Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Uvaria curtisii: Remembering James Sinclair

When it beckoned from above one beautiful morning, I leaped for joy; a glorious green star lighting up an epiphany of a priceless moment. How so heartwarming it felt to know a native is still around in our treasured forest. Yes, Uvaria curtisii, you are still around in our midst! We thought you were gone for good... 'Nationally Extinct' as listed in the Singapore Red Date Book (2nd Edition, 2008). And could I ever forget James Sinclair (1913-1968) in moment like this? No, not by any chance. His prolific work on Annonaceae here in Singapore Herbarium I admire and appreciate so much. If only wishes could come true upon a green star, how I would love to have him standing next to me that morning. His collection of Uvaria curtisii - Sinclair S.F.N 39652, collected 27th May 1953 at Kruing Path, Bukit Timah - is the first and only record for Singapore.

Here, below, I took license to piece together some of his words for you in the remembrance of a dedicated botanist...

Large climber; expanded flower 4.5-5 cm, petals greenish-yellow, tomentose on both surfaces; calyx entirely covering the petals in flower bud up to the time of opening.

* Flowers extra-axillary.

Flowers solitary or often 2. Leaves thinly tomentose beneath on the entire surface and on the margin, the hairs rather soft and short, stellate.

Leaves oblong-lanceolate or slightly oblanceolate, apex acute, narrowed to the rounded base; nerves 11-14 pairs, prominent beneath, curving and interarching about 2-3 mm from margin.

James Sinclair at his desk in the Singapore Herbarium (old building,1959).

The above photo, and an obituary and an appreciation of James Sinclair 1913-1968 by H. M. Burkill, can be found in The Gardens' Bulletin Vol. 23, 30th December 1968.

* Flowers extra-axillary: a description by Hsuan Keng, The Concise Flora of Singapore; Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons (1990)

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