes in Malaysia because of its attractive and colourful flowers. The Latin name Impatiens means impatient, which refers to the seed capsule that easily bursts open when ripe. Children like to play with the keembung plants by touching the ripe capsules, sending the round brown seeds flying out a short distance by ballistic force.

Impatiens scortechinii is a rare endemic that grows on limestones in Perak and Perlis (Ridley, 1967) and on granites in Melaka. Its name is still unresolved (The Plant List, 2010), meaning there is insufficient evidence to decide whether it is an accepted name or a synonym. This soft-stemmed annual plant has pure white flowers with five petals adorned with bright red spots on the inner sides and a two-forked green nectar spur. The leaves are green above, pale green below with red tinged leaf petioles, and arranged spirally. The lenticular seed capsule contains several brown seeds. The plant is armoured with fierce red ants that feed on crystal clear droplets (most probably a sugary substance) secreted by the glands at the leaf base (note the ants in the picture).

The small population observed at Bukit Senggeh, Melaka thrives on top of levelled rocks or rock crevices covered with leaf litter in stream valleys. It shares its habitat with two other rare endemics i.e. Begonia herveyana and Peperomia malaccensis. Unlike the other two species, I. scortechinii is not able to cling onto vertical surfaces. It is rather resilient and able to withstand temporary dry conditions. Flowering was observed in the months of January, September and October in 2007, June and October in 2008, and March to May in 2015. The current status of the populations in Perak and Perlis is unknown.

The conservation status of this rare species is unknown, but given its very limited dispersal ability and endemicity, it may easily face extinction if its habitat is severely degraded or destroyed. This species has good potential for horticultural use and should be domesticated.

References

  1. Ridley, H.N. (1922). The Flora of the Malay Peninsula, Volume 1. Lovell Reeve & Co., Ltd., London, England. pp. 340, 396, 634, 912.
  2. The Plant List. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.theplantlist.org

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