Sinharaja is the last expanse of lowland evergreen rain forest that has remained undisturbed on the island of Sri Lanka. The reserve’s name means “Lion (Sinha) King (Raja),” an ode to the legend that the Sinhala people of the island are descendants from the union of a human princess and the forest’s lion king. Many flowers call Sinharaja home, and for some it is the only home they have ever known.
For insects, the lime-green bloom of Nepanthus distillatoria, a Sinharaja flower more commonly known as the carnivorous Bandura, is beautiful, alluring and deadly. The Bandura’s flower resembles a deep, wide test tube with a pitcher-like opening.
Once an insect enters the flower’s opening, the Bandura traps it inside with a leaf lid to prevent the bug’s escape. Young flowers are found throughout the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in shades of green, while their older counterparts turn to a bright, fiery red with age.
Birdwing Nature Holidays notes that more than 60 percent of the flowering trees found in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve are endemic to the island.
Many of these flowering trees, such as large-diameter Rattans, Shorea and Dipterocarpus trees, make up the canopy of the Sinharaja and can stand higher than 130 ft.
The only way to see some of these massive blooming beauties is to view them from one of several high vantage points located throughout the reserve.
Sinharaja is home to thousands of impressive orchid species, called Udawediya on the island, some of which are found no place else on earth.
Orchids commonly found throughout the Sinharaja Forest Reserve include the Bamboo Orchid; Grass Orchid, which is commonly known as the Bim or Hambu Orchid; and the Vesak Orchid, which blooms each May.
Orchids endemic to Sri Lanka that have been seen in Sinharaja include Arundina minor, Dendrobium diodon, Podochilus falcatus and Podochilus saxatilis.
Studies have shown that there is a high degree of species localization, in respect to spatial distribution, in the forests of Sinharaja. The rare Dendrobium macarthiae, known locally as “Wesak,” is an orchid that blooms each May in clusters of medium-sized, lilac flowers that hang downwards.
Another rare orchid, Anoectochilus setaceus, is brown in color with black spots, known for its medicinal value, and called “Wanaraja” among locals. Exacum trinervium, known locally as “Binara,” is an endemic plant whose delicate five-petaled purple flowers are rarely seen in Sinharaja.