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Unusual Plants in Malaysia

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017
Many orchids are indigenous to Malaysia.

Malaysia is located on a tropical peninsula not far from Singapore in southeast Asia. Jungles abound in this tourist destination, and in them are found many interesting plants. The coconut palm, although far from unusual, is thought to be native to this country. Many plants have been introduced to Malaysia, such as the rubber tree, which was introduced from its native Brazil in the early 20th century. Many native species continue to thrive in Malaysia’s forests, swamps and jungles.

Unusual Fruit

Mangosteen, durian and rambutan are tropical fruits found in Malaysia. Mangosteens are popular for their sweet and sour flavor and the juice is reputed to have health-giving antioxidant effects on the human body. Durian is a large tropical fruit that is so odiferous it is not allowed into public buildings in this country. When you eat its fruit, it tastes much better than it smells and it is said to promote a feeling of well-being. Rambutan is a fruit no larger than a tennis ball with soft, hairy red spikes protruding from its skin. The flesh inside is white, gelatinous and sweet.


Thousands of flowering plants exist throughout Malaysia, but some of the most unusual and beautiful flowers belong to the orchid family. Thousands of orchid species are indigenous to Malaysia. They include the Bulbophyllum patens, a variety that grows in the lowland areas of this country. Its flowers are lightly scented and roadside vendors sometimes sell them. This orchid needs a hot climate in order for it to thrive, and also benefits from very humid conditions, lots of water and frequent fertilizing. Other members of the Bulbophyllum genus are common orchids found throughout the forests and jungles of Malaysia.

Rafflesia, the World’s Largest Flower

The rare rafflesia is a parasitic plant that grows only on Mount Kinabalu in the Malaysian state of Sabah, according to the Malaysia Travel Guide on GeckoGo.com. The Western Michigan University website warns that the rafflesia blossom has a “repulsive” smell, which it equates with a rotting buffalo carcass. The plant is very unusual because it does not appear to have leaves, roots or stems, which makes it more similar to fungi than to vascular plants. The flowers, which bloom infrequently, reach 3 feet in diameter—most species of rafflesia have reddish-brown blossoms, which remain for only a few days, making study of this plant difficult.

Pitcher Plants

Ten species of ornamental pitcher plants (Nepenthes species) grow in Malaysia. Pitcher plants are carnivorous, attracting insects to their “pitcher,” which are leaves in the shape of a jug or pitcher. This vessel fills with rainwater and insects drown when they enter, feeding the plant with their bodies’ nutrients. The plant absorbs the insects’ nutrients, which are important to the plant’s reproduction and growth. Some pitcher plants are common in the states of Johor and Pahang and others are very rare, occurring only in the high mountains in Taman Negara.


About the Author


Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.