Tampines Tree (Sloetia elongatus)
Updated: Aug 19
In the 2nd part of our series on trees that have influenced the names of towns and places around Singapore, we shift our attention away from the northern coast and look towards the eastern region of Singapore at the estate of Tampines. This energetic estate is undergoing a process of rapid upgrading and expansion, with multiple BTO projects and other developments that add to its identity. But how did it get its name?
Named after Sungei Tampines, this river runs between the borders of Pasir Ris Park and Downtown East, ending soon after Tampines Eco Green. This river, in turn, was named after the Tempinis trees (Sloetia elongatus) which used to form the forests that once covered the area.
Heritage tree: Sloetia elongatus
The Tempinis tree is known for its hard wearing timber, which was significantly exploited by the British in the 1800s to build bridges, houses and the like. Growing up to 35m in height, it is a sturdy tree that tends to branch upwards and outwards, creating a spherical shaped crown that offers a modicum of shade to those underneath it.
A key identifying feature of this tree can be observed from its leaves which has an asymmetrically shaped base, with one side being larger than the other. Its teardrop shaped leaves are arranged in an alternate fashion along its branches, which end with a rather distinct drip-tip.
Note the asymmetry of the leaves
Being a monoecious plant, its male and female flowers grow separately on long, fleshy clusters that emerge from the axils of the plant’s leaves. Male flowers are tiny and white, growing plentifully from elongated clusters that extend up to 20 cm in length. Female flowers on the other hand in much fewer numbers, form raised, green bumps with two elongated arms extending from the cluster.
Male Flowers (top) Female Flowers (bottom)
Its fruits are round and white, growing around 1cm in diameter and are likely eaten by our monkeys and squirrels. If the reader finds the shape of the flowers & fruits uncannily similar to those of a mulberry (Morus alba) then they have a keen eye for plant morphology, as both plants belong to the same family (Moraceae)!
Female cluster with fruit on top Fruit of a mulberry plant
There are just 2 Tempinis heritage trees in Singapore; 1 is located offshore on St John’s Island and the other along Andover Road beside Chalet 7 of Changi Beach club. While there have been efforts to restore some of the trees in Tampines which shares its namesake, it will take a long while before the Tempinis tree becomes prominent there once again.
Know of other significant Tempinis trees hidden somewhere on the island? Nominate them over here!
National Parks Board, Singapore, accessed at:
National Heritage Board, Singapore, accessed at: