The fast growing African Mahogany has a tall and firm trunk where lustrous leaves spread out evenly at its top. You may observe that unlike rain trees, they do not have epiphytic ferns growing on them. A row of these majestic trees lining the Tan Kah Kee Drive was planted in 1997. Apart from being well-known for providing beautiful lumber, the African Mahogany also provide cooling shade for pedestrians. It certainly makes walking up the hill every morning a lot easier!
Alexandra Palm Archontophoenix alexandrae
Alexandra Palms grow in regions frequented by heavy rainfalls and thus they have become a common species here in Singapore. This row of palms are still in their infancy, as evident from their height. At full maturation, they are capable of growing up to 25m, similar to the tall royal palms that line the river in High School, as well as the roads in various other parts of the school. Come back and take a look at them after a few years. You will be surprised by how tall they have grown by then!
Aloe Aloe sp.
Well known for its healing properties across cultures, Aloes are hardy succulents native to arid environments. The Egyptians called it the 'Plant of Immortality' because it can live and even bloom without soil. Its sap can be used to treat burns, wounds and constipation, among many uses. Its ability to work its magic is attributed to the synergistic effects of over 160 different compounds, reminding us of the power of teamwork.
Asian Bayberry Nageia nagi
Although it is in the podocarpus family — which has some very toxic members — Nageia Nagi (Nagi is the term for tree in Japanese) has edible young leaves and seed oil, which can be extracted from its marble size blue fruit. It is also a valuable timber tree but sadly, its native habitats are threatened. To ensure that we continue to enjoy the company of this magnificent and useful plant, we must protect our environment, and give back to it what it has provided us with.
Asian Hazel Corylus heterophylla
The Asian Hazel produces hazelnuts that many people savour. It is also grown in the College Butterfly Garden for its leaves, as it is an abundant source of food for the many species of caterpillars around the garden. With these host plants capable of growing up to 7 m, the caterpillars will never go hungry!
Bamboo Orchid Arundina graminifolia
The Bamboo Orchid bears unique, lilac flowers. Its three narrow sepals and two lateral, oval petals range from white to pink. The third petal is modified to a bright rosy purple lip with a central bright yellow patch. Its scientific name ‘Arundina’ means reed, which refers to its stem, while ‘graminifolia’ means ‘grass-like’. Its uncanny resemblance to bamboo is where it gets its common name.
Banana Musa sp.
The modern banana is an interesting plant for it boasts no seeds and is a triploid (having 3 sets of chromosomes, which is possible for plants but has not been found in animals). However, this makes it infertile, i.e. unable to reproduce sexually. It is very unlike its natural predecessors which have small fruits full of seeds. Instead, these artificially selected banana reproduce asexuallly through vegetative propagation. They produce suckers, lateral shoots that develop from the adult plant. Consequently, every variety found internationally are clones. This, unfortunately, makes them extremely vulnerable to diseases which can quickly wipe out whole plantations.
Bengal Trumpet Thunbergia grandiflora
The huge wall of Bengal vines cover the entire fence beside the high school street soccer court.
Capable of growing up to 20m in height, the length and ingenious placement of these flower-bearing vines hide the entire fence, turning it into a tall plane of lush greenery spotted with countless purple flowers.
Betel-nut palm Areca catechu
These betel-nut palms shoot up as tall as the 4-storey high College Block E. They boast magnificent fronds (palm leaflets) that could grow up to 2m in length. The betel nut is not a true nut, but rather a fruit categorized as a berry. It is commercially available in dried, cured, and fresh forms. When fully ripened, the fruit is bright red in colour. The fruit flesh on the seed has psychoactive properties (stimulating effects). Addicts of betel quids reveal their habit when they smile - their teeth are stained a reddish-black, dyed from years of chewing potent parcels of betel nuts and tobacco, wrapped in a lime-coated betel leaf. Unfortunately, the fruit is also believed to be carcinogenic, accounting for high incidences of oral cancers in South-East Asian communities that still consume betel nut prolifically.
Bird's Nest Fern Asplenium nidus
The epiphytic fern is commonly seen wedged in the branches of large trees, especially raintrees 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 soak up rainwater, decay, releasing water and nutrients for the fern. Brown spore sacs can be found on the underside of mature fronds (leaves).
Black Face General Strobilanthes crispus
Do not underestimate this plant because of its inconspicuous flowers! The plant has been in the limelight recently for the antioxidant and anticancer properties of its leaf extracts and may even help with diabetes!
Blue Plumbago Plumbago auriculata
Plumbago blossoms one of the few flowers that boasts a hue of blue , making it a rarity among flowering plants . The fused corolla of the petal quintet are borne on rounded terminal clusters, and in Singapore flowering continues throughout the year. The name 'Plumbago' is derived from the Latin word "plumbum" meaning "lead" (the metallic element), as the plant was widely used as a remedy for lead poisoning.
Blue Snakeweed Stachytarpheta indica
This interesting nectaring plant originated from Africa, and is regarded as an invasive species in the rice fields of Asia. Its fresh leaves are consumed in bush tea as a 'cooling' tonic and blood cleanser, to treat asthma and sometimes ulcerated stomachs. In HCI’s butterfly garden, it proudly claims a small region of land as its own. In addition, the beautiful blue and purple flowers that bloom on the Snakeweed are particularly attractive to many species of butterflies within the vicinity. Apart from its leaves having numerous medicinal properties, they primarily act as nectar sources for the butterflies that frequent them in the garden. With these plants around, it is no wonder that the garden is teeming with lively butterflies
Bougainvillea Bougainvillea glabra
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.
Bower Vine Pandorea jasminoides
Bower Vines attract nectar-eating birds and insects with their pale-pink trumpet flowers. It is also a vigorous ornamental native climber which quickly screens unsightly walls. A rather resilient plant, it can survive with little water once established.
Buddhist Pine Podocarpus macrophyllus
This living fossil belongs to a genus of conifers, the Podocarpus, that traces it lineage back to 240 million years ago. Its dark green leaves are lanceolate in shape and arranged spirally. The younger leaves at the center of each cluster are lighter in colour, giving the entire tree a dynamic colour scheme. Their fruits are purple and fleshy when matured, and are often hidden in the pockets between leaf clusters. This single podocarpus is found growing amongst the Mussaendas and Yellow Elders along the road. In fact, it was planted and cared for by the Hwa Chong Outdoor Activities Club!
Candelabra Bush Senna alata
Senna alata has smooth, thin, leathery leaves and golden inflorescences that resemble glowing candles. The flowers are arranged in a vertical column and they bloom from the base of the column while the unopened buds on top are covered under orange bracts. Below the yellow flowers where earlier blossoms have already fallen, you can see winged pods with frilly edges extending out horizontally from the flower stalk. Senna alata can be used medicinally for its fungicidal properties, specifically as treatment against ringworm and other skin fungal infections.
Cardboard Cycad Zamia furfuracea
After Cycas revoluta, the Cardboard Cycad is without doubt the second most commonly grown cycad. It is among the most primitive living seed plants (a living fossil) dating back to the time of the dinosaurs. Why is it called the cardboard cycad? Well...its leaves are uniquely (though not exceptionally) stiff, making it rather unpalatable and for good reasons. Be careful! All parts of the plant possess a lethal concoction of toxins (in its sap) which are together, carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic and can cause liver and kidney failure, as well as eventual paralysis.
Caricature Plant Graptophyllum pictum
This ornamental plant is extremely unique, featuring a wide margin of green around a white leaf, and stunning magenta flowers. The plant is not native to Singapore, but is well regarded amongst decorators. Its common name is derived from the fact that people sometimes can see caricatures of human faces in the leaves! It has also been studied for its anti-inflammation and analgesic properties.
Carlos Lantana Lantana camara ‘Carlos’
With their small flowers, this compact bush may be easily overlooked by visitors. Yet, this vibrant little plant is perennially covered with blooms that include a spectacular color spectrum: red, coral, apricot, pink and orange. Moreover, like all lantanas, 'Carlos' is a butterfly and hummingbird magnet. In the wrong places, these plants establish themselves as a toxic weed. It has also made its way into scientific research as a potential antimicrobial agent with its flavonoids and crude alkaloids.
Cassava Manihot esculenta
This recognisable plant with its 'hand-shaped' leaf has storage roots that make it an important food crop. Rich in starch, the tubers are used to make tapioca. Cooking is required to break down the toxic compounds it uses to defend itself. It is not only bitter when raw, but also makes a good poison: as little as two cassava roots can be fatal.
Century Plant Agave americana
Although it is known as the century plant, Agave americana only has a lifespan of a few decades. ‘Agave’ literally means ‘admirable’, which refers to its majestic orange flower spikes. Unfortunately, as a monocarpic species, this plant is approaching the end of its lifespan if you ever see it bloom. Indeed it refuses mundanity and puts on a showstopper that marks its passage at the very end. (Warning! Contact with its sap and spikes may cause skin irritation! But with proper processing, it can be used as medicine.)
Chiku Manilkara zapota
The Chiku tree in our school's butterfly garden is still in its infancy - when fully grown it is capable of being over 9m tall. Nonetheless, edible fruits can still be found growing on it. The fruit, which is a large berry, can be eaten raw. Inside, its flesh ranges from a pale yellow to an earthy brown colour. The unripe fruit is hard to the touch and contains high amounts of saponin, which dries out the mouth. When fully ripe however, the flesh is soft and exceptionally sweet, with the flavour of pears, cinnamon and brown sugar combined. Commercially, the latex from the tree is used to make chewing gum.
Chinese Croton Excoecaria cochinchinensis
This plant is special in that the underside of its leaves are crimson. There are a few variants: 'Firestorm', for example, has variegated leaves. Like many plants in its family, the sap is toxic and can cause allergic reactions, as well as irritation to skin and eyes. This is why it is also called the Blindness Tree. Yet, it also has anti-parasitic and haemostatic (stops bleeding) properties.
Chinese Hibiscus Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
The brilliant red and yellow flowers of the Hibiscus is an appeasing sight with its glossy leaves as a background. The national flower of Malaysia, each hibiscus flower proudly displays its long and slender style, protruding from the center of its corolla. You have to admit that the Hibiscus truly has style. Flowers that have fallen off are often collected and used for dissection during Biology lessons in the high school labs, enriching the learning experience of our students.
Chinese Juniper Juniperus chinensis
The Chinese Juniper is a coniferous evergreen with familiar scale-like needles forming its foliage, which may mislead some to belief that it is part of the pine family.
As a beautiful landscape species native to China, these trees complement and embody the rich Chinese history and heritage of Hwa Chong. These temporal junipers have found a new home here in the tropics, adorning the exterior of Kuo Chuan House which is currently being refurbished to house the Centennial Art Gallery. However, as these junipers, similar to Weeping Willows, require large amounts of water to grow well, those around the Kuo Chuan House frequently die and have already been replaced numerous times. Luckily, the junipers growing along the river in High School are still faring well!
Chinese violet Asytasia gangetica
Because of its resilient nature, this fast-growing and attractive epiphyte is often cultivated as a ground cover plant. This has also given it the reputation of being a weed, but we can’t deny that it can steal the limelight in our garden with its striking violet trumpet blossoms.
Cockscomb Celosia cristata
This plant gets its interesting common name from the resemblance its scarlet blossom bears to the crest of a rooster. Cockscomb flowers are seen in vibrant yellows, pinks, reds and gold colours, although only the red ones are found in our school. Do not underestimate their numbers though, one inflorescence can easily contain hundreds of small flowers.
Coral Vine Antigonon leptopus
The coral vine is a typical butterfly food plant. It originates from Mexico, where the the natives cook and eat its underground tubers for their nutty flavour. The cascading recemes of bright pink flowers are fragrant and attractive to bees and butterflies. The flowers will turn dull pink and eventually brown as they age, while the fruits are usually hidden inside.
Creeping Foxglove Asytasia gangetica
Because of its resilient nature, this fast-growing and attractive epiphyte is often cultivated as a ground cover plant. This has also given it the reputation of being a weed, but we can’t deny that it can steal the limelight in our garden with its striking violet trumpet blossoms.
Curry Leaf Tree Murraya koenigii
This native Indian plant is a favourite for curry-lovers, as Its aromatic leaves are used in Indian cuisine to make the savoury dishes. It is no wonder the Common Mormon, its host butterfly, find the smell appealing. The curry plant has flowers that are small and white. In the HCI butterfly garden, it lies humbly beside the colourful Cuphea hyssopifolia, adding contrast and a subtle aroma to the garden.
Daun Payung Johannesteijsmannia altifrons
This plant belongs to a tribe of palm, the Trachycarpeae, identifiable by their simple, undivided foliage. Their large (up to 6m in length), diamond shaped leaves have serrated edges and distinctive folds like that of the middle layer of corrugated paper. The singular palm leaves stand majestically and bolt upright along the bustling corridor inside our main gate.
Desert Rose Adenium obesum
Often known as Desert Rose, this succulent shrub is well-adapted to its native African desert environment with its caudex-shaped, swollen stem for water storage. This feature is responsible for its specific epithet ‘obesum’. It also has fleshy roots where water is stored.
Its luxurious, dark green foliage is adorned with showy blossoms of vibrant colours. But be careful, for its sap is poisonous, and is often used as arrow and fish poison by indigenous hunters.
Dragon Blood Tree Dracaena cochinchinensis
The Dragon Blood Tree is an evergreen tree particularly distinctive for long, thin trunks spread wide apart, with elongated leaves growing as a cluster at the end of each branch. This particular species is native to Thailand. The name 'Dracaena' is a Greek word for dragon, referring to the deep red resin in their trunks - similar to that of a dragon's blood.
Usually, these plants are grown for ornamental purposes. There used to be another Dracaena of similar size growing beside the one shown in the picture. However, it collapsed due to its own weight. Now, a younger tree has been planted in place of the previous one.
Due to the medicinal properties of their resin, Dracaenas have become a vulnerable species in other parts of the world, particularly in China.
Dragon's Scale Ferm Pyrrosia piloselloides
While dragon scale fern may be less well known among students, it is commonly found alongside bird nest fern and rabbit foot fern on towering raintrees. There are actually two kinds of fronds (leaves). The younger fronds are cute “puffy” heart-shaped “scales” that truly turns the tree it wraps around into a majestic dragon, while narrow, elongated mature fronds with brown spores dot the periphery.
Dumb Cane Dieffenbachia amoena
The Dumb Cane is a robust, herbaceous shrub with fleshy stems and large leaves arching gracefully from the upright stems. It is very commonly grown for its glossy dark green foliage with creamy white to yellow lines, spots, or patches, especially as an indoor or houseplant. Its modest flowers bloom in greenish-yellow inflorescence and that protrudes out of its silky white spathe (a large sheathing bract enclosing the flower cluster). However, the sap of this plant is poisonous and must not be allowed to come into contact with the mouth or eyes. The calcium oxalate crystals in the sap cause irritation and swelling of the tissues in the mouth and throat, resulting in possible loss of speech for several days, hence, the common name Dumb Cane.
Durian Tree Durio zibethinus
Unexpectedly, a single durian tree stands tall behind the High School Science Labs. It is relatively easy to identify this tree due to its near horizontal lateral branches growing away from the vertical, main trunk.
The yellowish green durian flowers usually bloom during the dry season. They are mostly found growing on the older, lateral branches of the tree in order to bear the weight of the durians if they are pollinated and fertilised. However, durian trees are known to be highly self-incompatible, requiring its flowers to be cross-pollinated from other trees around them. It is for this reason the one we see here will rarely bear fruits. On the bright side, you will not have to constantly look out for falling durians if you happen to walk under this particular tree!
Dutchman's Pipe Aristolochia tagala
Aristolochia tagala found in our school is a host plant of many butterflies. While it does not bear conspicuous or gorgeous flowers, its luxuriant leaves provide nutrients for our voracious caterpillars to metamorphosise into magnificent butterflies! Notice that the shapes of the leaves show graduated variation: Its lower leaves are shaped like a lance-head, while the upper leaves are heart-shaped.
Dwarf Umbrella Tree Schefflera arboricola
The dwarf umbrella tree is an evergreen shrub. Its leaves are palmately compound, which means leaflets radiate from a single point and are arranged like five fingers around the palm, forming a disc of leaflets quite unlike the usual geometry we see in leafy plants. The dark, glossy foliage of S. arboricola dress the building with a green facade that enhances it aesthetic appeal, and brings much-need respite from the heat.
Elfin Herb Cuphea hyssopifolia
This small, bushy plant adds a tinge of colour and excitement to the otherwise dull corner of the college reception. Despite being relatively smaller (its maximum height is 0.6m), its layered foliage gives a level of complexity to the landscape, enhancing the pleasantness of the area. Its beautiful blue to purple flowers are often displayed as ornaments. It is an ideal nectaring plant for butterfly gardens.
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.
Fire Bush Hamelia patens
The scarlet flowers of this plant stand out from the green leaves. When these flowers cover the entire shrub, it looks as if the green plant is on fire, thus it acquired its name as the “Fire Bush”. Interestingly, the flowers have a yellow to cream edge on its flowers. The sour fruits are edible, and it is used in folk remedies!
Flame of the Forest Delonix regia
Also known as phoenix tree is chinese, the flowers of Delonix regia are large and spectacular, with four spreading scarlet or orange-red petals and a fifth upright petal called the standard. Some varieties have yellow flowers instead.
Like many pea plants, it has compound leaves. Its leaves have been used in folk medicine to treat a range of disorders, including constipation, inflammation and malaria. The seeds also contain oil that is antifungal and can also be used as natural herbicide and pesticide. There are three of such trees found in our school, two next to Kong Chian Admin with huge significance: one was planted in commemoration of Nanyang Girls' High School 100th anniversary, while another for our own 100th year anniversary. These trees were donated by our alumni, Mr Mak Chin On.
Gaping Dutchman's Pipe Aristolochia ringens
This special plant is filled with unique features. Its leaves are heart-shaped, while its flowers resemble the unique structures of the carnivorous pitcher plant. Being a host plant for the national butterfly, the Common Rose butterfly, it is a favourite in many butterfly gardens. It originated from Tropical America. In its native home, its roots were used to treat snake bites.
Giant Milkweed Calotropis gigantea
The Giant Milkweed in the butterfly garden is often seen completely bare without a single leaf. They must have been eaten by the caterpillars! Look closely, and you will find many caterpillars crawling on its stems and munching away on the juicy leaves. It is surprisingly resilient; new leaves on the bare plant will appear only after a few weeks, and sometimes even with budding flowers.
Golden Trumpet Allamanda cathartica
A vine or climbing shrub with milky sap, its leaves are leathery while its large bright yellow flowers are trumpet-shaped with five spreading petal lobes.
Studies on A. cathartica have shown various properties of the plant which includes being antimicrobial, antimalarial and antioxidant due to its wide variety of chemical composition. However, these useful chemicals need to be isolated from the white latex which is an irritant. This plant was donated to us by a group of retired alumni whose names can be found on the plaque. Like Mr Mak Chin On who has donated many plants to the school, they’ve demonstrated to us the spirit of giving back that the school hopes to inculcate in our students.
Golden Yellow Rain Tree Samanea saman (yellow leaf var.)
The world’s first golden yellow rain trees were cultivated by Maryland Nursery, headed by Mr Mak Chin On, in the 1990s to 2000s. Since then, these yellow trees have been increasingly sought after for their bright and striking golden foliage in Singapore. When planted alongside their green counterparts, it certainly adds greater diversity and contrast of colours to the typical rain trees that we are all so familiar with.
These yellow rain trees are grown all over the school campus, many of which were generously donated by our school alumni, Mr Mak. However, out of the estimated 200 that he had donated, only half of them still remain in the school due to difficulties in growing this particular variety. Given that these trees were bred only around 2 decades ago, they are evidently much younger and smaller in size. It is for certain that some of them will be present to witness the bicentennial of Hwa Chong.
Guava Psidium guajava
Do not be misled for the young fruits look uncannily similar to lime. Guavas are a common fruit in Singapore, often enjoyed with plum sugar on the side, which enhances its sweet flavor. The guavas on the trees in the school are often found wrapped in plastic, perhaps to keep potential pests and ants from damaging the fruit. Seems like somebody is preparing to grab some to eat.
Happiness Tree Garcinia subelliptica
This evergreen with glossy leaves boasts young flushes that are reddish-bronze in colour, which turn quickly to bright yellow-green, then finally to dark green when mature. Every High School consortium garden, opened in the 2010s, has its own Happiness tree. They were selected because they do not shed leaves and create a mess, making the jobs of students-gardeners tending to it much easier. They started off at around the height of an average adult human. Look how much they have grown!
Heliconia ‘American Dwarf’
This variety of heliconia seems to be a favorite of the school, as it can be seen planted near the entrance, welcoming the guests with its showy blossoms, along the backyard of Block D and among the bushes near the Central Plaza. The showy inflorescences of bright orange are cuddled with a long and narrow bract that resembles the wing of an origami crane. The unique tubular flower reminds onlookers of a toco toucan beak, which produces a berry-shaped fruit after pollination.
Indian Coral Tree Erythrina variegata
Indian Coral Tree is a showy tree with brilliant red blossoms. It has many stout branches that are armed with black tiger's prickles. Like the butterfly pea and hibiscus, the flower of Indian coral tree is used for dissection in biology lessons on plant reproduction. Perhaps, you may be amazed to know that the Indian coral tree in Fabaceae (Legumes, Pea) family, the same as the butterfly pea. Thus, the red blossoms which may look structurally distinct from the butterfly pea does actually result in a peapod when fertilised!
The Ixora blooms with stunning clusters of red, yellow, pink or orange flowers. The Ixora is a common flower in Singapore. Some of us are aware that one could pluck out its corolla tube, and enjoy a sweet shot of nectar from the other end! When in full bloom, the neatly trimmed bushes line Tan Kah Kee Drive with a thick ribbon of crimson blossoms. What a sight to behold! Kudos to our skillful gardeners who help to maintain these beautiful bushes all year long.
Kumquat Citrus japonica
The fruit of this plant looks like a baby cousin of the mandarin orange. In Chinese culture, the plant is said to bring wealth, prosperity and good luck, so it is not uncommon to see families purchasing a pair of them to place in their homes just before Chinese New Year. Unlike mandarin oranges, however, the pulp inside may be slightly tart. Its rind is sweet, thus the fruit is often candied or made into preserves.
Lacy Tree Fern Cyathea cooperi
C. cooperi, the Lacy Tree Fern, derives this name from its delicate, feather-like fronds (leaves) with lace-like edges. It is also known as the Australian Tree Fern being one of the most commonly grown Australian tree-ferns. It has a slender trunk bears distinctive "coin spots" where old fronds have broken off the trunk. Its fronds are bright green and tend to be very fast growing. Next time you pass by them in the morning when you come to school, try to observe how long it takes for the curled-up newborn frond to unfold and grow into a massive mature foliage. You will be surprised.
Lady Di Heliconia Heliconia psittacorum 'Lady Di'
Heliconias are also called ‘lobster-claws’, which vividly describes the unique shape of its vibrant blossom. Each strain has its distinct colour combination. The species psittacorum (from Greek word psittacus, which means parrot) is noted for the stark, chromatic contrast between its bright yellow inflorescence and crimson bract. The unique tubular flower reminds onlookers of a toco toucan beak, and produces a berry-shaped fruit after pollination. The flowers are proudly displayed at the tip of slender specialised shoots that are cuddled by dark green lanceolate foliages.
Lemongrass is definitely a familiar plant to Singapore. It is widely used as a herb in Southeast Asian cooking, and is used in soups and curries. As an essential oil, lemongrass is antifungal, antibacterial and can act as a mosquito repellant. Consequently, it can be used as a traditional treatment for fungal infections.
Lime Citrus x aurantiifolia
The lime plant lives up to its typical name of bearing not just the the sour and sweet fruit, but also the beautiful lime butterfly. It serves as a host plant for the Papilio demoleus, and is a common plant of the Indo-Malayan region. Its leaf margins are lined with tiny rounded teeth.
Longan Dimocarpus longan
The single large Longan Tree hugging the back of the Clock Tower was donated by our school alumni, Mr Tan Leong Teck. Many trees in Singapore are often valued for its utility in providing shade; however, it was hoped that the longan could provide sweet treats to squirrels, birds and insects in our school. Longans are native to Southeast Asia. The brown shells of the fruit hides the sweet and juicy flesh inside, which can be eaten fresh or canned in a sweet syrup. While it is of the same family as the rambutan and lychee and their fruits do taste similar, the 'shells' of these fruits look nothing alike.
Love-in-a-mist Passiflora foetida
The Passiflora foetida is a climber, and possess large, hairy leaves. The leaves are tri-lobed, and the flowers are white, but marked with a ring of radially oriented purple streaks. They blossom in the morning, and close by about noon. The unique, minty fragrance of the flowers provides a soothing morning welcome to those who walk past. They are nectaring plants and also host plants for the Tawny Coster.
MacArthur Palm Ptychosperma macarthurii
A clumping palm with pinnate fronds (feather-shaped divided leaf) just like the lipstick palm, the MacArthur palm might confuse onlookers at their first glance. While the stems of these palms are not red, they do bear small, red fruits that many birds feed on. It is a common sight to see the ground under its foliage strewn with its bright red fruits.
Madagascar Periwinkle Catharanthus roseus
There are different varieties of Madagascar periwinkle with flowers of different colours: white, mauve, peach, scarlet and reddish-orange. It has long been cultivated for herbal medicine in Asia, and used as an ornamental plant.
Although the potent alkaloids isolated from it are poisonous, the plant has been used to treat diabetes, malaria, leukemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma. It has increased success rate of treating childhood leukemia (white blood cell cancer) from 10% to well over 80%! Recent patents by western pharmaceutical companies on drugs derived from the plant, without compensation to indigenous groups and traditional land owners, has led to accusations of biopiracy.
Mango Tree Mangifera indica
While the one in the butterfly garden is still in its infancy, mature wild mango trees bearing fruits can be found behind the clock tower and the high school science labs. The fruits borne usually attract, and are consumed by, visiting birds and scampering squirrels.
Mexican Creeper Antigonon leptopus
The Mexican Creeper is a typical butterfly food plant. It originates from Mexico, where the the natives cook and eat its underground tubers for their nutty flavour. The cascading recemes of bright pink flowers are fragrant and attractive to bees and butterflies. The flowers will turn dull pink and eventually brown as they age, while the fruits are usually hidden inside.
Mexican Mint Plectranthus amboinicus
Like other mints, the Mexican Mint has variegated leaves and a four-angled (square) stem. Its fleshy leaves can leave a distinctive lemony smell on your hands after you touch them. They can be also be used to flavour food. The plant has been investigated for its anti-cancer and anti-inflammation properties.
Money Plant Epipremnum aureum
The Money Plant is an evergreen vine with trailing stems, along with glossy and rubbery leaves with varying shades of green and yellow. They decorate the descending stairs from Block A to Central Plaza in JC, and the corners near our class benches. It is also called Devil’s Ivy as it is almost impossible to kill and stays green even when kept in the dark. Such a sturdy plant may serve as a constant reminder to all of us that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Let’s aspire to be as resilient as this plant!
Moses-in-the-Cradle Tradescantia spathacea
A perfect contrast to the typical green landscape, Tradescantia spathacea has circular clusters (rosettes) of waxy lance-shaped leaves. Leaves are dark to metallic green above, with glossy purple underneath. Hidden by boat-shaped, purple bracts are its white flowers, hence the common name Moses-in-the-Cradle.
A curious fact: A related species, Tradescantia ohiensis, has one of the few known tissues that can effectively show ambient radiation levels. The blue stamen hairs of this related species mutates and changes to pink when exposed to ionising radiation.
Orange Champaca Michelia champaca
A phylogenetically ancient plant, Michelia champaca is part of the family Magnoliaceae, which appeared before plants differentiated into monocots and dicots!
If you look closely at its orange flowers, you’ll notice that all its petals are similar (rather than having 2 types of petals as with most modern plants), and its reproductive organs are less apparent than many modern plants. One can determine the age of the plant by observing the colour of its flowers: younger plants produce bright yellow flowers while older ones give deep orange flowers.
Pagoda Flower Clerodendrum paniculatum
Pagoda Flowers are arranged in terminal panicles, or conical inflorescence, with distinct tiers that reminds one of the layers of curved roofs on a pagoda. The slender style and stamen can be seen extending elegantly from the corolla. The hues of red of the flowers vary between the bright crimson bud and the subtle pastel blossom, adorning the butterfly garden in ombre red..
Interestingly, the leaves of its genus Clerodendrum tend to release smells that reminds one of peanut butter or burnt rubber when rubbed or bruised.
Papaya Tree Carica papaya
Among the vibrant plants in the butterfly garden is a young papaya tree. Its trunk is topped by an umbrella-like canopy of palmately-lobed leaves. Papaya trees are dioecious (separate male and female trees). Consequently, some may bear only male flowers and never bear fruits in their lifetime.
Peacock Flower Caesalpinia pulcherrima
The plant’s specific epithet ‘pulcherrima’ means “the most beautiful”, in Latin, which truly describes its flowers of a brilliant mix of yellow, orange to red. The long stamens and style reminds one of the vibrant plumage trailing from a peacock’s tail.
Pigeon Orchid Dendrobium crumenatum
Although these plants can be found littered around the landscape, their flowers are much rarer. These flowers only bloom when there is a temperature drop of around 5 °C. The flowers typically last only between 2 to 9 days, but while they are around, you can smell a subtle, sweet fragrance wafting around. From the side, the elegant flowers resemble pigeons, which is how the orchid acquired its name. These were once mistaken to be parasitic on their host trees, which led to the removal of many of them. However, we now know that they do not harm the host tree, and renewed efforts have been taken to restore many of them.
Pineapple Ananas comosus
These short, stubby plants actually do resemble their fruits in some ways: from their long, sharp leaves, to the prickly body of the plant.
In fact, Pineapple plant can reproduce when you place the top of the pineapple fruit into the ground. After growing, the jewels then form at the top of the plant.
Each fruit is derived from up to 200 flowers! The fruit of a pineapple is arranged in 2 interlocking helices, 8 in one direction, 13 in the other, each being a Fibonacci number. Perhaps you may not like pineapples because they contain the enzyme bromelain, which break down proteins and essentially attack your tongue, making it feel like its cutting your mouth. This is similar to Kiwi fruit although it contains a different enzyme.
Pink Kopsia Kopsia fruticosa
Kopsia fruiticosa has glossy, leathery leaves with slightly sunken veins that create a quilt-like texture. Its young stems are covered in tiny, soft hairs.
A versatile ornamental shrub, Kopsia fruiticosa grows well rain or shine, whether under the bright full sun or in shade, whether in dry or wet soil. This reflects its resilience and great adaptability to the environment, which are some of the values that our students could learn.
Pink Starlite Cryptanthus Bivittatus
Boasting elliptic foliages with striking streaks of suffused green and pinkish maroon that arch downward in a rosette shape, the spectacular Pink Starlite is definitely the star of our vertical garden. Their unique star-like shape that resembles a starfish and the fabulous stripy colors of their variegated foliage certainly brightens up the seemingly mundane vertical green space and adds an element of novelty to the common houseplants cultivated alongside it.
Pinwheel Flower Tabernaemontana divaricata
The smooth, milky white petals of flowers have twisted tips that are arranged in a stellate blossom, just like a spinning pinwheel. Many of these flowers will be found strewn on the lawn under the tree after heavy rain - they must have twirled and danced all the way in their descent to the ground!
The Podocarpus brevifolius in front of the high school science labs was planted by school alumni Mr Tan Leong Teck in 2004 as President of the Hwa Chong Seniors Club. He had also held the position of President of the Hwa Chong Alumni Association from 1960 - 1982. This plant serves to recognise the generous donations and contributions that he had made to the school over the past few decades - a wonderful example of the value 饮水思源 that every Hwa Chong student should learn from.
Pomelo Citrus maxima
Located along the Science Research Centre, the Pomelo tree, like most of the species in the citrus family, has fragrant white blossoms. It is, in fact, the largest of all citrus fruits. In the past, there used to be 2 Pomelos planted in the SRC compound, and 3 more grown in High School. However, due to difficulties in cultivating the Pomelo, this has become the only one left within the school campus today. Nonetheless, viable fruits can still be produced as the flowers of most citrus trees are self-pollinating.
Ponytail Palm Beaucarnea recurvata
The long narrow leaves of ponytail 'palm' flow up from the 'elephant foot' much like a plume of water from a fountain. It is well adapted to its arid native environment in Mexico, storing water in its swollen base just like a camel’s hump. A slow growing tree, the ponytail 'palm' in our school is considered young and therefore only consists of a single trunk without branches.
Pride 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.
Purple Simpo Dillenia excelsa
The Dillenia excelsa is a critically endangered species native to Singapore. Luckily, two of them still stand strong beside each other on the far end of the Butterfly Garden. These trees bear vibrant, yellow flowers that are particularly eye catching to the students walking along the pavement. Given their conservation status in Singapore, it is important that we learn to cherish these rare and precious trees.
Their close relative, the Dillenia suffruticosa (Simpoh Air), usually appears as a shrub with large leaves. These leaves were often used to wrap food, especially the fermented soyabean cakes (tempeh), or the traditional rojak.
Pygmy Date Palm Phoenix roebelenii
This species of date palm is native to Southeast Asia. Even though they are capable of growing into a slender tree of up to 3 metres tall, the younger ones in school can usually be found in pots. With a high drought tolerance, they are perfectly suitable to be grown under the hot sun here in Singapore!
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 rain trees 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 rain trees that we see today. With its widespread, umbrella-shaped canopy, these trees are perfect for providing shade for the students and teachers during 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.
Rattlebox Crotalaria pallida
Crotalaria pallida exhibits cute stalks of yellow flowers, which then produce clusters of pea pods. While these flowers are not as attractive as the others around them, this plant actually acts as a food source for caterpillars, satisfying their cravings for fresh leaves in our butterfly garden.
Red Button Ginger Costus woodsonii maas
One of the most widely used decorative plants from the ginger family, the Red Button Ginger grabs attention with its exotic, torpedo-shaped, scarlet crowning glory that rises above a sea of lush green foliage - but do not mistake it for its flower! When it blooms, smaller, yellow-orange flowers are seen emerging from the top of these red cones.
Red Dracaena Cordyline fruticosa 'Firebrand'
Found in the family of asparagus, the Red Dracaena is given a befitting variety name, ‘Firebrand’ - Dracaena literally means a female dragon. This plant is common all over Singapore and is appreciated for adding an outstanding vibrant dark hue to our predominantly green foliage. Some have attempted to grow this terrestrial plant in terrariums but this often ends disastrously as the plant is not well adapted to moist soil.
Red Ginger Alpinia Purpurata
Alpinia purpurata or Red Ginger is a plant that epitomizes the tropics with its lance-shaped glossy bright green leaves all year round.
The red ginger also produces showy inflorescence spikes with delicate white flowers growing from the axils of the stunning, saffron bracts. During the Chinese New Year Celebration, as performances are staged under the bridge at Central Plaza, the blossoming red ginger flowers remind one of red firecrackers and add a touch of vibrancy to the festive season.
Red-Leaf Breyna Breynia nivosa 'Roseo-picta'
The Breynia plant’s white and pink mottled leaves make it appear as if the plant has been snowed upon. It is an evergreen shrub, with pink and red stems growing in a zigzagged manner. It is native to Pacific islands, but acts as a nurturing host plant for the striking Common Grass Yellow butterfly in our butterfly garden.
Red Tree Shrub Leea rubra
The Leea rubra is a food source for various butterfly sub-species, as well as some bird and bee species. Its red, white, or golden flowers cluster attractively together to encourage pollinators. The main variety in Hwa Chong bears predominantly red flowers.
Red Powderpuff Plant Calliandra tergemina
Calliandra literally means beautiful man in Greek, which refers to its conspicuous stamen that looks like red spikes. The red powderpuff has leaves which are initially orange, but become glossy green overtime. As a pea plant, it has flat legumes that disperses its seeds by explosive action. Other varieties can bear flowers that range from red to a gradient of violet and white. With lots of luck, one may observe hummingbirds visiting these stunning flowers.
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 do. Unlike the MacArthur Palm, the Royal Palms do not have clustering behaviour.
Ruffled Fan Palm Licuala grandis
The Ruffled Fan Palm evidently lives up to its name with its huge fan-like, circular leaves. They certainly look out of the ordinary when compared to the usual trees and shrubs around them.
As these palms enjoy being in full shade or under partial sunlight, they are usually seen growing behind the Kuo Chuan House, or under the Willows and Saga Trees along the path to the Kong Chian Administration Centre. While this particular one has already begun fruiting, the younger, shorter palms lining the pathways have just been planted not long ago. Their magnificent leaves do indeed add a unique element to the lush landscape of Hwa Chong.
Saga 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.
Sago Cycad Cycas revoluta
The Sago Cycad was planted in 2017 by then-Principal Dr Hon Chiew Weng, just before his retirement, in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the school throughout his teaching career. Despite its Chinese name (忠树), this plant should not be mistaken for a tree. In fact, the earliest Cycads date back to around 300 million years ago--a true living fossil! Named '忠树' (which directly translates to 'loyalty tree'), Dr Hon wishes that all Hwa Chong students remain eternally faithful and true-hearted to the people around them.
Scorpion Weed Cordia cylindrostachya
The Cordia cylindrostachya is a rich source of nectar for butterflies. Its white inflorescent flowers have a curious brush-like appearance. It is a resilient plant that is able to survive in relatively infertile soils, but requires much sunlight coverage. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used in many communities that practice ethno-medicine. In the butterfly garden, this flower is frequently visited by butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects alike.
Sealing Wax 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.
Seashore Pandan Pandanus tectorius
The Seashore Pandan is typically found on undisturbed shores and back mangroves in Singapore. Because of poor oxygen conditions in the mangrove, it has aerial roots to 'breathe'.
Initially, this tree was planted at the same time as the 'desert' plants beside High School Block A to further beautify the school’s landscape. Due to its quick growing leaves, it has to be trimmed fairly regularly to prevent it from becoming too big. There also used to be a stone table in the middle of the cluster for students who are seeking shade from the hot afternoon sun to rest at. However, it was shortly removed due to the proliferation of mosquitoes around the area. The fruits of pandan have a deceiving green covering, almost similar to a durian. But unlike the durian, its outer covering itself is the seed, which will reveal a spectacular orange and yellow layer below the green when removed. This sprawling tree teaches us not to judge a book by its cover!
Silvery Wormwood Artemisia argyi
Don’t underestimate this plant which looks like a weed. Native to China and Japan, Artemisia argyi is used as a common traditional medicine with 'warm' properties, and is often used to treat liver, spleen and kidney-associated ailments. Resilient, they actually survive better and are more aromatic when they grow on poor, dry soil. Its leaves and flowers have antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Some research suggests that flavones extracted from it can potentially be used in cancer treatment.
Singapore Rhododendron Melastoma malabathricum
The Singapore Rhododendron is native to Singapore, though most definitely not found only here. It is a very resilient plant that can survive even at altitudes of 3000m and outcompete the noxious weed Imperata cylindrica which would otherwise slowly "poison" surrounding plants. Also a known hyperaccumulator of aluminium, it can be used for phytoremediation to clean up soils polluted by excessively high levels of aluminium! Its reddish stems are covered with bristly scales and minute hairs. Its fruit is a berry, which can be used to make a black dye. In traditional medicine, the leaves and roots can be used to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. Don't be surprised to see many different coloured flowers of white, vibrant purple and deep violet. Bees are often attracted to its alluring blossoms and can be often seen pollinating them in our butterfly garden. Do keep a lookout and observe the bees without disturbing them.
Sky Flower Duranta erecta
This tiny shrub has a significance that belies its size — it symbolises the collaboration of Hwa Chong Institution, Chung Cheng High School, and Jane Goodall Institution, promoting the spirit of habitat conservation in Singapore. This particular Duranta erecta was planted by our Principal, Mr Pang Choon How, on the opening of the College Butterfly garden. Its flowers are clustered together to form a lovely shade of purple. It grows best in full sun and moist soils.
Song of India Dracaena reflexa 'Song of India'
The yellow-edged variety of Dracaena is planted as a decorative plant in our vertical garden. The genus Dracaena means a female dragon and could refer to the sap of the plant, which appears dark red when dried, hence fuelling the imagination for mythical creatures. 'Reflexa' means bent backwards, which refers to its elongated lanceolate leaves that are stacked and arranged radially around the stem.
Soursop Annona muricata
Look at the photo! There is a large soursop fruit growing here! While the soursop is native to the Caribbean and Central America, it was brought into Southeast Asia during the colonial era. The white flesh inside can be eaten directly, though it is common to see it processed into canned drinks or candies. The raw fruits taste like a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavour and creamy texture. It has also been a target of recent research efforts - its leaves are found to have anti-inflammation and anticancer properties.
Spider Lily Hymenocallis caribaea
Native to South America, its genus name is derived from the hymen, meaning "membrane", and kalos meaning "beautiful". It refers to the curious shape of the flowers, consisting of 6 narrow petals attached to a shallow cup that is formed from the fused stamens. However, its common name is a misnomer as Hymenocallis caribaea is not part of the Lily family but more closely related to daffodils. The flowers open in the evenings and emit a marvelous fragrance that is strong till dawn and this scent gradually decreases during the day.
Starfruit Tree Averrhoa carambola
The starfruit is particularly unique with 5 distinctive ridges along its length, giving it the shape of a star once it is sliced apart.
This tree flowers multiple times a year, each time blooming with fragrant lavender flowers and bearing small starfruits. It is self-fertilised, for this is the only starfruit tree around that area!
Every part of the plant is valuable. Besides having edible fruits, its fruit juice can be a stain remover while unripe fruits can be used for dyeing cloth. Its flowers, seeds and leaves all have medicinal properties of their own.
Strangling Fig Ficus stricta
A Strangling Fig starts life in the canopy of its host tree. The young strangler fig sends several special root-like stems down to the soil, reach water and nutrients. Gradually its stems wrap around the host tree's trunk, grow and fuse together until they more or less form a cylinder surrounding the trunk. Meanwhile, up in the tree, the young stranger is growing in a bushy fashion, eventually looking like a small tree growing atop the host tree. This is a rare lowland rainforest species, whose figs ripen to an attractive yellow-orange hue, attracting many feeding birds. Here behind the parking lots, while the strangler fig deprives the tamalan tree of sunlight and nutrients, the gummy fig fruit falls onto and dirties the windshield of the cars parked underneath the tree - nature has cunning ways of finding everyone's weakest spot.
Sweet Potato Ipomoea Batatas
Easily cultivated, the sweet potato used to be the staple food in Singapore during wartime, when water was scarce and rice was difficult to grow or import.
Its leaves are heart-shaped, and are often variegated with dark purple patches.
But do not be misled by its common name as Sweet Potato is more closely related to Morning Glory (which is in the same family) than the common 'white' potato.
Tamalan Tree Dalbergia oliveri
This extremely graceful tree, with its spreading crown of delicate, feathery-looking foliage, can grow to about 20 metres in height. The leaves are made up of many small leaflets arranged alternately along a stalk. Its flowers are small and occur in bunches. These are lilac in colour during the budding stage, before turning pink, and finally white.
This tree is native to Myanmar and Thailand. It was introduced into Singapore as an ornamental wayside tree. The wood of this tree has been prized for producing high quality furniture. The row of Tamalan Trees found growing on the left of the road leading up to college reception were planted in 2007, shortly after the building was upgraded.
Teak Tree Tectona grandis
Teak wood is particularly valued for its durability and water resistance. Its natural oils make it termite resistant in exposed locations. These high quality timber behind the high school labs were kindly donated by our alumni.
Unfortunately, its papery leaves that can be a few times larger than an adult human's palm, may be infested with mealybugs. At one point, due to its proximity to the fenced garden behind the science labs, the mealybugs affected the growth of hybridised orchids. Consequently, the tree was later moved to the periphery of the building.
Tembusu Fagraea fragrans
We still have quite a few Tembusu trees in our school. This is also the very species of tree that appears on our $5 notes. Due to their height, they are often seen towering over buildings and other trees, and can even be observed all the way from the Holistic Education Centre in JC. The Tembusu trees are part of the primary forest cover on this land before the school was built - consequently, they are easily over a hundred years old. Despite their age and historical value, these trees were almost chopped down some years long ago. As a result, you will realise that they often have one or more stumps. Luckily, these trees were able to survive the ordeal. Do not be fooled by the pictures, all of these trunks belong to the same tree!
Trailing Bauhinia Phanera Kokiana
This woody perennial vine bears slightly elongated leaves with two to three sunken prominent veins that are distinctly parallel. Young flowers are yellow -- bright as a ray of sunshine -- and mature into a light saffron with time. Protruding from the receptacle, the orange petals have visible, branching veins like the fibers of fine silk. The bright blossoms are clustered into a spherical shape which may remind you of a curled-up tabby cat - or 'a little ball of fur'.
Traveller's Palm Ravenala madagascariensis sonn
The Traveller's Palm is iconic for its enormous paddle-shaped leaves aligned in a distinctive fan shape. Its flowers, upon pollination, produce bright blue seeds, a very rare colour for seeds in nature. The sheaths of its stems can hold up to 1.5 litres of rainwater. Thus the name 'Traveller's Palm' is used to indicate an emergency water supply for thirsty travellers.
Trumpet Tree Tabebuia rosea
The Trumpet Tree's name originates from its white or pink trumpet-shaped flowers. A few of these old trees stand tall and firm beside the High School Canteen, where countless students pass by everyday as they go for lunch. However, this is no ordinary tree, for it is well known for its rare but stunning display of sakura-like flowers that covers the entire tree after a dry spell. Over a few days, the fallen blossoms would accumulate to form a beautiful bright carpet of pink flowers. It is certainly quite an eyeful for students and teachers who walk past the garden!
The Madagascar Almond Tree is a deciduous or evergreen tree with conspicuously layered branches. It is as though they were trimmed ever so meticulously by our gardeners! This species found behind College Block A is a 'tricolour' cultiva, where each exquisite oval-shaped leaf is lined with a golden rim. Wonders never cease, even in this less-frequented corner behind our school building.
Water Jasmine Wrightia religiosa
The Water Jasmines in our school were donated by alumnus Mr Tan Leong Teck (陈龙德学长). Many neatly trimmed bushes of Water Jasmines can also be found lining the pavements at different locations around the High School section. Some of them have also been turned into bonzai, which are being maintained by our skilful gardeners over the years. You may be astonished to find that the bonzai are of the same species, presented as rows of 'typical' bushes. If you do not believe it, lean close and smell their sweet and fragrant white flowers!
White Mulberry Morus alba
White mulberry is a fast-growing, deciduous tree with alternate, toothy leaves. It is the primary species on which silkworms are bred to produce silk. Its juicy purplish berries are also edible! The leaves have wide-ranging medicinal effects and are used to treat diabetes, amongst other diseases.
White Angel Wrightia antidysenterica
At full bloom, White Angel is covered with small white flowers that look like snowflakes from a distance. While one may not be able to see real snowflakes in tropical Singapore, one can seek comfort in the beauty of White Angel’s attractive flowers. This juice from the bark of this slender and petite plant can be administered for mouth sores, and the leaves are used in treating several skin disorders, such as psoriasis.
White Mussaenda Mussaenda sp.
Scattered at various parts of the school, the differing colours of the bracts of different individual plants are truly mesmerising. Similar to Bougainvilleas, their colourful 'flowers' are actually just the leaves, or bracts. The actual flowers are small and can only be found if you pay close attention to the plant. After touching its leaves, you will also immediately realise that they are furry and soft! The yellow 'Queen Sirikit' is a hybrid variety that displays distinctive pink bracts; while 'Donna Aurora' boasts of dark orange flower nestled in 5 pearly white septals. Unlike most species of Mussaenda that have a single large bract (or enlarged sepal) for each flower, the crowning glories of these special cultivars usually have multiple of them.
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 willows, 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 Willows (or 垂柳), were unable to grow well under Singapore’s hot climate and away from a water body. Soon, the Salix matsudanas have become a common sight within the campus, presenting a similar scenic effect as the Weeping Willows, despite having stiffer and shorter leaves.
Yellow Alder Turnera ulmifolia
This choosy plant has attractive flowers that open to the sky. However, it only displays its magnificence during sunny days. On rainy days, the flowers hide underneath lustrous leaves. It is the host plant for spiny Tawny Coster caterpillar.
Yellow Bells Tecoma stans
All of the Yellow Bells in the school are donated by alumnus Mr Mak Chin On. Many of these were grown in clusters all over the JC side in 2005, for the purpose of having more flowering trees to beautify our school landscape.
Yellow Bells are used for ornamental purposes due to its distinctive bright golden corolla that resembles a miniature trumpet, or a jingle bell on a Christmas tree. It also has pods containing layers of papery, winged seeds, which disperse by wind. Considered to be a ruderal species, it can often grow on rocky land. With countless flowers blooming on each tree at the same time, they certainly brighten the scenery and lightens the mood of students walking past them!
If you are interested to have a personalised and location-based tour of our garden campus at your own pace, head over to the App Store and Google Play Store and download our HC Garden app now!