10 April 2009

Blooming Ubin

Pulau Ubin was full of blossoms today!
In the mangroves, almost all the Xylocarpus granatum trees were blooming!

The pretty pink flowers dotted the fresh green trees in a nice blush. The flowers, you will note, grow out from the woody twigs. This is because the fruits eventually become enormous, which accounts for the common name of this tree: the Mangrove cannon-ball tree!According to Tomlinson, the flowers have a "strong but pleasant scent" (which I couldn't tell as I had a cold, alas). Bees are recorded as flower visitors and the shape of the flower suggests it is pollinated by short-tongued insects. Indeed, I saw this unidentified insect visiting the flowers.
Also in full bloom today were all the Api-api ludat (Avicennia officinalis) trees! This mangrove tree has yellow flowers on a cross-shaped inflorescence. Compared to the more common Api-api putih (Avicennia alba), the flowers are large and bunched up at the tips. According to Tomlison, the flowers emit a rancid or fetid smell. Well, I guess it was a good thing my nose was out of order today.

We noticed while the Api-api putih (Avicennia alba) were also in bloom, none of the Api-api bulu (Avicennia rumphiana) were in bloom. Perhaps they take turns? To share pollinators? Still much to learn about our mangroves.
Another mangrove special are the Teruntum merah (Lumnitzera littorea). This plant is not very common, but on Pulau Ubin large trees can be seen. And they were decked out in red blossoms today. According to Tomlinson, the flowers appear to be predominantly pollinated by birds, especially sunbirds. And Marcus photographed some doing just that. Bees and wasps are additional visitors.We also found a lovely Ceriops zippeliana. These mangrove trees seem always in bloom. The flowers are tiny though. And I managed to photograph the tiny fruit forming on a branch. This tree is distinguished by the textured fruit, which can already be seen even on the tiny developing ones.

There were lots of Bakau putih (Bruguiera cylindrica) and they were also in bloom, as they seem to do all the time.
While photographing the bumpy bark of this tree, I noticed a little spider! Could this be a Common two-tailed spider (Hersilia sp.)? This spider lives almost exclusively on tree trunks or stone walls. It immobilises its prey by spreading silk while jumping over and running around it.
There was a lovely patch of these green ferns on the ground near the mangrov'. es. Of course ferns don't flower, but these were so pretty and green, and full of fertile fronds. The sterile fronds are green with tiny serrations, and the fertile fronds are thin and almost tubular, with lots of golden spores.
And then there was this small tree in the understorey under tall trees near the edge of the mangroves. It had tiny little white blossoms. I have no idea what it might be.
Even the horticultural plants seemed to be bursting in bloom. This plant had lots of tubular white flowers. I don't know what it is.
A common wayside plant is the Singapore rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) also known as Sendudok. The beautiful flowers last only one day, opening after sunrise, closing the same day, with the petals falling off on the a few days later. We saw the usual purple ones today, as well as white ones. Growing wild.

This pretty plant can play an important role. It is host to caterpillars, while adult insects may feed on the nectar. Birds eat and disperse the seeds. Being among the first to colonise wasteland, the plant helps prevent soil erosion and to allow regeneration of vegetation in such places.

The seeds are tasteless and can be eaten, but stains the tongue black. In fact, the word melastoma is Greek for "black mouth".

We also saw a special mangrove tree today at Ubin! And another special seashore tree on Changi!

  • Tomlinson, P. B., 1986. The Botany of Mangroves Cambridge University Press. USA. 419 pp.

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