War on the Zanzibar Yam

16 Nov, 2019 by Jake

It was a struggle out of bed on an early Saturday morning, but I was eager to participate in an event organised by the Bukit Timah Citizens' Consultative Committee and the Friends of Bukit Timah Forest. I was surprised to see so many people at the gathering point at Mayfair Park, which was later confirmed to be around 160 pax.

The aim of the day was to eradicate an invasive weed called Zanzibar Yam (Dioscorea sansibarensis). An exotic climber originating from Africa, it grows extremely fast and can easily smother our native forest where it grows on. It can also clone itself from bulbils at the leaf axes, or from its underground tubers. Therefore removal has to be very thorough.

Above, an NParks staff gave a quick guide to us on identifying the money and the process of removal. Sim Ann, Member of Parliment of the Holland-Bukit Timah Constituency was also here to lend her hand in this effort.

I have seen photos of the climber's huge tubers and was very eager to get started in digging. On the top left, a small tuber with roots sprouting around it. With time, this starchy storage organ will expand rapidly and serve as a source of food to aid its regeneration if the top is ever damaged. Top right, I felt somewhat like an archeologist getting excited with each tuber find and using a small shovel to dig them out. 

Top left, a team got a huge haul, while me on the right posing w a tuber larger than my head.

It was reported that over 900kg of tubers and leaves were removed in this 2hr exercise. Quite a respectable haul, great exercise, and community bonding event in all. Do watch out for their next event by following Friend's of Bukit Timah Facebook page.

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