Monday, February 23, 2009

Discovery @ Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Eighty eighth Discovery Posting:

Bukit Time Nature Reserve (武吉知马自然保护区), a place where one can climb/walk to the tallest point of Singapore (at around 164 meters), in terms of non-man-made structure, was our destination last Sat. However, our objective wasn't the tallest point but around the reserve to explore and learn about the plants found in the reserve. Together with the Central Catchment reserve, both places are great places to learn about plants which occurs in primary and secondary forests as they house around 840 species of flowering plants and 80 fern species.

And our first 'discovery' of the day is a plant which flower looks like a mini microphone, the petai ,Parkia speciosa (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. This plant is better known as the plant which produces stink beans.
2. Stink beans are popular in southern Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia and northeastern India.
3. According to Wikipedia, they are best when combined with other strong flavoured foods such as garlic, chill peppers, and dried shrimp, as in "sambal petai" or added to a Thai curry such as Thai Green Curry.
4. Read more about it @

The second 'discovery' is an interesting plant which I will give more details as you read on. Btw, this plant is Gutta-percha, Palaquium gutta (pictures below).

Top view of its leaves(picture below)
Bottom view of its leaves and a view of its golden-colour like underside (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. Before rubber trees were tapped comerically for their latex around our region and probably some others, the latex from the gutta-percha, was tapped widely and used to produce the protective covering of submarine telegraphic cables in the mid 1800s.
2. Collection of latex from the gutta-percha back then sadly did not include only tapping but also through the felling of these species of trees.
3. And another interesting fact is that a section of the Bukit Timah forest was maintained as a gutta-percha plantation until the early 1900s.
4. This is why one can find a certain number of these plants clustered in parts of Bukit Timah.
5. Read more about this plant @

One plant which you might not find unfamilar to sight is this licuala palm, third 'discovery' (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. You don't find it unfamilar as many Licuala species are popular ornamental plants for gardens and indoor decorations.
2. In the indigenous communities of the Malayan rain forests, the leaves of these palms are used to make roof thatching, hats, umbrellas and even to wrap food.

As we walked around, we came across this interesting sight and was told by LK that the cauliflower-like things are the female flowers of the Baccaurea parviflora (picture below), fourth 'discovery'. And some time later, we came across the male flowers of the same plant (not so clear picture below).Discovery Note:
1. The flowers of this plant are unisexual, this means at any one time on one plant, the flowers are either all male or female.
2. The trees, on the other hand, are dimorphic. *If I am not wrong, this means that the trees can morph/change to either male or female.* <-- According to LK, this should be wrong. So I did some search online and found this. Thanks, LK!
Dimorphic can mean
a) Flowers that appear in two forms in the same species, on the same or different plants.
b) A creature or plant that is highly variable between male and female. Easily distinguishable features such as color or size make the identification of the sexes very easy.
3. The female flowers are found borne in spikes from the base of the tree.
4. The male flowers are cauliflorous on knobs to a height of about 2 meters and more.
5. You might be wondering why the flowers of this plant is found around the stem, a phenomena unlike many other plants which you might have seen before. According to what I know, by being in a low position as you see in the photos, forest animals can easily reach these flowers and feed on them and thus aid in pollination.

As a few of us have done guided walks in Bukit Timah, they took turns to teach the rest of us (including myself) on some of the commonly-seen plants in the reserve and probably other forests also. Here's one, the leaf litter plant, fifth 'discovery' (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. The leaf litter plant has an interesting way to gather additional nutrients.
2. From the left picture above, you can see dead leaves trapped between the leaves of the plant.
3. These trapped dead leaves in time will decompose and become additional nutrients for the plant.
4. This source of nutrients is important for the plant as the forest floor is often nutrient poor.

The last plant I will feature today, sixth 'discovery' is the mousedeer plant (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. One main reason why this plant is called the mousedeer plant is because the mousedeer is known to consume the plant's fruits.
2. This plant also has an unique leaf structure. A closer look is available on the right hand side of the picture above.

All in all, it was a great way to spent the morning. However, if you are interested to visit the place. Do keep some things in mind:

1. Keep to the trail as to minimise the trampling and damage done to the flora.
2. Do not venture to trails which are closed. On the day of our trip, we saw a few people walking into closed trails. This is bad for two reasons, one, they are risking their safety as the trail may be closed due to safety reasons. Two, sometimes trails are closed for the regeneration of flora found near the trail and this is not possible if people continue to enter the trail.
3. Keep your voice and walking volume down. This is to cause minimal disturbance to the animals found in the reserve and at the same time, it increases your chances of sighting an animal during your walk.
4. Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.
5. Do not feed any animals. For example, as a result of feeding, some macaques are known to snatch food from humans.

Of course, don't forget to enjoy your walk while you are there. =D
PS: Thanks to everyone who went and made this trip another enjoyable outdoor session.

a) Read more about the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve @ and

b) For a more comprehensive 'virtual' guide to the place, visit

c) Read WQ's entry for the trip. It consists of many plants which we saw. It's @

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