Eu Jin Koh
5 Common Tree Species in Singapore
Trees green the roads we travel on and cover parks we walk in, sheltering us from the worst of Singapore’s sun and absorbing excess heat that would otherwise soak into our roads and buildings. We pass by them in the dozens on our daily hustles, occasionally enthralled by their prolific flowering but otherwise exist silently in the background of our minds. If you’ve ever pondered about the identity of these stalwarts of nature, you have come to the right place! Here are the 5 most commonly seen tree species in Singapore
1. Rain Tree (Samanea saman)
The Rain Tree is arguably the most iconic tree in Singapore, its umbrella-shaped form easily recognized from a distance. It has fluffy pinkish white flowers, which pepper the crown of the tree during its blooming phase, attracting a host of bees and other nectar loving insects. Fast growing and tolerant of frequent pruning, it gets its namesake from the way its leaflets fold up prior to rain. Its local Malay name, Pukul Lima, is also derived from the folding of leaves at around 5pm, remaining closed until around daybreak the next day.
2. Tembusu (Cyrtophyllum fragrans)
Take a look at the back of a Singapore 5 dollar bill and you will spot a fine specimen of this tree, which still stands strong at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. A personal favourite of the writer for its resilience against the strongest storms, the Tembusu’s deeply fissured trunk and spreading buttresses are easily recognized on both roadsides and in the parks. In addition, its fragrant flowers and subsequent berries appear a few times a year, inviting both butterflies and birds for a feast.
3. Yellow Flame (Peltophorum pterocarpum)
Occasionally confused with the Rain Tree to the budding tree lover due to its similarly bipinnately compound leaves, the Yellow Flame is easily distinguished when it puts on a dazzling display of yellow flowers that cover its entire crown. These turn into flat, reddish brown seed pods that darken over time. Having smaller leaflets, higher flowering frequencies and shedding dead branches less frequently than the Rain Tree, it is an ideal alternative when a balance between colour, shade and maintenance needs to be struck in a landscape.
4. African Mahogany (Khaya senegalensis)
Once a frequent and impressive sight alongside our roads, the African Mahogany is now being progressively removed throughout Singapore due to its susceptibility to basal rot and eventual uprooting during inclement weather, which poses a significant risk to its surroundings due their immense sizes (both in height and trunk girth).
It is however, known to be a hardy tree in general, having excellent tolerance to a variety of site conditions, heavy pruning, and high transplanting survival rate. It vigorously produces wound wood and often fully compartmentalises pruning cuts rapidly, preventing the entry of pathogens and subsequent onset of decay.
5. Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia rosea)
No article on Singapore trees would be complete without the mention of our Trumpet Trees! Known for their stunning display of comforting pink or white flowers, which cover the entire crown of the tree, this tree is primarily planted for shade in parks and along roadsides. It is tolerant of long dry and hot conditions, which is the indicative precursor to its blooms, which are triggered following bouts of heavy rains.
Its flowers are papery thin and may become a slipping hazard following a rain, as the flowers are easily dislodged and line the footpaths like wet and slippery sheets of colourful tissue paper. These mass blooms appear about twice a year and are often more showy during the first half of the year.
National Parks Board, Singapore, NParks Flora and Fauna Web, accessed at "https://www.nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb/flora/8/4/8480"
National Parks Board, Singapore, NParks Flora and Fauna Web, accessed at "https://www.nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb/flora/3/0/3056"
National Parks Board, Singapore, NParks Flora and Fauna Web, accessed at "https://www.nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb/flora/3/1/3171"
National Parks Board, Singapore, NParks Flora and Fauna Web, accessed at "https://www.nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb/flora/2/8/2895"
National Parks Board, Singapore, NParks Flora and Fauna Web, accessed at "https://www.nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb/flora/2/9/2979"