Trees of the Fort Tour

photo credit for the common rose butterfly

By Lim Yi He

Connecting With Nature: Trees of the Fort Tour is an interesting educational activity that was held on the morning of July 23 2016 to encourage the public to appreciate the trees of Fort Canning Park, which contains both a rich history and a rich biodiversity.

A bit of tree trivia:

  1. Sepetir is a large deciduous tree with a massive crown. A distinguishing feature of the tree is its flat, oval and spiny pods. It is said there was a 76m tall Sepetir in Changi, called the “Changi Tree” which was used as a major landmark due to its height. Unfortunately, the British felled it when Japanese soldiers also used it as a landmark to attack their camps.
  2. We don’t see flowers on fig trees because they’re inside the fruit. Figs often use a particular breed of wasps for pollination. The female wasp crawls inside through a hole so narrow that she loses her wings in the process and becomes trapped. She lays her eggs inside the fig and dies – the larvae burrow out before turning into adult wasps.
  3. One of the four Madras Thorns that have been given the Heritage Tree status in Fort Canning Park has attained a girth of 7.4m, thus making it Singapore’s largest Madras Thorn on record so far. The twigs of this tree are thorny from the pairs of spine-like stipules, hence its common name.
  4. Many fig species are classified as ‘stranglers’. Once the sapling has established itself on the host plant, it will send its roots down until it eventually strangles the host as it grows larger. The figs provide food for forest animals. The Malayan Banyan standing on the lower slope in Fort Canning Park is truly a sight to behold.

The best surprise of the trip was seeing a common rose butterfly. The common rose was voted as our national butterfly last year in June. I’ve actually never seen a live one before as common rose caterpillars only feed on the leaves of Aristolochiae plants.

What I love about nature tours is that you get to know new things and new people. They are often free and the groups small, so you get to know everyone along the way. This time there was a couple from Cyprus and a family from Madras (a state in India). Even the tour guide had an interesting background – he’s a banker that volunteers regularly at Fort Canning Park. You also see familiar faces around sometimes.

In conjunction with this year’s Singapore Night Festival, Fort Canning Park will also be conducting the Night Heritage Tours on 19, 20 and 26 Aug. Join us if you’re interested in the intriguing stories and legends that surround the Forbidden Hill! Please refer to for more details.

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