Plant ofthe Month
Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), or better known as Lady’s-Finger, is an edible plant belonging to the Hibiscus family. Unripe fruits are harvested and used as a vegetable in many Asian cuisines. When eaten, the Okra produces a mucilaginous texture which consists of soluble fibre, results in a gooey or slimy mouthfeel.
Animal ofthe Month
Nycticebus coucang (Boddaert, 1785)
The critically endangered Sunda Slow Loris is the only venomous primate in Singapore. It produces a yellow secretion from glands on the insides of its elbow, which combines with saliva to form venom. During the day, it sleeps on branches or in tree holes by tucking its head into its belly and rolling into a ball. Globally, the population size of Sunda Slow Loris is decreasing due to habitat loss and illegal pet trade.)
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Drosera paradoxa (Sundew) falls under the largest genus of the carnivorous plants – Droseraceae. Despite the lack of a physical trap like the Venus fly trap, the Sundew attracts insects with nectar and its brightly colored tentacle-like structures. The Sundew responds to the presence of prey on its sticky specialised leaves by catapulting its tentacles towards the center of the leaf. The sticky tentacles contain digestive enzymes that slowly digest prey, leaving only the exoskeleton. Researchers reported that once the tentacles have flung inwards, they cannot be unwound or used again. Fortunately, many new leaves are produced every few days so the Sundew can set new traps for unsuspecting insects. Click on the button below to learn more.Drosera paradoxa
Bred for bracts!
What could Bougainvilleas, Heliconias and some of the Bromeliads have in common? While Bougainvilleas may not bear any resemblance to the latter two, the answer is evident in the colorful ‘flowers’ – the most eye-catching, visible structures are in fact not flowers, but bracts or modified leaves that subtend the true flowers. The true flowers are often rather small in comparison to the bracts(or less colorful, in the case of the Bougainvilleas), and it is thought that these plants have developed the colorful bracts in order to better compete for the attention of pollinators and increase their chances at being pollinated. Gardening enthusiasts too are attracted by the colorful displays, and many new varieties and hybrids of these plants are being bred by horticulturists for more novel color tones and combinations.Bred for bracts
Commonly known as Butterfly Pea plant, the flowers of Clitoria ternatea is one of the key ingredient for the colour changing drink which is taking over the world by storm. Dried flowers are boiled to produce a blue solution, and it changes to purple when lemon juice is added! In traditional Peranakan culture, the blue pigment is also used for popular dessert like Kueh Salat. Butterfly Pea plant is widely cultivated in home gardens and the roots can improve soil quality by fixing nitrogen. Click on the button to learn more.Clitoria ternatea
The Gelam Tree
Do you know that Kampong Glam derived its name from the gelam tree (Melaleuca cajuputi)? Kampong Glam was named after the gelam trees that were growing or planted in the area. ‘Kampong’ refers to village in Malay and ‘Glam’ (or ‘gelam’) is the common name for the tree Melaleuca cajuputi, a tree from the myrtle family (Myrtaceae). This tree has a distinct papery bark and has many medicinal uses. Kampong Glam used to be just by the sea and the gelam tree had many practical uses for boat building by the Bugis sailors! Although the gelam tree is extinct from the wild in Singapore, it still widely planted and cultivated in the urban areas of Singapore. You can even see some fine specimens planted in Kampong Glam!The Gelam Tree
Did you know that the Traveller’s Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) is not a true palm? It belongs to the Strelitziaceae family and it is a close relative to the Bird of Paradise plant (Strelitzia reginae). Native to Madagascar, the Traveller’s Palm is popular in tropical landscape because of its enormous leaves which are arranged in a fan shape. It produces big, erect inflorescence like that of Heliconias. However, it seldom blooms in Singapore due to the wet weather. Its fruit are brown capsules, enclosing numerous seeds covered with bright blue arils.Ravenala madagascariensis
Video of wild Sunda Pangolin in Singapore, captured on Night Vision Equipment.
Flora & Fauna NewsView All
Ancient date palm seeds found and grown after 2,000 years
Seven date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) have been grown from among hundreds of seeds found in caves and in the ruins of an ancient palace built in the 1st century BC in the Judean desert near Jerusalem. The seeds were radiocarbon dated to be close to 2,000 years of age, making them the oldest seeds ever germinated. Click the title above to read more. The ancient seeds were prepared by soaking them in water, adding hormones that encourage germination and rooting, then planting them in soil in a quarantined area. Genetic analysis showed that several of them came from female date palms that were pollinated by male palms from different areas. This hints that the ancient Judean people cultivated the palms using sophisticated plant breeding techniques, producing the best tasting dates that are popular in the culture and religions of the Middle East and also symbolic of oasis agriculture.25 May, 2020
Little Coffee Heroes
Coffee leaf rust has been a significant challenge for coffee producers since 1980s. Recently, a field research in the lush central mountains of Puerto Rico found that the Asian tramps snails (Bradybaena similaris) prey on the rust. Ironically, these snails are labelled as notorious pests of many crops such as citrus, grapes, legumes and vegetables. However, the presence of the fungal parasite - Lecanicullium lecanii on the affected leaves creates competition, shifting the snails’ focus towards the rust. This preliminary finding is essential to develop a long term solution that manages the snail’s population while suppressing the rust damage on coffee.03 Apr, 2020
How do mangroves get their nitrogen?
Life is tough for mangroves. They are faced with muddy anaerobic soil and daily tidal inundation, resulting in very nutrient poor soil, especially nitrogen – one of the key element for growth. Scientists were curious how mangroves cope with this environmental challenge, and solved the mystery when they found diazotrophs living with the trees. Diazotrophs are soil-dwelling micro-organisms that convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, which are deposited in the soil, for the tree to absorb. The researchers documented the mutualistic relationship that mangroves share with diazotrops, and how the roots influenced the development of the microbial community. Click the title above to read more.04 Mar, 2020