The National Parks Board (NParks) is the largest greenery stakeholder in Singapore, and has over the years planted and maintained many trees under their professional care, and are enjoyed by Singaporeans and visitors alike. It is worth looking at how the most popular trees managed by NParks has changed over the years, and the reasons behind them. Besides, most of these trees have dominated our landscape for at least 30 years; it is about time to get acquainted with them more intimately.
Some species remain popular through decades, with the crown jewel being the Rain Tree (Albizia saman), as well as others like the Yellow Flame (Peltophorum pterocarpum), Broad-Leaf Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), Sea Apple (Syzygium grande), and Senegal Mahogany (Khaya senegalensis). The Rose Trumpet (Tabebuia rosea) saw a climb in rankings over the years, likely due to the well-received seasonal mass blooming of pink flowers.
There were others that only made in the ranking once, but lost their shine due to maintenance or safety issues. The most drastic of all is the Acacia (Acacia auriculiformis), which was top in the leaderboard in 1988, but was completely abandoned since it generated a lot of leaf litter, and likely because of its invasive nature. For others like the Wild Cinnamon (Cinnamomum iners), Salam (Syzygium polyanthum) and Angsana (Pterocarpus indicus), they managed to retain in the leaderboard for more than 20 years before falling off the charts eventually in 2018.
NParks has constantly adapt and improve our cultivated urban greenery. An anecdotal view of the current state is the introduction of more and new native species, particularly coastal ones which are more tolerant of hot and dry conditions. Trees like the Sea Gutta (Planchonella obovata) has jumped to the 4th in 2018, from out of nowhere. However, it will be hard to surplant the iconic exotics, like the Rain Tree of American origin. Ultimately, many factors come into play in deciding the cultivated greenery landscape, and only time (and data) will tell.
The Straits Times (2018) Singapore Works: Caring for 2 million trees no easy feat. The Straits Times, Singapore. 27-Dec-2018.
Auger T (2013) Living in a Garden: The Greening of Singapore. National Parks Board, Singapore. 200 pp.
Tan PY, Yeo B, Yip WX, Lua HK (2009) Carbon storage and sequestration by urban trees in Singapore. Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology, Singapore. 14 pp.
The Straits Times (1988) The top fifteen trees. The Straits Times, Singapore. 19-Oct-1988.