Saturday, December 31, 2016

Alangium hirsutum: A New Record for Singapore from MacRitchie Forest

Alangium hirsutum Bloemb.
Small tree about 5m tall. Trunk sparsely thorny and bark scaly. Branches long and slender. Leaves alternate, oblanceolate, hairy throughout; leaf-base somewhat equal and tri-nerved. Flowers: borne singly, hanging downwards, bracteolate, smelling strongly of Jasmine; petals 5-merous, white, slender and strongly reflexed; filaments hairy; a pair of tiny bracts behind calyx. Fruit ellipsoid, fine hairy, ripening red with faint longitudinal lines. Ants observed to be attracted to the fruit, especially inside the persistent calyx tube. Tree flowering profusely and its fragrance detected at some distance; would make an excellent garden plant.

Extremely fragrant flowers

Cylindrical flower butt

Fruit ripens red with faint ridges

Pubescent leaves, twigs, fruits and flowers

Thorns on smooth trunk

Monday, November 7, 2016

Journey's End with Ficus superba

I dedicate this poem to the ill-fated gentle giant of a veritable old tree Ficus superba of Tanah Merah (Limau Estate) woods.

Injustice truly for you to be felled. Thank you for letting me walk the last mile with you. But it is not the end for you and me. I have carried you to the mountain of Taiwan and planted a seed from my heart. When the wind blow I will hear you rustle above the eave of my conciousness.

Journey's End At Beitou Library

A scholar's balcony
Looks out from
A mother's heart
Embracing a fig bough
With her eave
Where a furry squirrel
Finds love and warmth.
There is a rhythm of rest
Fresh-breezy woody
Where beneath his perch
A sweet brook runs
With songs of loving kindness
From the mountain above.
A scholar's balcony embraces all
Not from knowledge
But from a heart that moves
His mind to the expanse
Of the universe
His home.

- Joseph Lai

Afternotes: innovation = knowledge + will + kindness. Our giant fig was killed by the lack of the latter two. There was simply no will for innovative development which could have preserved the tree in-situ. See how a giant fig in Beitou is respectfully preserved between a new 5-star hotel and an old hotspring bath.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nephrolepis acutifolia

It was a day to have a potential last look at some beautiful old seawalls before they are torn down by the MRT development at Marine Parade Road but turned out to be a surprised encounter with a rare fern called Nephrolepis acutifolia. Thank you,  Stuart Lindsay, for pointing out my initial mistaken identification. It can be found on a rain tree at Marine Parade Road and a few locations such as Portsdown and SBG. Considered as an endangered species in Singapore. 

old seawall and gate
old seawall and steps
old ornated gate
Frond 1.5 to 2m long.
Pinnate frond
Sorus marginal; indusium running almost the entire length of both adaxial and abaxial margin of pinna. 
lanceolate pinnae
Can you see the sporangia peeping out from the knife edge of the margin?
Brown non-persistent scales at the base of stipes
Long slender stipes
Stipe and rachis grooved above
Wiry roots with green tips
Rain tree festooned with ferns
Young fern destined for Chek Jawa for planting
Watch this space: spores broadcast into the gaps of an old kampong stone wall in Pulau Ubin!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Appeal to Preserve a Giant Fig Tree at Limau Estate Neighbourhood

An appeal has been made to Minister Lawrence Wong and it is receiving attention from the authorities.

You can help. Please do consider nominating it as a Heritage Tree at the link here.

Endangered species: Ficus superba
LOCATION: Wooded area of Limau Estate opposite Tanah Merah MRT. designated as Land Parcel B by URA for development

A forest unto itself, this robust and healthy veritable giant stands at 25m tall and is
colossally-rooted with an impressive girth of 12m standing firmly on stable flat ground 7m
away from the edge of a 6m slope facing the MRT as a truly iconic landmark of Bedok / Tanah Merah.

Firstly, it offers little impediment to development as it sits right at the boundary of the parcel’s
extreme northern corner. Secondly, it is an endangered species in Singapore. Last but not
least, its magnificence is deserving of a heritage status that not only add tangible values to
the development but also retains the asset as a green lung to our community of Limau
Estate Neighbourhood and Bedok at large.

Impressive girth of 12m
Healthy robust tree on flat stable ground
A giant iconic landmark of Bedok
Its canopy is a forest onto itself
Approximately 25m tall
A photo montage for the good Minister Lawrence Wong

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Galearia maingayi: Remembering James Franklin Maxwell at MacRitchie

It is a prized moment. A loveliness of being alone in the forest, that once you found it, you will never ever be alone. Where your joy finds an elegance smiling at you, filling you up and making you soft and mellow all over while standing taller than tall and never leaving you.

I have never felt a tree so elegantly expressing itself at flowering than Galearia maingayi.

Someone once said that elegance is not what you wear, but how you carry yourself, what you read... how true even for this tree! Like poetry in motion! Her long thyrsi-flowing-loveliness in the wind! Never mind its tiny flowers!

I am reminded of another elegance... one that stands out in its own way. Of a loveliness you see if you knew how to appreciate it. I am reminded of James Franklin Maxwell in his singularity of purpose... an elegance of the love of his art. His 1978 specimen of Galearia maingayi is the earliest known from MacRitchie forest in SING Herbarium.

It seems providence that I should find this exceeding rare tree at MacRitchie and take this unique opportunity to remember him here in the first anniversary of his death 12 May 2015.

Obituary for a profoundly intrepid botanist James Franklin Maxwell can be found here

Flowers in hanging thyrsi: greenish white... (EJH Corner 1936)

Magnificent male tree at MacRitchie forest

Tapering trunk with thick buttresses

Scaly smooth bark with distant fissures

Inflorescence: staminate flowers in a thyrsus

Leaves with asymmetric base

Blades sub-coriaceous, dark green above, green below (Maxwell 1978)

Scars showing where tiny flowers once grouped on spike

All parts of flowers hoary-white downy (EJH Corner 1936)

Flowers never opening fully (EJH Corner 1936)

Petals removed: 5 inner short stamens and 5 outer long stamens

Outer stamens removed to show inner stamens and thick hairy pistillode

Maxwell's 1978 collection of Galearia maingayi at MacRitchie
Footnote: Maxwell spent an 8-year hiatus in Singapore (1976-1984) where he obtained an M.Sc. degree in botany at the National University of Singapore, and served as a taxonomist at SING Herbarium of Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sarcotheca griffithii: A Native Star in MacRitchie Forest

Long long time ago, the night sky would have been very different. It would have been crystal clear. Our 100 year old trees would have seen a sea spangle of stars in the night sky. They would have seen even that narrow glistening band, our Milky Way. It would have been a most wondrous sight serenading a heavenly chorus of the big picture called Life - right above our forest.

The young trees of today, like our children, can no longer look up and behold the distant lights in all their glory. Pollution has clouded the air with particulates and stray urban light litters our air space above us today. We struggle with some effort just to catch a pocketful of faint stars if only we search hard enough.

So, if they can talk, what lovely stories these old trees can tell us about the constellations. You can tell how they loved the night sky. It is as if the lights lived forever in their hearts. That is true of Pupoi. She is the grand old dame of MacRitchie Forest. Her love of the stars has woven into the heart of her fruits a core shaped like the star. What better love than one inscribed in the heart.

If you love trees, you must love the stars. Trees love stars.

Grand old dame of MacRitchie Forest

Fluted trunk

Compound leaves


Star-shaped core of fruit

Fallen leaves

Tiny seeds that can grow into giants!

Peeling orangy bark
This native species, Sarcotheca griffithii, belongs to the same family as our Starfruit. The family is called Oxalidaceae. Oxalis belongs to this family also. They can be found in our gardens and along the roadside as herbs.