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World's First Dynamic System to Support Heritage Tree at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

26 May 2014

Technology pioneered by ST Kinetics and NParks helps conserve the iconic Heritage Tree



Singapore, 27 May 2014 -  In a collaboration between arborists and engineers, experts from the National Parks Board (NParks) and Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd (ST Kinetics), the land systems arm of ST Engineering, worked together to develop a dynamic support system to serve as a prop for the lateral limb of the iconic Tembusu tree at Singapore Botanic Gardens. Believed to be thefirst of its kind in the world, the innovative system incorporates an in-built suspension that allows for movement and growth of the tree limb and helps conserve the Heritage Tree. The support system was demonstrated to President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who also launched the first book on the Gardens’ Heritage Trees at the event today.  


The Tembusu tree (Cyrtophyllum fragrans), estimated to be more than 200 years old, is situated on the lawn overlooking Swan Lake in the Singapore Botanic Gardens - Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination. Immensely popular with visitors, the majestic tree is a popular backdrop for wedding and family photographs. An image of this tree is also featured on the back of the Singapore five-dollar note in recognition of its cultural value.



Conservation of the $5 Tembusu


The Heritage Tree’s popularity meant that extra measures were needed to help protect it. The iconic tree was fenced in December 2013 to alleviate soil compaction (a result of heavy human traffic) and minimise damage to the roots.


Earlier in 1992, a wooden prop was installed to relieve stress on the Tembusu tree branch which extends outwards. This was later replaced by a new pair of props in 2003 for additional support. These static support systems, while effective for the short term, restrict movement of the tree branches and over the longer term may cause the tree to lose its ability to bear its own weight as it grows heavier. Without this support, the branch is likely to break off under its own weight, which will further impact the health of the entire tree and new structural problems could result.


Unlike the static system, the new dynamic support system designed by ST Kinetics’ engineers enables the branch to move naturally under varying wind conditions while still providing full support. This facilitates growth of the tree’s new supportive tissues. Built with easily available off-the-shelf parts and materials, the system can be raised and lowered as required to allow the branch to grow.



New Book on the Gardens’ Heritage Trees


The Tembusu tree on the lawn overlooking the Swan Lake is one of over 40 Heritage Trees at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. To enable more people to learn about its living heritage, a new book on the Gardens’ Heritage Trees titled “Tall Tales: Singapore Botanic Gardens



Heritage Trees Trail Guide” was produced and launched today by President Tony Tan Keng Yam. Introducing 29 of the tallest and most remarkable Heritage Trees, the book encourages readers to discover them in the Gardens. It was sponsored by Mrs Kirtida Mekani, a self- professed nature lover, NParks Community in Bloom ambassador and member of the Garden City Fund Management Committee. Many of the pictures in the book were contributed by the community, some of whom participated in the City in a Garden photography competition held in 2011.


 “Tall Tales: Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Trees Trail Guide” features trees like the White Gutta, brought to the Economic Garden in 1897 by Henry Ridley, a former director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Latex from this tree was used to waterproof submarine telegraph cables, which enabled international telecommunication in the 1860s and catalysed the information revolution. In addition to highlighting how they mark major milestones in Singapore and world history, the book contains the botanical illustrations and notes of these trees. It will be available for purchase at The Gardens Shop @ Nassim Gate and the Singapore Botanic Gardens Library Shop at a promotional price of S$7.60 from today until 8 June, and S$9.50 thereafter. The book will be on sale at major bookstores from 12 June.



Community Involvement at the Singapore Botanic Gardens


Some 30 students from Jurong Primary School and Kranji Secondary School joined President today as he embarked on the Heritage Trees Trail to learn about the botanical and cultural significance of the Gardens’ Heritage Trees.


Noting the significant contributions of the community in conserving the living heritage in the Gardens, President Tony Tan remarked, “The Heritage Trees are living records of the Gardens which are treasured by all Singaporeans. I am encouraged by how our community - both individuals as well as corporates - have come together and contributed in their own ways, whether it is technology, skills or resources, to conserve the trees for the continued enjoyment of visitors to the Gardens. In the 155-year history of the Gardens, generations of Singaporeans have enjoyed moments with their loved ones under the canopy of Heritage Trees or celebrated occasions under historical structures like the Swan Lake gazebo and Bandstand. I hope that the Gardens – Singapore’s first nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site - will continue to bring Singaporeans from all walks of life together to create more shared memories for many more generations to come.”


Mr Kenneth Er, CEO of the National Parks Board said, “We are heartened that individuals, schools and corporations like ST Kinetics recognise the intrinsic value of protecting our Heritage Trees and have expressed their appreciation and support in various ways. The prop for the Tembusu tree is a stellar example of how novel engineering could be married with arboriculture to bring rich history to the fore. We hope that more will develop a love for these trees and join us in conserving the living legacy of the Gardens and Singapore.”


Speaking on their involvement in the project, ST Kinetics’ President, Mr Sew Chee Jhuen, said, “As a committed environmental advocate, ST Kinetics believes in utilising our engineering expertise to improve the well-being of the communities we operate in. We are extremely honoured to have been a part of protecting the iconic Tembusu tree, an important piece of Singapore’s botanical landscape.” 


Mrs Kirtida Mekani, sponsor of the book shared, “Ever since my first visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens in 1990, my fascination and respect for Heritage Trees have only continued to grow. I think it is important to protect them so that future generations can experience the same wonder, respect and love for the natural world around us. I hope this book will be a catalyst in inspiring all of us to play our role, no matter how big or small, in the conservation of our natural heritage.”


Factsheet: More Information on Dynamic Support System for Heritage Tembusu Tree and 'Tall Tales: Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Trees Trail Guide'

Last updated on 06 April 2021

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