Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Here one day, Gone the next - Glam trees @ Bt Timah Rd

Take a close look at these 2 photos. Taken from the overhead bridge at Bukit Timah Road, they show a stretch of the road just in front of the Cascadia Condo. Can you spot the difference?



Yes. It’s the row of trees. This type of tree is known as Glam Tree, and the name of Kampong Glam is actually derived from the name of this tree which used to grow freely in Kampong Glam. Check out my friend James Tann's photos of Kampong Glam here.


It was my friend, Dr Tan Wee Kiat (not the one from Nparks) who first drew my attention to these interesting trees in Bukit Timah. Thanks to him, I am able to share with you some photos of these trees that have since been cleared in the name of progress.



10 comments:

peter said...

I am not sure whether it was done intentionally but I find that palm trees planted in private estates are left to die by NParks. The moment they show signs of dying they are dug up and no new tree planted @same spot. This is highly unusual as in the past NParks will quickly replace with new ones.

Good Morning SMS said...

nice pictures, i like the road.

Pat said...

From post: "This type of tree is known as Glam Tree, and the name of Kampong Glam is actually derived from the name of this tree which used to grow freely in Kampong Glam."

The local Malay names for the said tree (Melaleuca cajuputi, synonym: Melaleuca leucadendra/ leucadendron [misapplied]) are Pokok Gelam & Kayu Putih. This is a S'pore native species, but is now locally-extinct in the wild. It is tolerant of poorly-drained & brackish soils, & occurs naturally at swampy sites near the coast.

"Gelam" itself means paperbark in Malay, & refers generically to trees characterized by papery/ flaky peeling bark. Eg. Gelam Wangi = Melaleuca alternifolia, Gelam Bukit = Leptospermum species.

Incidentally, the aerosolized form of Pokok Gelam's essential oils has been tested to be effective in killing the adult Aedes mosquitoes responsible for dengue virus transmissions.

* Evaluation of Melaleuca cajuputi (Family: Myrtaceae) Essential Oil in Aerosol Spray Cans against Dengue Vectors in Low Cost Housing Flats [Journal of Arthropod-Borne Diseases, 2012; 6(1): 28–35]
* Evaluation of Melaleuca cajuputi Powell. (Family: Myrtaceae) Extract in Aerosol Can against Dengue Vectors in the Laboratory [Journal of Tropical Medicine & Parasitology, Dec 2009; 32:58-64]


From post: "I am able to share with you some photos of these trees that have since been cleared in the name of progress."

This is puzzling. Other than the now-missing trees, that stretch of road-divider looks unchanged. Were the trees removed because they were diseased ? But this seems quite unlikely, because mature Gelam trees are seldom affected by pests/ diseases due to anti-pathogenic essential oils present within the trees' tissues.

If the trees were healthy, hopefully they had been transplanted elsewhere -- instead of being made to regress into sawdust & woodchips.

Pat said...

@ peter: "I find that palm trees planted in private estates are left to die by NParks. The moment they show signs of dying they are dug up and no new tree planted @same spot. This is highly unusual as in the past NParks will quickly replace with new ones."

You mean the palms located along minor roads & similar public areas ? Perhaps replacement planting is not carried out, because the removed palms were affected by diseases/ pests known to be perennially active at the affected sites.

For instance in S'pore, clustering palms like Dypsis lutescens (Yellow Cane Palm) & Ptychosperma macarthurii (Macarthur Palm), as well as solitary/ clustering palms like Areca species & oil palms, are highly-susceptible to a serious fungal disease called Ganoderma basal stem rot caused by Ganoderma boninense & other pathogenic Ganoderma fungi that feed on live plants. Note that these fungi can also cause root & basal trunk rot in susceptible non-palm species like certain types of hardwood trees.

By the time symptoms appear (ie. formation of fungal fruiting bodies at the plant's base), the palm is already severely infected & on an irreversible death-course. This disease spreads very quickly from palm to palm via root contact, soil & soil water. Infections are very difficult to detect w/o involving regular invasive checks (eg. drilling holes into the trunks/ canes of asymptomatic palms). Diseased palms have to be removed ASAP, & it is not sound horticultural or economic practice to replant palms & susceptible non-palms into known infected soils.

In addition, many types of solitary palms (ie. palm "trees") in S'pore are also susceptible to attack by various beetles, such as Brontispa longissima (Hispid Beetle, Coconut Hispid), Plesispa reichei (Coconut Leaf Beetle), Oryctes rhinoceros (Asiatic Rhinoceros Beetle), etc. These beetles (adults &/or larvae) excel at chewing up the single spear (ie. growing-point consisting of developing fronds) of solitary palms. Infested spears not only tend to rot (which itself is highly-fatal to the palm), but also makes the palm susceptible to attack by secondary pathogens (eg. fungal infections).

The control of such palmivorous beetles is complex & involves repeated applications of soil injections, soil drenches & foliar sprays with toxic chemicals. In light of cost & environmental concerns, the agency involved may perhaps decide not replant susceptible palms at affected sites.

Chun See Lam said...

I travel along this road very frequently, yet I did not notice them being removed. I think it must have place during the time when they were upgrading the drain next to the side road.

As for those glam trees in photos 3 & 4, they were located in front of Maplewood Condo. They have all been cleared and a huge 'MRT construction equipment store' is now standing there. And the road diverted.

Chun See Lam said...

You know something friends. If you go to Google Streetview, you can still see these tree. Wow. So many of them have been removed. What a pity.

Thimbuktu said...

Thanks for the blog, Chun See. These are heritage trees, grown up along the same roads for decades which we can remember.

The buildings on both sides of the roads may have changed and rebuilt, but the trees planted many years ago. Few people noticed the trees as they grew. From a sapling to an old, big tree to provide shade and greenery to those who passed by the roads... these are heritage trees, not "instantaneous transplanted trees"!

The trees along the roads in Singapore revive nostalgic memories the places we grew up".

Pat said...

@ Thimbuktu: "These are heritage trees, grown up along the same roads for decades [...] From a sapling to an old, big tree to provide shade and greenery to those who passed by the roads... these are heritage trees, not "instantaneous transplanted trees"!"

In horticulture, a tree sapling is generally defined as one that has been germinated from seed, while "instant trees" (in the context of S'pore) refer to those derived from large woody stem cuttings taken from mature trees. For tree species that root easily (eg. Angsana), the stem cuttings are sometimes inserted straight into the final site w/o any prior rooting.

The majority of roadside & parkland trees in S'pore are stem cuttings pre-rooted in polybags at foreign nurseries, or imported stem cuttings (contained within root-control bags) that are then "planted" into the ground at local tree banks. For the latter case, when these instant trees reach an "aesthetically-acceptable" size or form, they are trenched out & delivered to site.

In S'pore, due to cost, logistical & other reasons (eg. various tree species are intolerant of root disturbance & transplanting), there are actually relatively few transplanted trees at the common areas of S'pore.

In fact, most of the mature trees that have to be removed (for whatever reason) are destroyed instead of being transplanted -- unless they possess special characteristics (eg. rare species, or having a very nice form). Examples of localities with a disproportionate no. of transplanted trees include: Gardens By The Bay & HortPark, whose large mature trees were previously dug out from the ground somewhere (either locally or overseas).

As such, most of time, we don't really see trees "grow up" from seed in S'pore. Instead, we see tree cuttings grow tall &/or wide (due to abundance of rain & sunshine) -- but not necessarily deep into the ground.

Pat said...

@ Chun See: "I think it must have place during the time when they were upgrading the drain next to the side road. [...] If you go to Google Streetview, you can still see these tree. Wow. So many of them have been removed. What a pity."

Hmm, the agency responsible for the drainage works & subsequent reinstatement of the site does not have to carry out replacement tree-planting ?

The said Google Street View image is dated back to Feb 2009. With S'pore being continuously demolished, chainsawed & re-engineered at such a rapid rate, Google Street View has turned out to be a valuable repository of visual documentation about the local landscape. Hopefully, even as Google updates its images every few years on a rolling basis, the archived images of past years could be retained & made publicly accessible.

Also, if only this Street View technology had existed 30 & more years ago ... then I can jalan-jalan around old S'pore & virtually experience the disappeared landscape in its entirety, instead of trying to imagine it via old photos or textual descriptions.

Ironically, Google Street View is currently doing a run-through of Gardens By The Bay. Is this really necessary though ? It's not as if the place & its recently-imported theme park trees are in danger of disappearing anytime soon. It would've been more meaningful, if the Google team had instead walked around urgently-endangered localities with greater heritage interest & value (eg. Bukit Brown).

* Visit Gardens by the Bay on Google's Street View (ST - 06 Aug 2013, VIDEO)

Chun See Lam said...

Hi Pat. Exactly my thoughts, wish Google Streetview could go back 30 years. So many places that I want to revisit.

There was an article last week about 2 gentleman who goes around Spore taking photos of buildings to archive the image. I have been doing that since I started this blog. I concentrate more on the unknown bldgs. (e.g. HDB flats at Ghim Moh and Dover Estate - check our my Old Buildings Quiz) becos I know that with the imp places, such as KTM Railway Station, there are lots of images available in cyberspace.