Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum 8 cm
A scarlet-backed flowerpecker perches on a thin branch of golden flowers. Flowerpeckers, sometimes grouped under sunbirds, have distinctive features including short tails and short, thick bills with a down-curve. Their tubular tongues are perfectly suited for nectar feeding, but surprisingly, they do occasionally season up their diet with some small insects. Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, the most common type in Singapore, can be found in gardens.
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 19 cm
Brown shrikes have a distinctive black mask around their eyes. Their harsh chatterings and rattlings often wake people up early in the morning. Don’t be deceived by its petite stature: this bird is a “butcher”, with a wide diet ranging from insects (mainly butterflies and moths) to even small birds and lizards! The shrike in this photo perches erect on the tree branch, searching for preys, which will be brutally impaled on plant thorns.
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 their distinctive bright golden corollas that resemble miniature trumpets, or jingle bells on a Christmas tree. They also have pods containing layers of papery, winged seeds which disperse by wind. Considered to be a ruderal species, these plants 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!
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.
Chinese Juniper Juniperus chinensis
The Chinese Juniper is a coniferous evergreen with familiar scale-like needles forming its foliage, which may mislead some to believe 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!
Bougainvillea Bougainvillea glabra
The papery texture of these “flowers” almost looks similar to origami crafts. 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; ‘rainbow-coloured’ Bougainvillea with bracts of two or more colours on the same plant, are also often seen. The Bougainvillea has come to be synonymous with the Singapore landscape. It is extensively planted here because of the explosion of colours it brings to our hot, tropical environment all year round
Water Jasmine 水梅 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 bonsai 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!
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.
Saga Tree Adenanthera pavonina
The Saga Trees appear on both sides of the Clock Tower. They can be easily identified if one were to look intently on the ground for their small but distinctive red seeds. These seeds are scattered within the vicinity of the trees after its pods have burst. There used to be 3 Saga Trees along Tan Kah Kee Drive. The oldest among the 3 was planted when the Clock Tower was built, and was located in front of the SRC. After being partially damaged, it died in 2015. Recently, more of these trees have been planted along the driveway, with wild orchids grafted to their trunks. The iconic Saga Tree found beside the stone table and benches beside the Clock Tower once had the school bell hung from one of its the branches. Back then, students would gather below the tree, around the stone table and spend quality time with one another. This tree and its bell were wonderfully illustrated by alumnus and artist Mr Lee Kow Fong’s (“Ah Guo”) painting “百年钟声. 100 Years of Bell Ringing”, as a tribute to Hwa Chong during its centennial year.
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.