Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos moluccensis 13 cm
One of the smallest woodpeckers, this resident woodpecker is most frequently found in mangroves and coastal areas, yet also common in gardens. This species can be deciphered from the black mask around its eyes, a brown plumage, as well as white, striated flanks and underbelly. “Dook, dook”, you can often hear it pecking wood in the campus.
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 19 cm
Brown shrikes have a distinctive black mask around their eyes. Their harsh chatterings and rattlings often wake people up early in the morning. Don’t be deceived by its petite stature: this bird is a “butcher”, with a wide diet ranging from insects (mainly butterflies and moths) to even small birds and lizards! The shrike in this photo perches erect on the tree branch, searching for preys, which will be brutally impaled on plant thorns.
Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris 25 cm
The collared kingfisher is not just a “king” fisher — it is also a very good insect hunter. Looked at its prominent beak: a pair of “pincers” that never fail to capture their preys. The kingfishers are sometimes seen perching on the nets of our street football court or on the trees near our canteen, searching for the unfortunate little bugs. Unlike like most birds where the female birds are duller than the female birds, the female collared kingfisher features a jade-like green whereas the male features a plainer blue.
Eugenia Eugenia oleina
Many of the Eugeniahave been propagated, cloned and generously donated by our school alumnus Mr Mak Chin On, who is an expert in horticulture and plant propagation. After several years growing multiple generations of them, Mr Mak was able to successfully cultivate Eugeniawith deep liver-red leaves that are seen in abundance in our school today. Numerous shrubs of both orange-red and liver-red Eugenialine the side of Tan Kah Kee Drive, acting as ornamental foliage, alongside the lipstick palms and bougainvilleas in the same row. These plants are pruned regularly by our school gardeners into dome-shapes, showcasing a fresh layer of red leaves after every trim. They certainly add on to the rich diversity of the plants and vibrant mixture of colours displayed along the driveway! Its larger companions stand in the SRC, with the shorter pomelo tree in between them. These slow growing trees were, in fact, planted just when the SRC was first built. The trees here may look very different from those along the road, but one can ascertain they are of the same species after observing the red leaves on the surface of its canopy.
Rain Tree Samanea saman
The Rain Tree, introduced to Singapore in 1976, is currently the most cultivated roadside tree. During rainy days, the leaves of the tree will droop, giving it its common name. Along with its brothers in the Heritage trees registry, the majestic, iconic Rain Trees lining our school’s terraces have also seen its fair share of Hwa Chong’s history, from the annual Founder’s Day events - including this year’s centennial celebrations - to welcoming yearly batches of new students at Orientation, cementing itself as a part of Hwa Chong’s identity. Despite their sheer size, these raintrees were not here when our school was first established. In fact, they were only planted 3 to 4 decades ago, over the former Casuarina trees. The Casuarinas used leave a mess after shedding their leaves all over the ground, and also provided little shade for the students. Consequently, they were removed and replaced with the raintrees that we see today. With its widespread, umbrella-shaped canopy, these trees are perfect for providing shade for the students and teachers in daily flag raising ceremonies and physical education classes at the field. The Rain Trees contribute significantly to the ecosystem in Hwa Chong. Using its fissured barks that retain water, it becomes an excellent host to a variety of epiphytes, such as the Bird Nest ferns and Dragonscale Ferns, while its sugary pods are found to provide food for the squirrels occasionally found wandering around the campus.
Saga Tree Adenanthera pavonina
The Saga Trees appear on both sides of the Clock Tower. They can be easily identified if one were to look intently on the ground for their small but distinctive red seeds. These seeds are scattered within the vicinity of the trees after its pods have burst. There used to be 3 Saga Trees along Tan Kah Kee Drive. The oldest among the 3 was planted when the Clock Tower was built, and was located in front of the SRC. After being partially damaged, it died in 2015. Recently, more of these trees have been planted along the driveway, with wild orchids grafted to their trunks. The iconic Saga Tree found beside the stone table and benches beside the Clock Tower once had the school bell hung from one of its the branches. Back then, students would gather below the tree, around the stone table and spend quality time with one another. This tree and its bell were wonderfully illustrated by alumnus and artist Mr Lee Kow Fong’s (“Ah Guo”) painting “百年钟声. 100 Years of Bell Ringing”, as a tribute to Hwa Chong during its centennial year.
Lipstick Palm Cyrtostachys renda blume
The Lipstick Palm or Sealing Wax Palm has a prominent scarlet crownshaft and leaf sheath, which makes it stand out from other common palms. The hard outer wood of the stem can be used to make dart bodies. This popular ornamental palm adds a vibrant shade of vermilion to the predominantly green landscape on this part of the school. It is also not uncommon to spot bird nests built between the huge leaves of the palms. They must have been attracted to the red stems! Despite its common name, it is not a source of sealing wax. Instead, its name originated from the the similar colour of its red crownshaft and the wax used to seal letters.
Dragon's Scale Ferm Pyrrosia piloselloides
The dragon’s scale ferns are commonly found growing alongside the bird’s-nest ferns and rabbit foot ferns on towering raintrees. This fern grows two different kinds of fronds (leaves). The younger fronds are cute “puffy” heart-shaped “scales” that truly turn the tree they wrap around into a majestic dragon, while narrow, elongated mature fronds with brown spores dot the periphery.
Bird's Nest Fern Asplenium nidus
The epiphytic fern is commonly seen wedged in the branches of large trees, especially rain trees in Singapore. The fern is not parasitic, and can be found to grow independently. Fronds (leaves) form a rosette, resembling a bird’s nest, where fallen leaves accumulate. The fallen leaves soaks up rainwater, releasing water and nutrients for the fern. Brown spore sacs can be found on the underside of mature fronds (leaves).