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Fri 25 Feb 2005

The last endemic

Category : nature

After perusing through the Garden's Bulletin, Adrian Loo writes,

"In 1900, Ridley listed 33 endemic plants in Singapore. He predicted that some eventually lose this status as more botanising revealed their presence beyond this island. [An endemic plant is a plant that occurs naturally in one place and nowhere else.]

Singapore's flora shares some affinity with the flora of southern Johore and the northern flora of Borneo. And indeed as those regional floras were better studied, only one species from that 1900 list of 33 proved to be endemic.

However, later on, Ridley himself, Holttum and few others revived the list of endemics with some of the new species that they described from Singapore. Up to recently, the "revived" list of endemics was 19 species.

Recently, Kiew & Turner (2003) scrutinised the list and report that only seven eventually proved to be endemic as knowledge of regional floras improved. The rest had their distributions widened to Peninsular Malaysia.

The seven endemic plants of Singapore

  • extinct Bolbitis xsingaporeansis (fern)
  • extinct Flickingeria laciniosa (epiphyte)
  • extinct Spatholobus ridleyi (climber)
  • extinct Strychnos ridleyi (climber)
  • extinct Thunbergia dasychlamys (climber)
  • extinct Tectaria griffithii var. singaporeana (fern)
  • endangered Cryptocoryne xtimahensis (aquatic)

Sadly, of this seven, only one, an aquatic aroid recently described from Bukit Timah in 2001, is extant - Cryptocoryne xtimahensis Bastmeijer.

Even then, its long term status as an endemic is tenuous as the putative parents are also found in Southern Peninsular Malaysia; Cryptocoryne are known to hybridise readily. On top of that, it is also a very vulnerable species, growing in two adjacent small pools along just one stream."

Source: Ruth Kiew & Ian Mark Turner, 2003. Are any plants endemic to Singapore? The Gardens' Bulletin, 55(2): 173-184.

Reference: Bastmeijer, J.D. & R. Kiew, 2001. A new Cryptocoryne hybrid (Araceae) from the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The Gardens Bulletin, 53: 9-17.

Posted at 5:36AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news