As you walk around Hwa Chong amongst these “flowers” especially during a rainy season, you may suspect the if they are real or simply origami crafts because of their papery texture. If you stop to look closely, will you realise that what you have always mistaken as its petals, are really just the bracts meant to attract pollinators. Indeed, small cream-coloured flowers can be found hidden within the bracts. Common colours of these bracts include purple, white, orange and yellow, though ‘rainbow’ coloured Bougainvillea, with flowers of two colours on the same plant, are also often seen. The Bougainvillea is a signature plant in the Singapore landscape. It is extensively planted here because not many flowers can bring this explosion of colours to our hot, tropical environment all year round.
Rose of India Lagerstroemia speciosa
This tree sits a stone’s throw away from Kah Kee Hall, and is situated in front of a raised platform meant to be our very own “Speakers’ Corner”. Students are sometimes lucky enough to be greeted with a beautiful tree in full bloom, with purple flowers enveloping the tree as they make their way down to the canteen. When dried, leaves are traditionally used to treat diabetes and urinary problems in the Philippines Its wood is also popular for boat building around the region.
Willow 旱柳 Salix matsudana koidz
The 6 echoing shoutouts in one of Hwa Chong’s cheers, ‘Willow willow willow willow willow willow!’, refers to the 6 willow trees beside the Clock Tower. The willow is used for ornamental purposes. Its ethereal pendulous stem and slender leaves on their supple, dangling branches reminds one of the Rapunzel’s luxurious locks as they sway gracefully in a breeze, giving an enchanting appearance to the landscape. This was exactly the landscape that DP Mr Tan Pheng Tiong sought after as he looked for trees to complement the existing ones in school. In the past, this species of willow, also known as 旱柳 in Chinese, were seldom seen around the school. In fact, they were only planted after their close relatives, the more commonly known Weeping Willow (or 垂柳), were unable to grow well under Singapore’s hot climate and away from a water body. Soon, the Salix matsudana koidz have become a common sight within the campus, presenting a similar scenic effect as the Weeping Willow, despite having stiffer and shorter leaves.
Royal Palm Roystonea regia
The Royal Palms are found in neat rows along high school and JC carparks. Capable of growing up to 30m tall, they tower over almost all other trees around them. Even though there are many tall trees around the campus, none grows with the uniformity as the Royal Palms does. Unlike the MacArthur Palm, the Royal Palms do not have clustering behaviour. Some may mistake the Royal Palms for coconut because of their similarity: While they are certainly both under the palm family, one shouldn’t hope to get coconut from growing Royal Palms!