Root Awakening: Seashore Ardisia is native to Singapore

Seashore Ardisia
Seashore ArdisiaPHOTO: LAY KOON SIM
Lagerstroemia speciosa
Lagerstroemia speciosaPHOTO: HWEE SIAN LOW
Pouteria campechiana
Pouteria campechianaPHOTO: JOHAN COOK
Cucurbita species
Cucurbita speciesPHOTO: JIMMY LEE

Seashore Ardisia is native to Singapore

I have seen many of these plants (pictured) at the Labrador Nature Reserve.

What are they and are their berries edible?

Lay Koon Sim

The plant is the Seashore Ardisia. Its botanical name is Ardisia elliptica. It is native to Singapore, where it grows naturally in coastal areas.

It can grow as a large shrub or a small tree and produces attractive clusters of fruit that turn black when ripe. The fruit is said to be edible, but is bland. Birds and other small fruit-eating mammals eat the fruit and disperse its seeds.

It is used in traditional medicine and is now often grown in local landscapes to screen off an area.


Giant Crape Myrtle an ornamental tree

I saw this flowering tree (pictured) in Upper Bukit Timah Road.

What is it?

Hwee Sian Low

The tree is the Giant Crape Myrtle and is botanically known as Lagerstroemia speciosa. It is a common ornamental tree that is widely planted in Singapore's parks, gardens and along the roads. Parts of this tree species have been known to be used in traditional medicine.


Eggfruit flesh has texture of egg yolk

I saw this fruit tree (pictured) in Sungei Tengah Road.

What is it and is the fruit edible?

Johan Cook

The tree is known as Eggfruit, Yellow Sapote or Canistel. Its botanical name is Pouteria campechiana.

When the fruit is ripe, its flesh is sweet and has a texture similar to that of a hard-boiled egg yolk. It is best to leave the fruit on the tree until it is ripe and falls off by itself.

Fruits picked from the tree are still immature and hard. Once plucked, they will not ripen properly and are astringent to taste.


Pumpkin plant produces male and female flowers

A friend gave me some seeds from South America. I planted them in my nursery and they started to flower in three weeks.

What is this plant (pictured) and can the fruit be eaten?

Jimmy Lee

It is likely to be a pumpkin plant of the Cucurbita species.

Its stems have tendrils that can wrap around supporting structures.

This plant produces male and female flowers.

In the absence of pollinators such as bees, you may have to hand-pollinate the flowers to promote fruit production.

Male flowers can be distinguished from female ones via the absence of an ovary that looks like a small pumpkin fruit and appears behind the petals.

Often, more male flowers are produced. They can be coated in batter and fried to make pumpkin flower tempura.



Musa laterita PHOTO:
WILSON WONG

Tip: Bronze Banana produces fruit with seeds

The Bronze Banana (pictured) - botanically known as Musa laterita - is an ornamental banana species that is grown in some gardens.

Plants can grow up to 2.5m tall and have paddle-shaped leaves. This species produces erect inflorescences, with bracts that are striking red, much like the colour of bricks.

When the fruit grows, it points skywards. Although edible, the fruit contains many seeds with very little pulp.

They make good teaching aids, as students can learn that a banana tree's fruits have seeds.

•Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, a certified practising horticulturist and founder of Green Culture Singapore (www.greenculturesg.com). 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 stlife@sph.com.sg.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe