Root awakening: Root systems of Saga Tree and Malayan Banyan can damage structures

Saga Tree (left) and Malayan Banyan (right).
Saga Tree (left) and Malayan Banyan (right).PHOTO: XU YANYUN

Root systems of Saga Tree and Malayan Banyan can damage structures

A tree sprouted from the planter box outside my house and grew quickly. I left it to grow as it has beautiful leaves and a bark with a rust-brown shade. How large will it grow and will it have extensive roots that will damage the planter or the back wall of my garden? My planter box is narrow and shallow.

Xu Yanyun

The one on the left is likely a Saga Tree (Adenanthera pavonina).

The one on the right looks like the Malayan Banyan (Ficus microcarpa), one of the most common fig species in Singapore. It is well- known for its aggressive root system.

As both can grow quite large, you may want to remove them promptly before they grow too big. Their root systems will damage concrete structures of your home.

It is advisable to engage a reputable landscape contractor to carry out this operation. Such tree species are often self-sown - their seeds are brought into your garden by birds. You may want to look out and remove such plants promptly in the future, when they are still small and cheaper to do so.


Tip: Heaven Lotus' heavenly blooms

The Heaven Lotus (its botanical name is Gustavia superba) is a medium-sized shrub or small tree which flowers seasonally in Singapore. It is native to tropical South America and is often grown for its large, showy and fragrant flowers.

It is not a common plant that is grown in local landscapes or sold in Singapore nurseries.

The Heaven Lotus can grow under both direct sun or shadier conditions, which makes it a useful plant for screening. It does best in moist and well-draining soils.


Fiddlewood Tree common in Singapore

What is this plant? Its flowers attract many bees.

Tan Liat

The tree is the Fiddlewood Tree, which is botanically known as Citharexylum spinosum.

It is a common tree species that is grown in streetscapes and parks.

It has bright orange, deciduous leaves - the tree loses its leaves seasonally - that are ornamental.

It is also commonly featured in scent gardens as it produces small, white and highly fragrant flowers that grow as pendulous inflorescences.


Mahkota Dewa a poisonous plant

This shrub bears cherry-like fruits. What is it and are the fruits edible? Or should I grow it as an ornamental plant? Tang Wen Fang

The plant is Mahkota Dewa (its botanical name is Phaleria macrocarpa).

It produces highly attractive fruits and is mainly grown for its medicinal properties. Do note that all parts of the plant are poisonous and should not be consumed directly without supervision.

More scientific work needs to be done to ascertain the efficacy and safety of using this plant to treat specific diseases.


Seashore Ardisia's fruits food for birds What are these plants?

Sharon Lee

The plant is the Seashore Ardisia (its botanical name is Ardisia elliptica).

It is a plant native to Singapore, where it grows naturally in coastal areas.

It can grow as a large shrub or a small tree and it produces attractive clusters of fruits which turn black when ripe. Birds and other small fruit-eating mammals eat the fruits and disperse its seeds.

Folklore suggests that it has some medicinal uses. It is gaining popularity as a screening plant in local landscapes.

• Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, a certified practising horticulturist and founder of Green Culture Singapore ( He is also an NParks-certified park manager.

• Have a gardening query? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB, if any, and your full name to

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2016, with the headline 'Root awakening: Root systems of Saga Tree and Malayan Banyan can damage structures '. Subscribe