UK State Visit: New bloom in ties between Singapore and London botanic gardens

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and President Tony Tan Keng Yam view a display of Singaporean items from the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace in London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and President Tony Tan Keng Yam view a display of Singaporean items from the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace in London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary are shown the statue of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles by Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster (right) in Westminster Abbey on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary are shown the statue of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles by Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster (right) in Westminster Abbey on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (right) sits with Mrs Mary Tan, the wife of President Tony Tan Keng Yam, at the Royal Garden Hotel in London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (right) sits with Mrs Mary Tan, the wife of President Tony Tan Keng Yam, at the Royal Garden Hotel in London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Queen Elizabeth II share a toast during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in central London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Queen Elizabeth II share a toast during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in central London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron shakes hands with President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the door of No. 10 Downing Street in central London on Oct 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron shakes hands with President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the door of No. 10 Downing Street in central London on Oct 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
President Tony Tan Keng Yam takes part in the procession through the main hall ahead of a banquet in his honour at the Guildhall in central London on Oct 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
President Tony Tan Keng Yam takes part in the procession through the main hall ahead of a banquet in his honour at the Guildhall in central London on Oct 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary Tan hold mementos after a visit to film production company Aardman Animatons at their head office in Bristol on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary Tan hold mementos after a visit to film production company Aardman Animatons at their head office in Bristol on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife, Mrs Mary Tan, after being presented with a keepsake by co-founders of Aardman Animatons Peter Lord (second from left) and David Sproxton (right) at their head office in Bristol on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife, Mrs Mary Tan, after being presented with a keepsake by co-founders of Aardman Animatons Peter Lord (second from left) and David Sproxton (right) at their head office in Bristol on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
President Tony Tan Keng Yam leaves in a carriage with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II after attending a ceremonial welcome at Horse Guards Parade in London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
President Tony Tan Keng Yam leaves in a carriage with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II after attending a ceremonial welcome at Horse Guards Parade in London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

More than a century ago, the seeds of Southeast Asia's rubber industry were planted in Singapore's Botanic Gardens.

The rubber seedlings came from the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew in London, and eventually dispersed to the region, where rubber became a major export crop.

On Friday, a new chapter to the longstanding and rich ties between Singapore and London's botany blossomed, as President Tony Tan Keng Yam visited Kew Gardens on the fifth of his six-day day state visit to Britain.

On his tour of its sprawling green lawns with trees turning an early autumnal gold, he visited the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which features tropical orchids like the blooms grown in Singapore.

At the Marianne North Gallery, named after the botanical artist, he viewed paintings of plants and landscapes in Singapore and Borneo that Ms North painted when she travelled the region in the 1870s.

He was given a copy of an 1876 painting by Ms North of a Singaporean lane surrounded by lush trees.

Dr Tan also viewed a collection of Singapore-related items from the Kew archives, including photographs of the rubber trees and key staff of the Singapore Botanic Gardens taken from 1879 to 1927.

The President's visit comes amid Singapore's bid for its Botanic Gardens to be a Unesco World Heritage Site, the result of which could be known as early as next June.

Kew Gardens helped with the bid, sending scans of pertinent documents in their archives to Singapore's Botanic Gardens.

Dr Tan thanked them for helping in the bid and paid tribute to the collaboration and exchanges between both Gardens.

Both Gardens collaborate on large projects in the region, such as the volumes documenting the species of flora in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea.

Following his visit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Singapore and British governments reaffirmed their commitment to tackle climate change.

This includes continuing to take national action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris next year.

Both countries remain committed to working constructively at the conference to reach a new international agreement to tackle climate change, added the MFA statement.

This agreement should be in line with the conference's goal of limiting the rise in global average temperature to within two degrees Celsius.

It should also "allow all nations, big and small, to make a responsible contribution to tackling the climate change challenge", said the statement.