Monday, July 29, 2013

Nostalgia trees – Albizia

Oh  no! Did you read this article in last Saturday’s edition of the Strait Times? It seems that the authorities have declared war on my favourite ‘nostalgia tree', the Albizia. They plan to "cull" them (I thought culling only applies to animals?). Hope that they will leave some behind for us enjoy.



I love the sight of the Albizia. Partly because they are so beautiful, so majestic. And partly because, like the Casuarina, they belong to a category of tree, I call a ‘nostalgia tree'. These are trees that my mind automatically associates with memories of my childhood.
I am not sure why, but  I think it’s because next to my primary school (Braddell Rise School) there used to be many beautiful Albizia trees growing at the Braddell Heights next to our school. If you were to travel along the Lornie Viaduct, you can still see many of these majestic trees.
Below are some photos that I have taken of the Albizia. Can you identify these places are?







Here’s an article written by another lover of the Albizia tree giving good reasons why we should preserve them.

12 comments:

Andy Lim* said...

Like many 'nostalgia' buildings Chun See, the trees have to go. The buildings were redundant and the trees dangerous.

I am wondering if our memories will go the same way? 'Cull' our memories too and destroy the 'dangerous' ones?

Five million instant memories. Like our instant trees...

Zen said...

I also like to see nice trees around but now our island is heavily populated with both people as well as vehicles - cars in particular. Trees which have shallow roots can be easily uprooted during a heavy rainstorm which is quite common in this region. A fallen tree may hit a person or a car passing by. So it is a case of better to be safe than sorry.

Pat said...

* Photo 3 = Southern Ridges, looking towards Alexandra Technopark/ HortPark.
* Photo 5 = forested stand along Commonwealth Ave West, opposite S'pore Poly.
* Photo 4 = Holland Woods, beside Clementi Rd (opposite UniSIM) ?

From post: "They plan to "cull" them (I thought culling only applies to animals?)"

Agriculturists & nursery operators cull plants on a regular basis. The term typically applies to the removal of weaker or excessive seedlings/ saplings from a germinated/ established batch of plants.

Since not every seed is viable & will germinate, in order to avoid having empty planting holes/ pots/ cells, it is routine to sow at least 2 seeds in each planting hole, pot or cell (of the seed-tray), & thereafter cull the weaker seedlings. Culling is also performed when there is excessive numbers or overcrowding of potted/ bagged tree saplings of a particular species, in relation to space constraints &/or commercial demand for the species.

In S'pore nurseries (public & private), culled plants are typically disposed of or composted. Here's a definition of (plant) culling from the Dave's Garden portal.

Outside of nursery & agricultural operations, the term 'culling' is also used by some people to refer to the removal of unwanted/ undesirable plants from a landscape. On a small-scale, weeding is a form of plant culling. On a larger scale, mass-removals of established invasive/ aggressive/ non-native plant species might also be described as culling.

Chun See Lam said...

Thanks Pat for the patient explanation. Your answers for 3 & 5 are correct.

Pat said...

@ Andy Lim: "'Cull' our memories too and destroy the 'dangerous' ones?"

Actually, the Albizia tree (Falcataria moluccana, synonyms: Paraserianthes falcataria, Albizia moluccana) is potentially dangerous (uprooting, limb breakage) only when it occurs individually or in small isolated/ scattered stands -- as is often the case for wild-sown Albizia trees in S'pore.

In its native range (eg. Moluccas, Papua New Guinea, some southwestern Pacific islands), this tree species occur in very dense/ closed forested stands that are known to withstand moderate hurricane winds. In some SE Asian countries like the Philippines, this tree species is planted in dense pure stands on hilly slopes to provide protection against soil erosion.

In a highly-urbanized landscape like S'pore, the decision on whether to remove a tree depends on whether it poses a hazard, AND whether human/ collateral targets are present.

Using the Albizia woodland along Commonwealth Ave West (as shown in Chun See's photo #5) as an example, the trees in the centre of the woodland are not hazardous. Neither are there any targets present -- unless people deliberately enter the forest, disrupt the root system, & then camp under the said trees.

And as long as they are healthy & not isolated from the main stand, the Albizia trees adjacent to Commonwealth Ave West (roadway) are not hazardous either, even though targets (motorists, pedestrians, vehicles, road infrastructure) are present.

As such, unless one is seeking to curb the natural spread of Albizia trees in S'pore, not all of them have to removed simply because they might be potentially hazardous.

That being said, there is one situation whereby it is advisable to remove an Albizia tree ASAP when there are targets nearby -- ie. when the tree is dying (eg. due to lightning strike, or root damage arising from developmental works). In such cases, one should not wait until the tree is dead before removing it, because the dead wood of this species is extremely brittle & thus more prone to breakage than usual. To a chainsaw personnel, the task of removing a dead Albizia tree is much more dangerous than removing a live equivalent.

Pat said...

Btw in contrast to S'pore mainland, it seems that there aren't many Albizia trees in Peninsular Malaysia or Java ... not sure about Sumatra. In Peninsular Malaysia, I went as far as KL before I finally spotted a few Albizia trees.

And since the Albizia tree is known as Pokok Mancis (Matchstick Tree) in Malay, it got me wondering if the current generation of wild-sown Albizia trees so widespread in S'pore might be the descendents of trees that were deliberately introduced from the eastern Indonesia islands, & cultivated in plantations here for the purpose of making matchsticks.

Moreover, S'pore had a well-known matchstick industry in the early 20th century, courtesy of Lim Kim Soo (1877 - 1933) who manufactured the Elkayes (read: L-K-S) brand of matchsticks in a factory at MacNair Road, before relocating the facility to Johor in 1931/32 due to commercial pressure.

The below might be of interest.

* Photo: Elkayes matchbox samples & advertisement (All Things Bukit Brown - May 2012)
* Early Death of Mr Lim Kim Soo (S'pore Free Press & Mercantile Advertiser - 14 Dec 1933)
* Tribute to the Late Lee Kim Soo (ST - 17 Dec 1933)
* Lee Kim Soo (Bukit Brown) (Rojak Librarian - 06 Mar 2013)

Chun See Lam said...

I shd clarify that I don't object to what the authorities are doing. Just lamenting.

Anyway, there are so many Albizias around, it is physically impossible to remove all of them even if they wanted to.

Chun See Lam said...

The other Albizias that I remember seeing as a kid were those along Adam Rd near to Sime Rd on the Bt Brown side. There are still many there.

Pat said...

@ Chun See: "Anyway, there are so many Albizias around, it is physically impossible to remove all of them even if they wanted to."

The trick to Albizia's spread across S'pore is its explosive pods & lightweight wind-dispersed seeds, as well as its ease of colonizing degraded soils due to its ability to fix nitrogen within its root nodules. Even so, despite its various propagative & survival skills, I wonder if many of these trees would remain, if the entire S'pore machinery really sets its mind on "throwing the book" at them.


"I shd clarify that I don't object to what the authorities are doing. Just lamenting."

I see your post not as objection or protest, but as waxing nostalgic over things lost (or soon to be lost). Laments are not necessarily negative or unwarranted.


"The other Albizias that I remember seeing as a kid were those along Adam Rd near to Sime Rd on the Bt Brown side."

Just curious ... were there more Albizia trees in S'pore when you were a kid, or are there more of them now ? As a Gen Y, my impression is that there has always been many Albizia trees around here, followed by Acacia auriculiformis (Earleaf Acacia). If one were to compare the two, it appears that the authorities have been more rigorous in removing the Acacia from the local landscape.

Personally, I'm rather fond of the 2 tree species mentioned -- esp. the Acacia for its characteristic gnarled form, foliar-like boomerang-shaped phyllodes (modified leaf stalks), & curly fruit pods.

Leon from SG said...

This was an eye-catching article, Mr. Chun See Lam. I could not agree with you more that the Albizia tree is a nostalgic one. Or "was" for that matter. There used to be a few of them across the road in the forest just beside my living room window. One of them was even taller than my 13 storey apartment. The view from my house is astonishing thus I've stayed here since. But every time I look out of the window, I can't help but feel that something important was missing.

As old memories fade and new ones created, we live on, yearning to find those old memories that have been long forgotten. We try to reminisce about all the precious moments we held dear but our memory still seems unclear. Maybe nostalgia is just another form of deja vu. And that even the simplest things like smelling a certain aroma or walking down a certain path could invoke feelings of nostalgia towards our past.

Andy Lim* said...

Wow! Thank you for all the information. As a person not schooled in agriculture I am learning a lot from the comments.

My stand is clear. I am hoping that the 5 million memories we are trying to collect now will not go to waste if some of them are not found to be 'suitable'.

Chun See's Albizia posting struck a chord.

Chun See Lam said...

For those who are curious about the locations of the Albizia trees in my photos, the answers are as follows:

Photo 1 = Turf City.

Photo 2 - Holland Plain.

Photo 4 - Jalan Bahtera near the Sarimbun Scout Camp.