Begonias display an amazing variety of shapes, colours, patterns, and textures in their leaves rarely seen in other groups of plants. Their hallmark is the very asymmetric leaf where one side is much larger than the order. The beautiful leaves account for their popularity as ornamental plants and their great commercial importance in the horticultural trade. Today over 10,000 kinds of hybrids and cultivars are available. Indeed, while the hybrids are well known, for many people it comes as a surprise to learn that there are wild begonias in Malaysian forests.
Begonias are found wild throughout tropical Asia, Africa and America. To date more than 1,500 species have been named with many more new species waiting to be discovered. In Peninsular Malaysia, 52 native species are known. These are all confined to shaded habitats either in primary forests or on limestone hills. Although several native species are extremely beautiful, all the commonly cultivated species in Malaysia are exotics (Kiew & Kee, 2002).