Geostachys megaphylla Holttum
by Mr. Lau Kah Hoo
Geostachys megaphylla Holttum
by Mr. Lau Kah Hoo

Cameron Highlands, Pahang is well-known for its cool climate, enchanting hill views and many vegetable farms. With its highest areas located at over 2000 m above sea level, it is a popular destination among tourists near and far, with hundreds of thousands visiting annually. Standing high among the extensive tea plantations and vegetable farms are some mountains popular with trekkers, such as Gunung (G.) Berembun, G. Jasar, G. Irau and G. Brinchang. The last one, which is located in Brinchang town, is where a unique ginger species,Geostachys megaphylla Holttum strives.

This species has long raised rhizomes and is well supported by reddish stilt roots. It is not unusual to see a jelly-like substance covering the tips of the young roots, possibly for protection purposes. Geostachys megaphylla is one of the larger species in the genus; with leafy shoots reaching up to 3 m. As suggested by its name, the leaf can grow to a size of 70 × 20 cm and is oblong, glabrous and usually darker green underneath. The inflorescence is erect, averaging 15 cm in length, with flowers arranged on all sides of the stalk. One to several flowers can be open at a time. As with the flowers, the trilobed labellum is white, up to 2.8 cm long, tinged with red small spots and pink bands, with a wavy margin. The fruits are ovoid, glabrous and brownish black, about 1.5 cm both in length and width.

So far, G. megaphylla has only been found in Cameron Highlands and there, only at G. Brinchang, therefore making it a hyper-endemic species. Its narrow distribution could well be due to its specialized habitat requirement and low dispersal ability. Current observations reveal that clumps of the plants are to be found towards the mountain peak. There are also reports that it can be found along the trail to G. Irau but this has yet to be verified. While land use change may not be the main factor behind the shrinking populations at the present time since its habitat is in protected forest, climate change and habitat disturbances due to encroachment have been observed to have negatively altered the plant’s demographic patterns. The need for a holistic environmental management plan is very crucial at this point in time.

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