Friday, December 22, 2017

Rare tree at Chek Jawa coastal hill discovered: Fahrenheitia pendula, a new record for PulauUbin

Lovely Chek Jawa never ceases to amaze. This is my second time encountering Fahrenheitia pendula (now called Paracroton pendula) . My first was in 1996 at Bukit Timah Hill. What an early Christmas present for me. Thank you, CJ. Kisses.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Rare Trees at MacRitchie Forest: Xerospermum noronhianum and Ormosia bancana

A joy to behold indeed. These are some very rare wild rambutan and beans that can be found in MacRitchie Forest.

Clase-up of fruit of Xerospermum noronhianum
Lenticellated bark of Xerospermum noronhianum
Erect spray of fruits of Xerospermum noronhianum
Leaves are highly variable for Xerospermum noronhianum
Single seeded pod of Ormosia bancana
Tussles of open pods on tree
Tall buttresses of Ormosia bancaca

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tall Oldgrowth Coastal Forest of Marsiling

My Rotherham Gate

In the 70’s,
Rotherham Gate can still be seen
as a charming pair of mossy concrete posts
with wrought iron gates and spiky fences.
I knew it well
as I lived only a stone throw away.
And as often as I took the road - a young man -
down the gate and jogged along the picturesque coastal road,
I encrypted a world of a past-present tense
pressed in by nuances of green
romancing every step in me as always
a lone runner today.

In year 2000,
I drew a sketch like a swiftlet would make her nest.
Au naturel yet home of my reality,
A gate of mine now – grit, spit, blood and tears.
And Bumber dear o' so very near
Her rest on sunset meadow endears. 
No one knew better than me like the oldgrowth forest
lording over the gate - my touchstone of time.

In 2017,
I stood by now a solitary invisible gatepost.
I met a young man jogging pass.
He did not see me but I did with my 58-year-old eyes.
I knew where he was going and more. He did not.
And how could he have known the heart of this oldgrowth forest?
Not Endospermum diadenum or Lindera lucida,
Not Macaranga conifera or Bauhinia biflora,
Not Ilex, Palaquium, Archidendron ellipticum…
No, not a single tree that holds up the sheltering sky.
But now he knows.
He knows I loved him and always will.

- Joseph Lai

Me and Bumber
My sketch of Rotherham Gate and plants in year 2000.

Tidal creek Sungei China nearby. 

Trees of oldgrowth forest averaging 30m.

The oldgrowth forest lording at the Causeway over surrounding farmlands in a archival photo dating the 1950s.

Rubus moluccanus 2017

Coastal road of Marsiling. 

Large banyan engulfing the remaining gatepost below the oldgrowth forest 2017.

The canopy of the oldgrowth forest 2017.

Lindera lucida 2017

Endospermum diadenum 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017

Cinnamomum javanicum: The Spice of Life

A rare find! Cinnamomum javanicum
Cinnamomum javanicum is a native wild cinnamom tree considered to be critically endangered in Singapore. It is so very rare that to find not one but two (though young trees) close together is to me an exceptional event in modern-day Singapore. All the more poignant that they should be found in MacRitchie forest currently threatened by the intrusion of the Cross Island MRT Line.

Persistence did the job. And love too. Going where no one go, I do cut a happy trooper most of the time and I am glad. A fruitful start coming at the turn of a new year but not without the bittersweet spice of life attending the wake of my consciousness. It was only last Christmas Eve that I was told of my dear friend's passing. Dr Benito Tan or Ben as I affectionately called him; he is and will forever be etched in my memory as among the best of friends that I could ever find. I am indeed blessed.

Death, Love and Time are my constant friends; recurring themes that I find so much alive and ado living with nature, especially for a happy 58-year-old that is me. The taste of joy is hard to describe when the contemplative recesses of experience never leave you alone. You remember in your head where whither you have been all these years and in your heart whom you have known and loved and got inspired. I thank them all. Such is the spice of life.

This discovery comes also in the wake of an oil spill in the vicinity of our much-loved Pulau Ubin island. Only a few days earlier I swam almost 200m towing a long train of oil booms to secure the seaward side of our marvelous mangrove at Chek Jawa. I did not want my young inexperienced colleagues to do it so I took the plunge myself. It is over and done with and I am glad. I have Dr Tan Wee Kiat (formerly of NIE) to thank though. He taught me an invaluable respect of the sea and the skill of drown-proofing. He also showed me what a wonderful human person could ever aspire to be. To him (a non-botanist) and all my esteemed botanists (past and present) I put at the threshold of your door my deepest respect; all mistakes and failures are mine totally. (Haha)

Last but not least, this moment of happiness has been heightened by Prof. Teh Tiong Sa coming online in Facebook after such a long break of silence! I was worried and as you can imagine, immensely glad to know he is well at long last. To him I am deeply indebted. Gave me courage when I needed it most and all the time inspiring me with his love of outdoor and his keen sense of enquiry as a geographer. I aim no less to see beyond the normal and be out there as much as I can in the field - happily ground truthing.

For these and many things I am truly glad and give thanks.

Leaf as long as 25cm
Long drooping slender branches
Leaf arrangement - opposite, sub-opposite and spiral
Aerial roots
Lamina bullate with pointed leaf tip
Midrib and secondary nerves raised above
Midrib and lamina hairy throughout
Secondary nerves and inter-marginal veins hairy throughout
Hairy rounded stem and bud
Tripli-nerved and densely hairy