The Ordeal Tree originates from tropical Africa and can grow to a height of 20 m to 30 m. It has a wide-spreading crown and its young leaves are attractive with their coppery colour. Its flowers are small, cream to yellow, and grow in dense, long bunches. When pollinated, they mature into flat, woody pods.
The bark contains an alkaloid that acts on the heart, and some African tribes make a poison from it that is applied to arrows. The bark can be pounded into a powder that, if placed in water, will turn the water red. This is sometimes dispensed as an ‘ordeal’ poison to people accused of crimes. The belief is that the person will die from the concoction if they are guilty, and survive if innocent.
This Ordeal Tree originally stood in the former Economic Garden but was transplanted to its current location before 1920. This was done in preparation for the Economic Garden’s land to be reallocated for the development of Raffles College.
This Ordeal Tree is more than 100 years old and had a girth of 5.4 m when endorsed as a Heritage Tree in 2019.