Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trip Report: Ficus, Plumeria and Palms at Gardens by the Bay

For my one free day in Singapore, I set out to visit the recently-opened Gardens by the Bay, a garden that cost over 1 billion Singapore dollars to build.  I literally took 1,114 pictures during my 1 day in Singapore!  Needless to say, I won't be posting all of those pictures here.  I am trying to come up with a reasonable number of blog posts on a reasonable number of subjects and a small collection of photos.  First off are some trees from the outdoor gardens, specifically those of the Ficus, Plumeria and various Palm genera.

GBB has a great collection of trees, including several species of Ficus I had never seen before.  One of the first Ficus that I saw (and really admired) was Ficus deltoidea.  My friend, Shawn, that toured the gardens with me, said that Ficus deltoidea is quite common in Singapore and is even used as a hedge or ground cover.  Sure enough, later we saw it densely planted, as if intended to become a ground cover.

Ficus deltoidea

Ficus deltoidea gets its name from the appearance of the veins on the leaf, which look like a river delta.  There are a couple of other Ficus with triangular leaves.  The species Ficus natalensis ssp. leprieurii has very smooth, triangular green leaves and small brown figs.

Ficus natalensis ssp. leprieurii, Triangle Fig

The Rusty Fig has a very prominent trunk, even when the total tree height is not tall.  The bark is smooth and gray.  The tree gets its name from the color of the undersides of the leaves.  This particular tree had a ton of aerial roots handing down from the branches.  My guess is that the gardens staff is going to have their work cut out for them keeping this tree in check.  It could easily take over and become a behemoth.

Ficus rubiginosa, Rusty Fig

The most unusual Ficus award goes to the Philippine Fig, Ficus pseudopalma.  This tree was small, but really didn't look like a Ficus to me.  Like a palm, the leaves were all emerging from the crown of the tree, with the large black figs packed in at the base of the leaves.

Ficus pseudopalma, Philippine Fig

Most of the large trees were clearly identified with markers, but one Ficus that I really liked was missing a placard.  It had very small figs that were bluish in color.

Unknown Ficus

I am used to seeing Plumeria rubra trees in various flower colors in most tropical places.  The only other Plumeria species I have seen in Plumeria pudica, which has leaves of a distinctively different shape.  GBB had three other Plumeria (or at least what I thought were Plumeria) that I had not seen before.  One appeared to be the regular Plumeria rubra, but in miniature.  Another looked similar to Plumeria rubra, but had a purplish tint to the leaves.  The flowers were small and understated.  The fruit that formed after pollination was totally different from the fruit of Plumeria rubra; this one was fleshy, football shaped and dark purple.

Mystery tree with colorful leaves and small flowers

I have enlisted the help of my friends in tracking down the identity of this mystery tree.  They are thinking that it is not a Plumeria afterall.  One possible genus is Cerbera.  I am still looking for the correct ID.

Fruit or seed pod from the mystery tree.

The other interesting Plumeria was labeled as Plumeria obtusa 'Hanging Windmill.'  The flowers of this tree are spidery and white and the foliage is much darker than the typical Plumeria.

Plumeria obtusa 'Hanging Windmill'

Of course, there were lots of palm trees at GBB, but I am still only casually taking notice of palms when they strike me as very different from other palms I have seen.  One that fit this bill was Arenga pinnata, which had very dark fiber up the entire trunk.  This is known as the sugar palm, because the unopened inflorescence can be tapped to yield a sugar water.  This palm is important to the diet of the endangered Cloud Rat.  Yes, that is a real animal.

Arenga pinnata, Sugar Palm

Arenga pinnata trunk

The other palm that caught my notice was a bottle palm, Hyophorbe lagenicaulis.  There was a row of these along a median at one of the entrances to the park.  They just have a really neat shape to them, don't they?

Hyophorbe lagenicaulis, Bottle Palm

Well, this is something like episode 1 of 10, chronicling my trip to Singapore's Gardens by the Bay.  So stay tuned for many more photos and posts soon!


  1. Great photos and I love the Phillipine Fig!

  2. Wow, I can't help being Jealous. Not only for the plants you are seeing, but Singapore has tons of fish farms which I would love to visit. You should head down to their aquariums for me if you have time. Will you be bringing back any Aroids? There should be some sweet native Alocasia species there if I am not mistaken. You should check regulations online. It might be worth the time to get through customs.

    Best of luck
    (keep posting images)
    --Nico Fish

  3. Plumeria obtusa 'Hanging Windmill' is commonly growing in many houses of Bangalore, India. I photographed the first spring flower open up on 27.03.2013 on a tree just outside my son's balcony on the 1st floor near Ulsoor Lake in central Bangalore. Thereafter one to two buds swelled and opened up per day. Some flowers dropped off the tree after three days. The carpet of fallen flowers beneath the tree is also a pretty sight.

  4. Thanks for the post on GBB. I love it. Are there any more similar post on GBB?