Wild About Wildflowers

They seem to be everywhere. Yet, they can be so easy to miss. You could be walking through a park or on your way to work or school. Then, you see these little specks of colour, breaking up the monotony of the green grass. You have spotted a wildflower! But can you identify it?

Wildflowers come in many colours, grow as different types of plants and have different origins. Some are native, others are introduced, and others have been here long enough to be naturalised.

Learn to identify six different wildflowers you can find in our City in Nature.




1. Water Willow


Photo credit: Vicky Lim Yen Ngoh


Native to Tropical and Subtropical Asia to Central China, the Water Willow (Rostellularia procumbens) grows locally in disturbed areas, in grasslands or along roadsides. Its small flowers are white or pink to purple with purplish markings.

The Water Willow is a herb with a lifespan of more than two years. Its leaves are a food source for caterpillars of Blue Pansy, Peacock Pansy and Chocolate Pansy, butterflies commonly seen in Singapore and well-loved for their flashy wing patterns with colourful eyespots.

 

 

2. Coat Buttons



 

When you think of weeds, you might imagine a green plant growing everywhere. While that may be true, even weeds can have attractive flowers. Looking very much like a daisy, Coat Buttons (Tridax procumbens) are a frequent sight in parks, especially along roadsides or on open ground. Its nectar helps to sustain a wide variety of butterflies, moths, wasps and stingless bees who help to pollinate the plant.

This wildflower has a centre of yellow disc florets, which are surrounded by five petal-like white ray florets. The tiny brown fruit of Coat Buttons has silky hairs and a feathery appendage, which helps it drift on the wind for dispersal.

 

 


3. Touch-me-not

 


Photo credit: Vicky Lim Yen Ngoh


 

 

The Touch-me-not (Mimosa pudica) is likely to be a familiar plant. It might even bring back childhood memories filled with laughter and curiosity at the intriguing behaviour of this species.

 

Also known as the Sensitive Plant or Shame Plant, its leaves will fold up when touched. These movements might be a way for the plant to deter herbivores from eating it. Pudica is the Latin word for shy or shrinking! While you might be familiar with its leaves, look out for its pom-pom shaped inflorescence. Although resembling a flower, it is a tight cluster of tiny flowers with pale violet to pink, pollen-bearing stamens.


4.Love Grass

 

 

Chrysopogon aciculatus

 


While Singapore is home to many naturalised or introduced species of wildflowers, our little red dot also has native wildflowers. One such species is the Love Grass (Chrysopogon aciculatus). This species thrives even in poor soil conditions and is planted as a lawn grass or along river banks to prevent soil erosion.

 

The reddish-purple flowers occur on an inflorescence up to 10 cm tall. The sharp-tipped fruit of Love Grass gets caught in animal fur or even our socks, allowing the seed to spread to new locations, but sometimes injuring the transporter in the process.

 

 

 

5. Townsville Stylo



Photo credit: Vicky Lim Yen Ngoh  

 


The Townsville Stylo (Stylosanthes humilis) is a naturalised wildflower that can be found along roadsides, on open ground and in disturbed areas. Its pea-shaped flowers are yellow to light-orange. This plant grows erect or along the ground, typically up to 50 cm tall.

 

The plant is covered in sticky hairs that produce toxic secretions that repel or kill some species of tick larvae. Planting Townsville Stylo in a pasture infested with ticks could potentially decrease the tick population, protecting livestock that graze there.

This species forms a mutually beneficial relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. It houses and feeds the bacteria in little nodules that form along the roots. In return, the bacteria convert nitrogen gas in the air to nutrients that fuel the plant’s growth. When the plant eventually dies, nutrients are returned to the soil, enriching the soil for other plants to use.

 

6.Bachelor's Button


Photo credit: Ying Wei Jong

 

Not to be confused with the aforementioned Coat Buttons, the Bachelor’s Button (Gomphrena celosioides) is another wildflower found in our parks, especially on lawns or near streams.  The pom-pom-shaped or cylindrical inflorescence is composed of tiny, whitish flowers. In Nigeria, the plant is said to be used to treat skin or worm-related infections.

 

Pretty Wildflowers or Troublesome Weeds?
While wildflowers can add to the rich diversity of our City in Nature, many can grow too fast and get out of hand. While some species provide nectar for bees and butterflies, others can compete with other flora for precious nutrients in the soil. If you have a garden, it can be necessary to manage or prevent the growth of weeds. It is important to remember to be careful when removing weeds, so consult our tips on removing unwanted weeds.

 

While composting is good, it may not be wise to compost the weeds, as their seeds might remain in the compost. But aside from removing and disposing of weeds, reducing the chances of their occurrence can be done through mulching.

 

However, if you are interested in creating miniature gardens, these tiny but attractive wildflowers can be a great help.

 

When visiting green spaces, we each have a responsibility to everything around us. Even if some of these wildflowers seem fascinating or have traditional uses, remember to take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints!

 



Learning More About Our City In Nature

 

 

 

Over the years, NParks has intensified efforts to further restore nature into our urban environment and naturalise parks and gardens, so as to create conducive biodiversity habitats for wildlife to co-exist and for Singaporeans to better enjoy and appreciate our City in Nature.



In fact, Singaporeans from all walks of life can continue to enjoy our greenery wherever they are and whenever they want to. They will be able to appreciate the rich flora and fauna of our City in Nature, enjoy the amenities and activities in our green spaces, or volunteer to join NParks in our wide range of programmes.

 


Learn more about City in Nature here.

 

 

Learning More

Want to better identify our local flora and fauna? You can enhance your experience of our City in Nature by learning about our green spaces and their biodiversity through our field guides.

Visit NParksSG, our refreshed 
YouTube Channel that serves as a one-stop repository for close to 300 video resources. It also provides you a platform for existing and future digital outreach including DIY gardening and related crafts, virtual tours of our green spaces, and livestream events. 

 

Interested to learn about the flora and fauna found in Singapore? Visit NParks Flora & Fauna Web here.

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Text by Danelle Seah

 

About the writer

Danelle Seah is a final year student pursuing a Diploma in Mass Communication at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She chose to intern at NParks for her school’s professional internship programme. In this time, she provided media support for events, assisted with social media content creation, development and analytics, as well as developed stories for the e-newsletter.

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