Sunday, May 24, 2009

the tembusu tree (fagraea fragrans)


tembusu tree at macritchie park along the lornie trail



talking about the use of the unripe fruit of the 'buah cheri' tree as ammunition for our toy guns, chun see mentioned two postings by his friend chuck; one was on lastik and the other on toy gun. i am very impressed by the trouble that chuck went through to present photographic illustrations on how to make the lastik (malay word for catapult) and the toy gun.



i agree with chuck that the fork branch from the tembusu tree makes the best catapult. if properly treated, it can withstand any amount of tension exerted on it by the user. in fact, during my kampong days, we did not know of any other tree which could provide that kind of wood with such resilience and strength.

i remember i used to visit the jewish cemetery nearby which had a few tembusu trees. i would climb the tree to look for a branch of the right shape and size so that i could fashion a lastik out of it. as i was not very skilful at using the lastik, i did not use it very much.

why i am talking about the tembusu tree? because you cannot fail to notice the tembusu trees at this time of the year. they are in full bloom. when i drive along sungei kadut avenue, we i go to macritchie reservoir park (for my nature walks) and even when i visit the marsiling housing estate, i am greeted by the sight of the small, light yellow flowers on these trees.

even when i went to jalan bahar to find out the answer to an interesting quiz question posed by this chap, i could not fail to notice the tembusu trees in bloom at the muslim cemetery of lim chu kang.

the tembusu tree is one of the easiest to identify. apart from the light yellow flowers - which appear twice a year - the distinctive cracked bark is a giveaway. it bears small red berries which attract a lot of birds. as its botanic name suggests, the flowers have a certain fragrance. the smell is strongest in the evening.


one of the most iconic trees in singapore is the tembusu tree. it is found at lawn e of the botanic gardens. it should be more than 150 years. it has been featured on the singapore $5 note and on postage stamps.

8 comments:

stanley said...

YG,
Now I know that the fork branch from the tembusu tree makes a good lastic(catapult). I remember when I was a kid, I used to fashion a lastic from the fork branch of the guava tree. This tree, it seems, can only provide "U" shaped lastic instead of the common "Y" type from other trees.

yg said...

stanley, yes, i remembered seeing a few of my kampong friends using the u-shaped lastik. they could have used the branch rm the guava (pak kia) tree.

Lam Chun See said...

I also like the Tembusu. The huge ones especially, have a grand stately appearance when viewed from a distance e.g. those near the canoeing shed in MacRitchie. You definitely know which ones I am talking about.

yg said...

chun see, i know which trees you are referring to. i always walk past them when i do the petai trail. they are magnificent trees.

Lam Chun See said...

YG. Did you know that when Queen Elizabeth visited Spore, she and her husband planted Tembusu trees at the Jurong Hill Top? I just recalled that I blogged about it here.

Mel said...

I love the tembusu !! Reminds me of growing up in Singapore ...I'm very glad to have stumbled upon this blog!!

yg said...

hi mel, glad you enjoy the blog. i presume you have emigrated. there seem to be more tembusu trees than before. you should come back to visit, to enjoy the sights.

melsiebel said...

hi yg, still enjoying your posts !! :-) Looking forward to learning more about my hometown trees, I never paid attention much when mum was telling me all about them. So maybe I'll learn a thing or two here !! Cheers and yes, have been home a few times, now living by the beach near the Santa Cruz Mountains...which in itself has a lovely variety of trees including towering Redwoods...