18 July 2009

Rare mangrove plants at Sungei Buloh

I got to see the special Tumu Berau (Bruguiera sexangula) at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Thanks to Brandon for showing it to me!This tree is listed as 'Critically Endangered' on our Red List, and previously, there were only two trees known in Singapore, both on Pulau Tekong. Planted saplings from the Tekong trees are also growing nicely next to the Chek Jawa boardwalk.

I heard from Dr John Yong that two naturally occuring trees were identified at Sungei Buloh. One tree was found by volunteers at the Reserve, Hong and Ed; and another tree by Dr Yong, who confirmed both as being Bruguiera sexangula, probably from propagules from the Johor mangroves.

Recently Brandon shared a photo of the propagule of the tree! So I was very excited to see it for myself when I visited the Reserve to join the Spider Survey.
The tree isn't very tall or very obvious. Nestled among other Bruguiera species, it is easy to overlook it if not for its very distinctive propagule with the calyx (the pointy cap-like structure) held away from the propagule. According to Hsuan Keng, this tree was previously found in Kranji, Jurong and Tanjong Pasir Laba. Elsewhere, it is also considered the rarest of the Bruguiera. More about this tree on my earlier post.

Brandon also posted photos of the propagule over different dates. Visit his Biodiversity Singapore blog to see how it's doing.

At Platform 1, native orchids have been replanted on the trees there. And this huge happy Cymbidium orchid was flowering!
Here's a poor photo of the flower.
According to this Straits Times article, a programme to replant our rare native orchids has rescued some species from the brink of extinction. For example, the slender-petalled Cymbidium bicolor was thought to be lost from Singapore, but a single plant was found within the wetlands at Sungei Buloh. Researchers rushed there to pollinate it and get it to produce fruit and seeds. Now, there are about 150 plants - alive and well - at Sungei Buloh, Dairy Farm, Pulau Ubin and other areas.

Cymbidium bicolor spp pubescens and Cymbidium finlaysonianum are listed as 'Critically Endangered' on our Red List.

Another delightful plant that is extensively replanted and doing very well at the Reserve is the Bakung or Seashore spider lily (Crinum asiaticum). It too is listed as 'Critically Endangered' on our Red List.
A gianormous lily with lovely white flowers, it is seldom found wild along the coasts. However, it is extensively planted as an ornamental in gardens and public places. According to Davidson, it is found in sandy shores and the back mangroves. Wild populations are restricted to Pulau Seletar, Sungei Khatib Bongsu, Sungei Mandai and the Western Catchment area. According to Hsuan Keng, it was formerly found on sandy shores including Changi, Kranji, Sungei Buloh, Sungei Tengah; eventually restricted to Pulau Semakau, Sungei Mandai and the Western Catchment Area.
The plant arises from an underground, fleshy bulb. From this grows a rounded and fleshy 'stem' (actually the lower part of the leaves). Leaves long (50cm-1m) and narrow with a pointed tip. Many white flowers in a cluster, large (8-9cm) and sweetly scented. Fruit irregularly rounded, white (about 5cm) containing green seeds.

According to Burkill, it is poisonous and medicinal uses include inducing vomiting when wounded by a poison arrow. The leaves are used by Malays in a poultice to treat fevers, headaches, swellings. Boiling the plant results in a lotion for general use on the body. According to Wee, the crushed leaves are used to wash piles. Mixed with honey they are applied to wounds and abscesses.

What a delight to see so many rare plants doing well at our Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve!

  • Hsuan Keng, S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Singapore University Press. 222 pp.
  • Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
  • Tomlinson, P. B., 1986. The Botany of Mangroves Cambridge University Press. USA. 419 pp.
  • Giesen, Wim and Stephan Wulffraat, Max Zieren and Liesbeth Scholten. 2006. Mangrove Guidebook for Southeast Asia (PDF online downloadable). RAP publication 2006/07 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific Bangkok.


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