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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Blueberry Lily Dianella revoluta 'Blue Stream'
The Blueberry Lily offers an interesting colour variation of violet blue foliage, which is a perfect contrast to the typical green landscape. This vigorous variety quickly forms a dense clump, producing many side shoots that emerge from the ground around the plant base. The broad foliage and clump-forming habit of this plant ensures good colour variation as seen from its attractive violet and green tuft.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
White Ixora Ixora finlaysoniana
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Water Jasmine 水梅 Wrightia religiosa
The Water Jasmines in our school were once 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 bonsais, which are being maintained by our skilful gardeners over the years. You may be astonished to find out that the bonsai are of the same species as rows of “typical” bushes. If you do not believe it, lean close and smell their sweet and fragrant white flowers!
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