Asia and Australia

The largest flowers, most populace countries and 18000 volcanic islands

The tropical regions of Asia and Australia are much more fragmented than other tropical areas.  In the North lie India and the far eastern countries, the the south, Australia, but between are the roughly 18,000 islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and surrounding countries, mostly volcanic in origin.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis in flower

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis in flower

In the lowlands many species are widespread but at increasing altitude on the volcanic mountains there are numerous habitat islands each with species that are unique to them.  This region is home to the largest flower, that of the parasitic Corpse Flower (Rafflesia arnoldii) from Borneo, the largest inflorescence, that of the Talipot Palm (Corypha umbraculifera) from India and Ceylon and the largest (and perhaps smelliest) unbranched inflorescence, that of the Titan Arum (Amorphophalus titanum) from Sumatra.  Also well known are the numerous Nepenthes species spreading from India to Australia and the Bird’s Nest (Asplenium nidus agg.) and Stag’s horn (Platycerium spp.) ferns which grow as epiphytes on large forest trees.

Cyathea tree ferns typical of Southeast Asia

Cyathea tree ferns typical of Southeast Asia

The junction of the tropical biota from Asia and Australia is usually reported to be the Wallace line drawn along the Sunda Strait between Borneo and Sulawesi and there does seem to be a real boundary for some groups such as birds but for plants, which can be highly dispersive and speciate locally there appears to be no strong boundary found.  Typically the forests include Dipterocarps and members of Myrtaceae that are not generally seen in other areas.

  • The world’s largest flower is Rafflesia arnoldii from Borneo
  • Home to ca. 150 species of Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plant)
  • Over 300 Rhododendron species grow in the tropical moutains of Asia
  • The Durian fruit is is so smelly it is banned on public transport

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QR code for the Asia-Australia page

QR code for the Asia-Australia page

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