Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Alangium ridleyi: Celebrating Our Rain Forest in SG50

Finding Alangium ridleyi in MacRitchie Forest, Lornie Trail
Come 9th August, we will be celebrating 50 years of independence. We will be celebrating our people and our achievement as a nation proud and free. A milestone, as if were, for us to look back at what we have achieved, and importantly, to look ahead together. 

And it is not just about looking ahead and walking forward. It is about you and I carrying with us our cherished hopes and dreams for our beloved home Singapore. 

For this, you and I are personally invited on board SG50 to pause for a moment and think about the things that we care about as Singaporeans. Things that matter, things for which we hold dear in our heart that gives us meaning and fulfilment, things we believe in, things with which we move and have our sense of being and belonging. 

As you can imagine, SG50 sets about capturing our story of hopes and dreams. It measures and celebrates the spirit and soul of our people moving forward. And I am on board already! Yes! And I will be carrying the rain forest with me. 

It is my hope and dream that one day we would jealously guard and protect the precious rain forest in our midst. And I am heartened to have met many young people today who share the same concern as I do.

I wish to celebrate SG50 by sharing with you my story of a rare tree, Alangium ridleyi, in MacRitchie Forest. It is a true reflection of how rich our rain forest is; a rain forest that needs no nomination for World Heritage to be appreciated as having an outstanding value to humanity.

Diana Ross once sang, "Do you care what you are hoping for. Do you know." I cordially invite you to think about our rain forest and ask yourself this same question and celebrate SG50 with me. Thank you.

Mr Henry Ridley wrote about Alangium ridleyi in his Flora of Malay Peninsula that, "I have only seen one tree. Singapore, rockery in Gardens." Until last year, we only knew of one tree in Singapore Botanic Garden at Lawn H. It was thought to be Nationally Extinct.

MacRitchie Forest
I found a tree fruiting in MacRitchie Forest in 2014.

Straight bole
3 fruits were collected and donated to Pasir Panjang Nursery for growing.

Fruit and single seed
Tree flowered again in 2015. Fallen flowers collected for spirit collection in SING Herbarium.

Fallen flowers and buds
High canopy full of flowers.

Flowering in March 2015
Voucher specimen made for SING Herbarium.

3 saplings successfully raised in the nursery.

Saplings successfully grown from seeds
Description of Tree: About 18m tall. Bole about 30cm diameter, rising straight as a rod up the forest canopy. Bark scaly. Branches long and horizontal, maintaining crown from about four-fifth up tree height. Leaves alternate, elliptic; secondary veins 12 to 14 pairs; leaf stalk grooved above. Inflorescence 2 –5-flowered. Petals 5, valvate, white to yellowish-white, 10-20mm long, not reflexed. Stamens 5, pointed, opening with vertical flaps; pollens yellow. Filament short and stout, bearing fine hairs at the top. Stigma sub-globose. Calyx about 5mm long, cup-shaped, dull green and distinctly ridged; calyx teeth inconspicuous.  Flower buds were observed to be heavily feasted on by unknown agents leaving them empty and hollowed out. Fruit 30-35mm long, longitudinally ridged, and ripening purplish pink. Seed flattened, light brown, elliptic and covered by soft purplish pink pulp. The long horizontal branching, spiralling up a straight columnar bole, gives the tree such an airy elegance in the forest canopy. So free and beautiful.

Alangium ridleyi tree at Lawn H, Singapore Botanic Garden. The rockery mentioned by Ridley can still be found at Lawn G (The Dell) opposite the tree.

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