Punggol #instagramtree's days numbered

(Left) Undergraduates Charles Chung and Sue Tay taking pictures of the tree in July, and (above) a photo from the Instagram page of X.Karyl.
Undergraduates Charles Chung and Sue Tay taking pictures of the tree in July, and (above) a photo from the Instagram page of X.Karyl.PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, INSTAGRAM
(Left) Undergraduates Charles Chung and Sue Tay taking pictures of the tree in July, and (above) a photo from the Instagram page of X.Karyl.
(Above) Undergraduates Charles Chung and Sue Tay taking pictures of the tree in July, and a photo from the Instagram page of X.Karyl.PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, INSTAGRAM
CASUARINA TREE IN UPPER SELETAR RESERVOIR
CASUARINA TREE IN UPPER SELETAR RESERVOIR
TEMBUSU TREE IN SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS
TEMBUSU TREE IN SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS
FICUS TREE IN SENTOSA
FICUS TREE IN SENTOSA

All alone on a piece of state land in Punggol is a tree which has its own following on Instagram. Standing on top of a small hill along a waterway, it provides a stark contrast to much of Singapore's built-up urban environment.

But the tree, so famous that it even shows up on Google Maps as "Punggol Lone Tree", is dead after being struck by lightning about a month ago, leaving just half its branches.

"Some of the branches are starting to rot," said Mr Goh Si Guim, a Nature Society (Singapore) executive committee member.

Experts have identified it as an Albizia tree. The species is "an incredibly fast-growing tree species from eastern Indonesia", said Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society (Singapore).

Over 900 photos have been tagged #instagramtree on Instagram, most of them showing the Punggol tree.

STILL PICTURESQUE

It's still very picturesque... (the photos) don't even look like it's in Singapore.

OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE EYZAT AMER, 40, who visited the tree with his wife and four children, aged four to 15, at around 7pm a few weeks ago, after seeing photos of it on Instagram.

Marketing manager Tricia Quak said she took at least 50 photos with the tree in its full glory a month ago.

"From the photo angles that I saw on social media, there were no buildings that were captured in the background, and the tree seemed to be in the middle of very empty land - extremely rare in our small city of clutter," she said.

  • Other picturesque trees

  • CASUARINA TREE IN UPPER SELETAR RESERVOIR

    The tree has a bench on each side, making it a popular site for people taking wedding photographs. The benches face the reservoir, and this provides a nice background.

    "The tree seems somewhat meaningful when we take wedding photos," said Mr Tan X. L., owner of One Sweet Affair Production, a wedding photography company.

    TEMBUSU TREE IN SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS

    The tree is more than 200 years old, older than the 156-year-old Gardens itself, and is featured on the Singapore $5 note. It has a low-lying branch which some people used to sit on.

    FICUS TREE IN SENTOSA

    This giant tree overlooking a pond is another favourite for wedding shoots, providing a picturesque backdrop. Its thick low-lying branches can also double as a love seat.

Despite the poor state the tree is in now, some people are still taking photos with it. Operations executive Eyzat Amer, 40, paid a visit with his wife and four children, aged four to 15, at around 7pm a few weeks ago, after seeing photos of it on Instagram.

"It's still very picturesque," he said, adding that the photos "don't even look like it's in Singapore".

Instagram user jamieljm wrote: "I've always thought that I'll get to see this tree in its best form and took my time in coming round to see it and this just taught me to never take things for granted; to not assume that things will never change."

Dr Lum did not see a need to have the dead tree removed. "It will eventually topple and break apart and get recycled back into the earth, so I see no reason to remove it, unless experts deem it a hazard."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'Punggol #instagramtree's days numbered'. Print Edition | Subscribe