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White Paper. Bougainvillea glabra Choisy, Bunga kertas, Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia

Today I've done my share of reading and commenting on scholarly papers; very interesting though, even exciting. They brought to mind the Malay name for Bougainvillea glabra: Bunga kertas, Paper flower, and this white four-some seemed particularly apt for in our work we were four.

Bougainvillea was discovered by Europeans in Brazil in 1768 and by the early nineteenth century had been imported to Europe. Soon afterwards it was taken to the warm climes of Australia and Southeast Asia, where it multiplied rapidly to everyone's delight.

Today botanists distinguish some 18 species and hundreds of varieties. The beginning of this intricate research and analysis goes back on the work of Jacques-Denis Choisy (1799-1859), an important scholar of theology, philosophy and logic, and political thought at the university of Geneva in Switzerland. A pulbic man of letters, a preacher and politician and university professor, he yet found time, too, for his life-long avocation: botany.

Choisy lived in highly charged times and he suffered a great deal for his socio-political ideas. As the author of his obituary notice - the botanist Alphonse de Candolle (1806-1893), son of the famous botanist Augustin Pyrame de Candolle (1778-1841) who'd been Choisy's teacher - writes, botany for Jacques-Denis was 'une occupation agréable et ensuite une distraction dans des temps malheureux'. In 1849, Choisy distinguished ' Bougainvillea glabra' (=smooth) from 'spectabilis'.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there are many varieties of Bougainvillea, and it apparently mutates very easily. Hence it's not alway clear with which Bougainvillea we're dealing. This sprig seems to me to be (close to) 'glabra'. After a light shower of rain it glittered beautifully on the retaining wall of the Sultan of Perak's palace high above the Perak River at Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia.

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Taken on September 6, 2010