Running into an unfamiliar species is always an interesting experience, identification can be challenging, with plenty of trial and error. Even with the power of the internet behind you, information can be limited and frustration is common.
However, when you finally get that “Eureka!” moment and find a match, what follows is a rush of adrenaline and an excited flurry of research. In the meantime, having a distinctive species smugly sit in front of you while being unable to identify it is hair-tearing.
Never has this experience been more pronounced when I was faced by this species at Bukit Brown Cemetery.
I felt stupid for the longest time when I could not figure out the name of such a distinctive plant with its absurdly large tri-lobed leaves. The specimen shown above is a small one. Mature individuals in the cemetery reach about 15m high.
Big leaves. Colleague for scale.
It was only when I ran into its cousin the Common Mahang (Macaranga bancana) that something clicked. This is the Giant Mahang (Macaranga gigantea). While the leaves are similar in shape to the Common Mahang, they are much larger, and its twigs do not contain mutualistic ants like its Common cousin.
Its role as a pioneer species fit the Bukit Brown Cemetery perfectly. Closed to new burials in 1973, secondary rainforest has been slowly reclaiming much of the area. Large tracts of open disturbed land? Perfect for the Giant Mahang.
Given enough time, these trees are eventually overtaken by larger, shade-tolerant competitors. However, the copious amounts of small fruit that it produces while it is alive ensures dispersal by animals to other open areas.
16 June 1963, Mr Lee Kuan Yew plants a Mempat tree (Cratoxylum formosum) at Farrer Circus, launching an island-wide greening movement that has continued for more than five decades.
Image Source: http://www.asiaone.com/singapore/trail-mr-lees-trees
As a testament to the pace of redevelopment in Singapore, of the more than 60 trees planted by Mr.Lee since 1963, 39 have survived while the rest (including that first Mempat tree) no longer exist.
Heritage trees are individual or groups of trees that are so special that they are worthy of recognition and protection for future generations. These trees broadly fit into three main groups; visual importance, scientific value and cultural connections.
Announced on 17 August 2001, the heritage tree program by NParks recognizes exceptional mature trees worthy of conservation. As of November 2017, there are 265 heritage trees in the register.
Read more here: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/heritage-trees
Property owners in Singapore often require professional recommendations on tree risk and health. Arborists sometimes prescribe conservative recommendations because risk-adverse property owners appreciate new buildings; concrete and metal rather than trees.
Arborists are translators, communicating a tree’s messages to humans. But there is great pressure to fall in line with the property owner’s expectations and dispose of liability. Risk can never be reduced to zero while retaining a tree’s benefits. Like a medical doctor faced with a litigious patient and their family, an arborist will recommend the most conservative solutions of expensive surgery or removal.
These trees have been standing for many decades, providing shade, improving the air, supporting the ecosystem, silently working 24 hours a day for our benefit. All they require is regular attention every few months.
Having low risk, well-managed trees in an estate costs very little. Expensive surgery only results from old, sick trees that were poorly maintained, made worse by a property owner’s risk adverse attitude.
Here lies my love for trees, I found this poem in an old book:
The Tree’s Prayer
You who would pass by and raise your hand against me
listen before you harm me.
I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,
the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun;
And my fruits are refreshing draughts
quenching your thirst as you journey on.
I am the beam that holds your house,
the board of your table,
the bed on which you lie
and the timber that build your boat.
I am the handle of your hoe
and the door of your homestead,
the wood of your cradle
and the shell of your coffin.
I am the gift of God
and the friend of man.
You who pass by, listen to my prayer…
Harm me not.
-Translated from “Ao Viandante”, Veiga Simões, May 1914.
Do we need a Landscape Designer?
Landscape design is sometimes overlooked when building or renovating an estate. Here are several reasons why that may be the case.
Not in “To-Do-List”.
When renovating a new house, landscaping is often the last item on an owner’s “To-Do-List” despite being the first thing visitors encounter.
There is no need to hire Designers, “Anybody” can do it.
Perhaps the owner is accustomed to doing their own gardening. They feel confident in designing their landscape from scratch. However, it is still prudent to seek professional advice. Proper planning, preparation and installation is very important for landscape to thrive and remain beautiful for many years.
A low bid is a good bid.
Owners choosing the cheapest landscape contractor is closely tied to landscaping being on the back of their minds when renovating a house. Contractor reputation, past projects and materials chosen are good gauges and should not be ignored in favour of price.
Plants? Choose the cheapest.
Nothing beats good research. What may seem like a shrub can turn into a tree in 3 to 5 years, obscuring the view from a house. Cheap purchases might also cost more in future maintenance. A landscape designer can offer professional help in deciding which plants will be a sound investment for the future.
Just planted a new tree?
It may be small now, but with a basic understanding of tree biology, you can help it grow to its full potential.
Here are three simple tasks:
1.Stake the tree, only if necessary.
Studies show trees establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk and root systems if they are not staked at the time of planting. Staking may be required when planting bare root stock or planting on windy sites. Materials should be flexible and padded to minimize injury to the trunk, yet still allow movement. It is important to remove support staking and ties after the first year of growth.
2.Mulch the base of the tree.
Mulches spread around the base of a tree, holds moisture, moderates soil temperature extremes, and reduces grass and weed competition. The two major types of mulch are organic and inorganic. Inorganic mulches include various types of stone, lava rock, pulverized rubber, geotextile fabrics, and other materials. Inorganic mulches do not decompose and do not need to be replenished often. On the other hand, they do not improve soil structure, add organic materials, or provide nutrients. A 2- to 4-inch (5- to 10-cm) layer is ideal. More than 4 inches (10 cm) may cause a problem with oxygen and moisture levels. Piling mulch right up against the trunk of a tree may cause decay of the living bark.
3.Limit your pruning.
At the time of planting, limit pruning to dead or broken branches. All other pruning should be withheld until the second or third year, when a tree has recovered from the stress of transplanting. You should always have a distinct purpose in mind before making any pruning cut; every cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree.
Note: This post shares content from http://www.treesaregood.org.
Please visit the site for more excellent tree care information!
Removing all live foliage is NOT a good idea. Note the leaves on the lorry and not on the tree.
You may have noticed that areas with poorly maintained trees get hotter.
This is no coincidence, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reports that tree cover can affect temperatures by up to 5.7°C (Ziter, 2019). It is the difference between being in the tropical heat at 30°C and in an air-conditioned room at 24 to 25°C.
What often happens is that tree owners disown liability and foist responsibility unto landscape contractors with fine print in poorly-worded contracts, assuming the hired contractors know what is best for their trees.
Do not assume landscape contractors know what is best for your trees.
Landscape contractors vary in tree maintenance knowledge breadth and depth. Anyone can start hacking away at a tree with a chainsaw, years of experience is not a good indication of tree maintenance knowledge. Contractors want repeat customers, they will do what they are told even if the tree owner suggests something wrong. Incompetent contractors will straight up offer solutions that harm trees.
Tree owners must have some basic knowledge so that they do not give their contractors incorrect instructions or accept their contractor’s offered solution at face value.
At the bare minimum, visit one of the trees with the contractor and ascertain where they will cut. Agree on how much foliage is to be removed before work (anything more than 30% is usually too much).
Under no circumstances should a contractor be allowed to top/head/hat-rack/pollard a tree in Singapore, harming trees by leaving behind ugly bare stubs.
When faced with evidence that the hired landscape contractors are damaging their property, irresponsible tree owners shy away from further corrective action on their part as long as their proverbial behinds are covered by their maintenance contracts.
If you, or someone you know, are in-charge of trees in or near public spaces, we would like to take the opportunity to beseech you to take responsibility for the plants in your care. Educate yourselves on proper tree maintenance. Do not assume landscape contractors know what is best for your trees. And definitely do not use maintenance contracts as a way to shift responsibility to the contractor.
If you’re a member of the public and see disfigured trees near your homes, do not stay silent. The trees may have been contributing to a cool and pleasant environment for decades. A spike in your electricity bill from increased fan and air-conditioning use can be an indirect result of tree neglect.
Ziter, C. D., Pendersen, E. J., Kucharik, C. J., Turner, M. G. (2019). Scale-dependent interactions between canopy cover and impervious surfaces reduce daytime urban heat during summer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(15), 7575-7580.