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.

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