I’ve spent quite some time trying to identify plants in the U.S., but I’m not yet too familiar with those in Singapore. In the first place, some of those in the park really aren’t too commonly seen- like this silky afgekia (Afgekia sericea Craib), for example. Besides looking pretty, the plant’s roots are thought to be useful in the treatment of chicken pox and throat problems.
There were a number of fruit trees, like this rose apple (Syzygium sp.), bearing a huge load of semi-ripe fruit. When I was young, these trees used to grow around the neighbourhood, but for some reason they can’t be found in recent years. The fruit is one of my favourites to eat- it tastes like a light, crisp sponge, sweet and juicy and just a little sour. They’re still widely available in the market.
The batoko plum (Flacourtia inermis) is native to the Philippines, and prefers a tropical climate. Unlike some of its relatives, it has no thorns, making it a good roadside tree, in part for its attractive orange-red new leaves. Flowers are tiny, and fruits grow abundantly in clusters of 2 to 7. These can be eaten, although they’re very sour and need to be made palatable with lots of sugar.
There were shapely trees, like this silver bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis).
I found a sweet almond verbena (Aloysia virgata), with its lovely tiny white flowers in full bloom. Native to Argentina, the flowers are used in perfumes, and leaves used to treat skin conditions. Probably because of its strong fragrance, it’s very popular with a range of pollinators.
And of course, no garden in Singapore is complete without orchids of some sort, mostly the national flower, Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim. I have to say that the narrow, ruffled petals do make it look a lot more delicate and elegant than Dendrobiums or Phalaenopsis.
Right beside the orchids was the butterfly garden, which had a number of very pretty flowers as well. I’d have liked to see more of those little plant labels hammered into the ground, but a little sleuthing online is quite fun too. Apparently this is the globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa), which would have made for a beautiful backdrop, if only the butterflies actually landed on them. The flower is popular in Hawaiian leis and Nepalese garlands, and in Trinidad is boiled into a tea reportedly useful against gripe, oliguria (insufficient urine production), cough, and diabetes.
Butterflies always love lantanas, also called shrub verbenas. Lantana is the name of the genus, comprising more than 120 species. The multi-coloured flowers can sometimes change colour as they age, providing a very dynamic garden landscape. Being a rather toxic plant, its wood is mostly pest-resistant and therefore useful in making furniture. Berries are poisonous, and shouldn’t be eaten. In fact, any part of the plant really shouldn’t be consumed.
The heat eventually caught up with me and I left the park, past the fence covered with coral vines (Antigonon leptopus) swarming with bees. This one’s native to Mexico, where aboriginals in Baja California (a Mexican state) would toast the seeds like we would popcorn, grinding the meat for further food preparations or boiling them to make fried cakes.
I’ll save the rest for another day, I think. I like the selection of plants they have in Hort Park, and the fact that it’s divided into a number of themed gardens. Parks and gardens tend succumb to entropy, so this categorisation made the entire park seem more orderly. The landscaping was pretty nice too- often, huts, benches, statues, and sculptures can accord a little too much human influence, but there were a number of very classy pieces in the park that would be perfect for pre-wedding photography. I like this little pavilion, framed with greenery. Of course, this being nature and all, bugs are in the fine print. I’ve no idea how many ants would be milling around in it, and nope, I didn’t venture to find out.