Observation Series
Companions of Sendudok

Straits Rhododendron Flowers of the Straits Rhododendron The idea to record the observation of the visitors and companions of this particular Sendudok or Straits Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) over time was prompted by the discovery of several Mirid bugs or more specifically Tea Mosquito Bug (Helopeltis species) on its leaves several months back.

Straits Rhododendron is a very common wild native shrub in Singapore. It can be easily identified by its mid-size light purplish flower which is relatively abundance on the plant all year round. This particular specimen that I will be visiting at least once a week is located in a park just beside the block of flat where I stay. The shrub is surrounded by 3 trees, namly Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans), Sea Apple (Syzygium grande) and Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), and has been in that location for probably over 10 years. I expect it to continue to stay there as long as the park exist since it has become part of the accepted plant population by the people that maintained the park.

The journey began on a Sunday, 28 October 2018 at around noon time. I had wanted to start the day before but the rain prevented me from doing so. Even though it was a sunny morning, the dark clouds had started to gather again at noon. I had to do a quick visit to the site before the downpour or else will have to wait till the next weekend.

Leaves of the parasitic plant Flower and flower buds of the parasitic plant Scale insectsA semi-parasitic plant, Common Chinese Mistletoe (Macrosolen cochinchinensis) had attached itself to the Straits Rhododendron over time. The bond was definitely a strong one since the parasitic plant were already flowering. Being a semi-parasitic plant and with leaves the same size as that of its host plant, it produces part of its own food but will not stay alive on its own. On the slender branches of the parasitic plant were a few small white bell-like structures. Though they were motionless, they were actually living creatures belonging to the group known as scale insects (family Coccidae). Scale insects are small to tiny in size and come in different shapes. This particular one is commonly called a wax scale and might be from the genus Ceroplastes.

The insects seemed to be aware of the incoming rain and went into hiding. After scanning carefully through the entire Straits Rhododendron, I could only locate 4 insects (an ant-mimicking katydid nymph, an Issid planthopper (Thabena brunnifrons), a midge and a Braconid wasp) despite the blooming status of the shrub. There was not even a single ant on the plant which was rather unusual. This shrub was usually fully of insect activities during sunny weather.

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As for the Tea Mosquito Bug (family Miridae), not a single one was found. Its non-existent this time round may be due to the weather or may be its peak season had passed. However, I am quite hopeful that they will be back.

Recorded on: 28 October 2018

To be continued.....

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