Begonia herveyana King
by Mr. Tan Kok Kiat
© Tan Kok Kiat

Begonia is a genus of flowering plants that belongs to the family Begoniaceae. It is a large and diverse group of plants with over 2,000 species and 10,000 hybrid and cultivar varieties, making it one of the largest genera of flowering plants (Kiew, 2005; POWO, 2023). It is typically found in lowland, hill and limestone forests in tropical and subtropical Asia, Africa and America. Begonias are well known their ornamental, attractive and colourful flowers, which are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as single, double and ruffled blooms. Additionally, the leaves can be quite remarkable, with numerous varieties displaying intricate patterns and textures. Some begonias are grown for their attractive foliage alone, while others are valued for their flowers.

To date, there are 53 species of native species found in Peninsular Malaysia, which are normally confined to shady habitats. More than half of these are threatened and Begonia herveyana King is one of them. It is endemic only to Melaka and Johor, and it is locally known as “Asam batu” or Hervey’s Begonia. This species normally grows on boulders in streams in narrow valleys. It is listed as critically endangered according to the Malaysia Plant Red List assessment (Chua et al., 2009) because of logging activities in the vicinity of the population in Melaka.

The stem of B. herveyana is rhizomatous and firmly rooted on rocks. The leaves are symmetric, elliptic-oblong to ovate, tufted, succulent in life, papery when desiccated, and have microscopic hairs beneath. The margin of the leaves is slightly undulate, with an elongated tip measuring approximately 2−2.5 cm long. The upper surface is dull pale green, while the lower surface contains dark red veins (Kiew, 2005). The lamina can reach up to 17.5 cm width and 26 cm long (personal observation).

This species is protandrous, whereby the male flowers develop first before the females. In general, a male flower consists of four tepals which are pale pink, whitish towards margin and hairless, and golden yellow anthers. On the other hand, a female flower has deep pink tepals with pale yellow styles and stigmas, and a green, unequal 3-winged ovary. The densely fibrous fruits are capsule-like, hanging on a thin, thread-like stalk. The seeds are tiny and barrel-shaped, measuring around 0.3 mm long (Kiew, 2005).

For conservation, FRIM is establishing this species ex-situ. A success story is whereby one of the plants grew from seed since 2011 in FRIM was able to flower after 10 years of planting (Chan, 2022 & personal observation, 2022). Regular monitoring with every month is required to protect this species in FRIM and its original population. Propagation using tissue culture and leaves cutting have to be done so that the individual can thrive and increase in the future.


  1. Chan, Y.M. (2022). Is ex situ relocation or introduction of threatened species workable? Preliminary results of seeding and transplanting of begonias into a similar natural habits. Conservation Malaysia (34), 6-8
  2. Chua, L.S.L., Kiew, R. & Chan, Y.M. (2009). Assessing conservation status of Peninsular Malaysian Begonias (Begoniaceae). Blumea Journal of Plant Taxonomy and Plant Geography. 54 (1), 94-98.
  3. Kiew, R. (2005). Begonias of Peninsular Malaysia. Natural History Publication (Borneo), Kota Kinabalu & Singapore Botanic Gardens, Malaysia. pp. 320.
  4. Plants of the World Online (POWO). (2023). Begonia L. Retrieved August 07, 2023, from
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