Singapore's holly jolly Christmas trees

Clockwise from left: A sea teak, jelutong, Cook pine, and Borneo kauri. PHOTOS: NPARKS FLORA & FAUNA WEB

SINGAPORE - Few things indicate the arrival of Christmas more than the mass set-up of pine trees in homes here.

Yet all year round, there are signs of Christmas cheer in verdant Singapore.

Mr Oh Cheow Sheng, group director for streetscape at the National Parks Board (NParks) said sub-tropical and tropical conifers - a group of trees including the iconic Christmas pine - can be found in Singapore's green spaces.

"In addition to sub-tropical and tropical conifers, NParks has been planting a diversity of other trees with conical forms to enrich our urban landscape, be it along our streets or in our parks," he said.

The Straits Times highlights a few of them.

Sea teak (Podocarpus polystachyus)

This critically endangered tree is a tropical conifer that can grow up to 20m in height. Tolerant of poor soils, it grows naturally in habitats close to the shoreline, such as the landward edge of mangrove forests and rocky and sandy seashores. It is an important source of softwood timber, which is used for furniture and oars, for instance.

Borneo kauri (Agathis borneensis)

Native to the low and highland forests of Borneo, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Borneo kauri is a large conifer that can grow up to 50m. Its timber has been used for guitars, pianos, cabinets and boats.

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Cook pine (Araucaria columnaris)

Up to 30m tall, the Cook pine is an evergreen conifer native to New Caledonia. Like all other conifers, this species produces male and female cones on separate trees, although the cones and seeds are seldom produced in Singapore. The tree is named after Captain James Cook, who discovered the plant on the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia.

Jelutong (Dyera costulata)

Native to Singapore, the Jelutong is a flowering tree that develops a conical form when young. This large tree can grow up to 80m tall, and can be found in Singapore's forests. It has broad leaves that are replaced by young, red leaves after a long dry spell. The latex tapped from this tree is called gutta jelutong, which was once used to make chewing gum.

Common Malayan mistletoe (Dendrophthoe pentandra)

This is the most common species of mistletoe in Singapore, and can be found growing on trees and shrubs along roads, in parks and gardens. This bushy plant can grow up to 2m tall, and has fruit that look like berries, which can grow up to 1.2cm in length, and may be covered with soft hair. The leaves of this mistletoe can be pounded and used to treat sores and ulcers, and is also known as a post-childbirth medication.

Sea holly (Acanthus sp.)

Singapore has three species of the sea holly, all of which grow in mangrove habitats. They have spiny leaves similar to the temperate plant used in Christmas decorations, although the local versions are not closely related to the Christmas holly. Instead, they were named after the Christmas holly due to the resemblance of the shape of their leaves.

Source: NParks, ST File


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