Root Awakening: Thorns disappear as Cabbage Tree matures

Thorns disappear as Cabbage Tree matures

I found this plant growing near my flat. Its trunk and branches have large durian-like thorns. What is it?

Larry Henson

It is a sapling of the Fagraea crenulata, commonly known as the Cabbage Tree. It is a relative of the Tembusu and both belong to the Loganiaceae family. This plant grows in wet areas and will become a large tree towering at about 20m. The thorns will disappear as the tree matures. It also exhibits a distinctive, tiered-branching growth habit. Specimens of it grow on the edge of the Eco Lake in Bukit Timah Core of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.



Fern may compete with orchid for nutrients

I found some ferns growing in my potted orchid. Can I let both grow together?

Constance Chan

I would recommend removing the fern. The first reason is aesthetics. The fern is a fast-growing plant and will rapidly multiply and fill up the pot, giving it a weedy, unkempt appearance.

Moreover, the fern can compete with the orchid for nutrients and water, and its roots will quickly fill the pot and trap excessive moisture, which can be detrimental to the growth of the orchid.

Your miniature Dendrobium orchid is an epiphyte, which prefers to have its roots in a more airy environment. Under ideal growing conditions, the roots of such orchids often dry out a little between each watering. Constant moisture around the roots of this orchid can lead to suffocation, rotting and death of the roots.


Simpleleaf Chastetree may have medicinal uses

What is this plant ?

Michele Ng

It is likely a Vitex trifolia, commonly known as the Simpleleaf Chastetree. As pictured, it has light blue-violet flowers. It is often grown locally as a medicinal plant. Various parts of the plant have been documented to treat ailments. For example, its roots are used to reduce fever while its leaves are used to treat sprains. Consult a reputable herbalist before using medicinal plants to treat any ailment.


Thai Dragon tree a common feature plant

My plant bloomed for the first time and the flowers lasted for about a month. What is its name?

Ah Eng Chew Leong

It is likely the Dracaena loureiri (synonym: Dracaena cochinchinensis). It is commonly known as the Thai Dracaena or Thai Dragon tree. It is a relatively common large- growing Dracaena species that is used as a feature plant in outdoor home gardens and landscapes.


Tip: Red Wax Ginger visually gorgeous

Known by a range of common names such as Backscratcher Ginger, Indonesian Wax Ginger and Red Wax Ginger, the Tapeinochilos ananassae is a highly sought-after ornamental plant for tropical outdoor gardens. It is a close relative of the spiral gingers (genus Costus) and is admired for its showy inflorescence which has long-lasting, red shiny bracts.

The true flowers of this plant are yellow. While they have a short life span, the yellow flowers provide a visual colour contrast against the red bracts. The plant is best grown in semi-shade and in the ground where the soil should be moist, friable and fertile.

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

• Got a gardening query? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures, if any, and your full name to

• The tip in the last Root Awakening on Oct 24 wrongly stated that the leaves of the variegated Boston fern should be left wet for prolonged periods. Dr Wong has clarified that the leaves should not be left wet for too long.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2015, with the headline 'RootAwakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe