01 March 2010

Rare mangrove in bloom at Sentosa!

The Nyireh (Xylocarpus rumphii) grows among the tumbled down boulders at the base of decaying natural cliffs. Like other mangrove trees, it can grow below the high water mark (see how all the other cliffside plants are growing above the high water mark).
Few natural cliffs are left in Singapore. So the Nyireh is also rare. On this last natural rocky cliff on Sentosa grows a huge old Nyireh, and a smaller one next to her. Just a little above the seagrass meadows.

The magnificent matriach was blooming!

Her gnarly branches were cloaked in bright green leaves and dotted with showers of pale pink blossoms.
The flowers look very much like the more common Nyireh species. Hopefully these flowers will turn into viable fruits, so that they can be propagated to other suitable locations. The Nyireh is listed as Critically Endangered and so far, I've only seen them on Sentosa and on St. John's Island.
Another intriguing plant was growing high up on a sheer cliff face. Is it some kind of rarey fig?
I was out on Sentosa yesterday with Chris and Stephanie from the Netherlands. I'm so glad that the shores didn't disappoint them. We saw some hard corals here and there in the typically clear waters of this reef. Most exciting for me was to see large expanses of plate montipora corals (Montipora sp.) that I used to see in abundance at Labrador, before it was badly affected by the reclamation, underwater blasting and other works nearby.
There was a large clump of these corallimorphs with ridges that I seldom see.
The most frequently encountered animal on this shore were the colourful red egg crabs (Atergatis integerrimus). We also saw many brown eggs crabs (Atergatis floridus). Both crabs are highly poisonous to eat. Which is probably why they were brazenly busy out and about in daylight.
There were several tiny Copperband butterflyfishes (Chelmon rostratus) too fast for me to photograph. And this very large fat Worm eel (Muraenichthys sp.), the biggest one I've seen so far. Although it resembles a worm, it is actually a fish. This burrower has small eyes and a sharp pointed tail which it can use to dig backwards. We saw it disappear into a burrow with a splash never to appear again. Perhaps it found something nice to eat.
Today, we were lucky that the seaweed bloom had died out so we could better see the shore. There were still a nice variety of well behaved seaweeds. With many brown seaweeds that I don't usually see elsewhere in such abundance. I still haven't figured out what some of them are.
There are many well camouflaged animals on this shore. This little encrusted shell is home to a tiny banded hermit crab.
A large conical encrusted 'rock' turned out to be a Giant top shell snail (Trochus niloticus). Chris puts it on her arm to have a look at the animal as it crawled out. It was slimy, she said.
Another large snail with a well camouflaged shell is the Dolphin snail (Angaria delphinus). This is my first time seeing this snail on a shore other than Tanah Merah. Chris pointed out that the two grooves at the pearly shell opening are probably where the snail sticks out its tentacles. Oh, I never noticed that!
We also explored the very pebbly rocky shore teeming with snails of all kinds. These pretty pastel coloured Polished nerites (Nerita polita) were too nice not to photograph.
I was really glad to see that the Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) were still around. It seems to me that they've grown a lot bigger since I last saw them in Nov 09.
There were also lots of Common sea stars (Archaster typicus)! Many more than during our last visit. How nice!
And I also saw several Giant carpet sea anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea), more than I have I seen on past trips to Sentosa. But they were still rather small.
Before we left, Chris and Stephanie had a look at the shore which was affected by reclamation for the Integrated Resort.
There are still some reefs and seagrasses here, as well as sandy shores. With the Integrated Resort close to completion, I hope the disturbance to the shore will soon come to an end so that natural recovery can begin.

It was a lovely evening learning much from Chris and Stephanie and sharing on issues close to our hearts. And I'm glad to be able to share some of our natural shores with them.

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