The Orchids of Mount Kinabalu Vol. 1 and 2


This two-volume work provides a detailed account of the orchid flora of Mount Kinabalu situated in the Malaysian state of Sabah (formerly known as British North Borneo) which, at 4095 m , is the highest peak between the Himalayas and Papua (Indonesian New Guinea). Kinabalu was declared Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site by UNESCO in November 2000. The KInabalu massif, encompassing only about 1250 square km, is smaller than most English counties, yet the author’s list an astonishing number of orchids for such a small area. Nearly 30% of the orchid species are known form just one locality and about 16% have been collected only once. The Kinabalu vascular plant flora may include as many as 5000-6000 species, and is one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse floras in the world. Additionally, Mount Kinabalu has been a centre of extremely active plant evolution and speciation and presents a spectacular natural laboratory for studying these processes. Bearing in mind that much of the mountain, especially the remote and inaccessible northern side, is still poorly explored, one can get some idea of its biological richness.

Mount Kinabalu is mostly composed of granite together with distinctive areas of ultramafic substrate. Together with its ultramafic satellite, Mount Tembuyuken, it forms the major part of a much visited national park and has been described by co-author John Beaman as holding one of the richest assemblages of plants in the world. Its forests also support a fascinating array of creatures such as the Kinabalu Ferret Badger and the Banded Linsang.

Its slopes are home to a 30cm long giant orange terrestrial leech which feeds on giant blue earthworms. The bird fauna is equally prolific and includes many intriguingly named species including the Bornean Whistling Thrush, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, Friendly Bush-warbler and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter.

An integrated system of computer programs used for data editing and printing an enumeration of the orchid flora of Mount Kinabalu was written in the dBASE IV programming language by Reed Beaman. A data management program, KINABALU, allows for accessing any aspects of the database through a menu system. Seven principal relational data tables are used in the production of the enumeration of taxa. Two of these tables contain data on specimens including types. Taxonomic, nomenclatural, geographical, and bibliographic information is linked from other tables. Various procedures permit creating and editing the tables. Menus facilitate inputting and editing specimen and taxon data, globally replacing various expressions such as changing a  author’s name or abbreviation, indexing and querying the database, computing a summary of elevation ranges for taxa, numbering taxa, making an index to numbered collections, and printing enumerations of all taxa in the database or selected genera.

The data gathered grew form a proposed simple checklist into a 411-page book, authored by Jeffrey Wood together with Reed and John Beaman, detailing the diverse orchid flora, which was published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1993. This precursor to the present two-volume work formed volume two of John Beaman’s five-volume inventory of the entire vascular plant flora entitled The Plants of Mount Kinabalu. The final volume covering dicotyledon families from Magnoliaceae to Winteraceae, authored by John Beaman and Christiane Anderson, was published in 2004.

Subsequent to the publication of the 1993 orchid volume, a remarkably extensive accumulation of new data and literature about the orchids became available. For example, about 5000 specimens were at hand back in 1993, but more recently over 9000 specimens representing nearly 6000 collections have been examined. In the 1993 volume 711 taxa in 121 genera were listed, whereas now some 866 taxa in 134 genera have been documented. For the first time, comprehensive keys to all species are included as well as descriptions of thirteen new taxa and 34 new combinations. A much more extensive consideration of the species, their ecology, and an extended discussion of special features of their morphology and other aspects of particular interest, including a discussion of revised generic delimitation resulting from recent molecular data, are included.

An alarming fact that has emerged from this study is that the natural vegetation of nine out of eighteen of the most important orchid locations based upon numbers of species on Kinabalu, most of which are at elevations below 2000 m, have either been degazetted from the Park, or destroyed by fire damage (deliberate or otherwise). Some of these sites, such as the distinctive forest on ultramafic Hempuen Hill on the lower southeast slopes, once boasted many species of great horticultural value, including Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, Paraphalaenopsis labukensis, and Renanthera bella.

Ex-situ conservation of some species, especially epiphytes, may be necessary as many of the higher-elevation taxa are now threatened by the effects of global warming. The advent of El Nino events that devastated the upper slopes of the mountain during the 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 droughts in Borneo saw the demise of thousands of epiphytes.

This new account is offered in the hope that the updated documentation it provides will help in the future protection of the orchids of this unique and fascinating mountain.







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Weight 5.5 kg


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