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  The Struggle for Survival
Main article | Five threatened coastal plants once common on our shores

Five local plant species, once common along our seashores and rivers, are now struggling for survival, says Jean and we must act to ensure their survival. Here Jean Yong highlights each of these species under threat.

Pemphis aciula
The Solitary Last Tree at Changi
The very last Mentigi tree in Singapore grows at the Changi Point Beach Park. It is a four-metre-tall tree with small leaves and white flowers. Sadly, I could not find any young plants growing naturally under the tree and so I collected some seeds and germinated them under the usual laboratory conditions. It was a joy to see some of the seeds germinating in the petri-dishes after several weeks. When these seedlings were about 30 cm tall, they were planted along the banks of Sungei Api Api.

Bruguiera parviflora
Three tiny populations left

There are only three tiny populations of Lenggadai on the eastern part of Singapore. The tiniest (three trees) is found just beyong the northernmost boundary of Changi Airport, another group (about four trees) grows on Pulau Tekong while the largest of the three (possibly more than eight trees), can be found in Pasir Ris Park. Seeds (or propagules) are usually dispersed by rising tide waters but for reasons (yet) unknown, the patch of mangrove in Pasir Ris Park is no longer flooded by the sea even during high tide and therefore the propagules from these trees can no longer be naturally dispersed. Fortunately there is one tree growing beside the raised boardwalk and this produces propagules profusely. I asked the cleaners to collect the seeds and pass them to me for dispersal in the nearby rivers Sungei Tampines and Sungei Api Api and also for replantinq along the Api Api's banks, they were happy to do so. (This demonstrates what can be achieved by educating people and asking for their help.) On a brighter note, a new population of Lenggadai has been established.

Kandelia candel
'Odd- looking' mangrove tree

Interestingly, there was no clear taxonomic evidence of this tree occuring in Singapore until recently. In 1996 I was fortunate to find this 'odd looking' mangrove tree growing along Sungei Tampines, it was on the east bank, beside the NTUC Holiday resort. This may be the only tree of its kind left in Singapore, unless more trees can be found elsewhere on the island. Recently the National Parks Board made attempts to propagate this species by shoot cuttings in the Botanic Gardens.

Pemphis seedling
A newly germinated seedling
from seeds collected from
our last Pemphis tree at
Changi Point in 1993
photo by Hugh Tan

White flowers of
Pemphis acidula

Photo by Hugh Tan

A fruiting
Bruguiera parviflora
tree in Pasir Ris Park
Photo by J Yong

Planting endangered
coastal plants along the
banks of Sungei Api Api

This is a good and practical
way to conserve our
natural heritage and also to
prevent soil erosion.
Photo by J Yong

Kandelia candel
This is probably the only tree
found in Singapore and
we must ensure its survival.
Photo by J Yong
Xylocarpus rumphii
A bonsai-like species

This woody 'bonsai-like' species is only found on the rocky, south-west coast of St. John's Island. More should be planted, especially along our waterfronts, as these trees have a unique and very attractive form and are also tolerant of harsh coastal conditions. At present the trees on St. John's are safe but for how long? The last time this species was counted (1996), there were three mature trees and twelve young plants. Rescue efforts were put in place. Seeds were collected periodically, germinated and transplanted into habitat as similar to that found on St. John's as possible. As it was hard to find good rocky coastal habitat, other than at Labrador Park, the young plants were either given to Sungei Buloh Nature Park or planted along Sungei Api Api. But this tree is ideally suited for planting alongside granite-concrete seashore embankments for a combination of such coastal trees, naturally well adapted to coastal erosion, and man-made embankments, may prove more effective against wind and tide erosions, which promise to become far more severe with Global Warming than man-made barriers.

Api api jambu
Avicennia marina
The rarest of four species

This tree is the rarest of four Avicennia species found in Singapore and there are presently only two populations that have been discovered. I counted three mature trees in the Ulu Pandan mangrove area and six mature trees, with lots of saplings, in a tidal pond on St. John's island. No conservation measures have been put in place for this rare and threatened species of wild jambu.

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