Rimba Ilmu has three principal functions:
Rimba Ilmu is an important repository for many types of plants, including conservation collections of rare and endangered plants, and special collections of the useful plants (such as citruses and starch palms) and their wild relatives. In 2001, two other special collections, bamboos (sponsored by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute) and bananas (anchored by one of the university's research groups in banana cytology), were also begun. Over 2004-5, with the assistance of DHL and involving their employees, a special collection of Malaysian forest trees has also been established. Outside of the Rimba Ilmu, it may be very difficult to observe so many different species of some groups, and the habitats of some of these plants may have already been altered or damaged. Conservation also involves public awareness, and visitors are first treated to a permanent exhibition on Rain Forests when they start to get familiar with the Garden.
A section of the Rain Forests and Our Environment Exhibition.
Photo: E. Minoura
2. Education and Public Awareness
At Rimba Ilmu we can learn about the natural heritage of the Malaysian region and its plant structure, growth habits and uses. The Rimba Ilmu is principally used in the teaching of botany and plant conservation at the University, but is now open to visitors for a small entry fee. Many school groups visit us, and in addition there is also an Environmental Education Programme. Young visitor groups (kindergarten / playschool and primary school groups are normally handled through the Malaysian Nature Society, which works together with the Rimba Ilmu for some of these programmes).
School group in the Rimba Ilmu.
Photo: M.S. Zahid
Rimba Ilmu continues to be an important and convenient research site for many scientific studies, such as phytochemistry (studies into the chemical properties of plants, including medicinal uses and anti-bacterial properties, etc.), plant growth and structure, and even insect life. The Rimba Ilmu Building at the northeast flank of the gardens houses, among other facilities, the herbarium, a lecture hall, and a permanent interpretative exhibition. There is also a Rare Plants and Orchid Conservatory which, as its name implies, caters to special research collections and work with rare plant species. Primary research at the Rimba Ilmu is centred on Southeast Asian bamboos, the Rubiaceae (coffee-family), the genus Fagraea (tembusu family, Gentianaceae), secondary forest ecology and plant biodiversity of the Malaysian region.
Related to the African Violet, Orchadocarpa lilacina,
here photographed by the pool in the Conservatory,
is the sole species of this genus, endemic to Peninsular Malaysia.
Photo: E. Minoura