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It's A Jungle Out There (Part II)

I. Introduction
Part II basically picks up from the first part (see Part I here ) by briefly discussing the growth habits of certain common tropical vegetation and detailing some possible alternatives of reproducing them. We will not be covering the layout of a jungle diorama as it has been covered in the first part. I say we because I have Costas (Major Goose) on board for Part II. So without further ado, put on your boonie hats and get out your machete, coz we’re going in…..
II. Materials & Methods
The list of vegetation described here only covers a small fraction of the diversity of a real tropical jungle although a good mix and match with plants described in Part I should be able to give you a close approximation to the real thing. There’s always more than one way to make them so whenever possible we have tried to include a photo of the real plant as a reference for seeking alternate construction materials.
What we’ve termed as creepers here is a layman’s term to describe any vegetation that spreads along the ground through vine-like (runners) stems as opposed to lianas/vines which tend to climb taller trees & structures. In reality many of these vines and creepers are sometimes the same species although we have separated them based on where they are found and largely for ease of constructing them. While most creepers tolerate some shading (light to moderate), they tend to proliferate in semi-exposed areas. The one featured here, Mikania is sometimes known as Mile-A-Minute for its phenomenal growth rate (photo #1). Creepers climb over any structure including low shrubs they can grip on to as seen in Photo #2.

One method is to use glycerine preserved weeds (with small leaves but any vine like structure, dried plant/flower will suffice as long as the leaves are small and spaced out (not bunched up)). The glycerine:water mix was again around 1:10 but drying the weed was much better. Sometimes soft small weeds don’t take to glycerin well and air drying is much better. The thing is to keep them close to the ground (photo #3) restricting them mainly to more exposed areas or along jungle edges & stream banks.

Some of the commercially available PE climbing ivy could also be used as an alternative as they resemble real creepers.
Lianas can be thought as the taller cousins of creepers. Lianas or jungle vines so common to Tarzan movies are plants that started from the ground up. Their vine like structure is usually devoid of leaves and some species even have small hooks to grip on to the barks of their host tree. Rattan is a good example and its super sharp thorns are probably why American Special Forces wore leather gloves cutoff at the fingers in Vietnam. It is only at the top canopies of their host plant do lianas produce leaves either dangling downwards or crawling from one canopy to the next. Occasionally they dangle a few roots downwards too. A liana’s mission is to seek sunlight and some of the more parasitic species have been even known to strangle their host (strangling figs), so much for kindness. There also species that have no roots and these are usually lichens which dangle down from branches. I tend to think of these as more of epiphytes as covered in Part I.

Lianas like creepers tend to proliferate on trees near jungle edges and sunlit areas. Dioramas featuring jungle clearings are a good place to have lianas.

Next to grass, lianas are easy to reproduce. Seek out fine, relatively woody roots of medium sized trees. Fine roots of 1-2 mm diameter should suffice and normally such roots tend to have a fair bit of branching. The woodier it is as opposed to being soft will mean it will be durable when dried rather than brittle. It will be great if you can get twisted, gnarly looking ones too. The one shown in photo # 4 has been taken of a local medium sized (2.5 m) tree similar to a crab apple tree. The one in the photo have been dried and further preserved with wood varnish or shellac.

Attach it to the base of any tree and twist it around the host trunk as much as possible without breaking it. You could also attach it going straight up but it has a bit more dramatic effect if twirled around the tree. The end can be topped off by dangling it from the canopy or be lost somewhere in the canopy. If you’re going to dangle it then the effect would be enhanced if the dangling portion had some leaves attached. In photo # 5, I’ve allowed the end to trail off into the canopy and attached my earlier creeper material to act as the dangling portion after snipping off some leaves to give it a sparser look. Take note of the twisted vines on the trunk at right of the photo.
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About CK Tang (beachbum)

Like most forum members here I started with Airfix, Frog & Matchbox at a time when there was no Internet. From the first time I saw a photo of a vignette on a Ford GPA in a swamp (from Monogram I think), I knew dioramas was the thing for me. However, it took more than a 25-year layoff from modelling...