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Singapore’s secret “garden”

on 20th July 2023

Hidden somewhere in the east coast of Singapore is a secret garden. Actually this “garden” consists of short stretch of roadside trees. Growing mainly on the trunks of these old trees are huge staghorn ferns (Platycerium coronarium). I have not seen such large ferns ever since our roadside trees were stripped of such growth some 38 years ago. Although five years later there was an effort to reattach these roadside trees with ferns, things were never the same again.

Huge Staghorn Ferns growing from the trunk of a tree.

Now how did I locate this secret garden? It was my neighbour Sheng Lau who messaged me the location together with images of trees laden with ferns. The images impressed me to the extent that I yearned to see them for myself. With the help of Soh Lung who provided transport, we visited Jalan Keris one morning so that I could take photographs of the trees.

Huge Bird’s Nest Ferns growing between the wayside trees.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed thick ropes tying up the huge staghorn ferns to the tree trunks. What this imply is that the ferns did not grow naturally on the trees. Most probably they were brought there and attached to the trees many years ago by the National Parks Board. I tried to ask around as to how these ferns found their way to this rural area but but was unsuccessful in getting any answer.

Close-up of two Staghorn Ferns showing the ropes that tie them firmly to the tree trunk.

Later on, it suddenly came to me that these huge ferns are most probably those ripped from the urban areas way back in 1985 and brought to this far off rural area where few people frequent. If my theory is true, we have to thank the National Parks Board for rescuing the ferns and relocating them to Jalan Keris, rather than destroying them. Thanks NParks.

Text by YC Wee; Images supplied by Sheng Lau and YC Wee.

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If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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