Apr 18, 2009

Istana Open House 2009: Help! I can't find the Nutmeg Tree

Boy and Tree

I have previously blogged about my experience at the Istana Open House earlier this year. I took second shots (here and here), covered a bit of history and had a field day admiring the crowd waiting to enter the Istana. I did not get to shake the President’s hand unfortunately, because I was the early bird and according to Victor, the President only comes out during sunset.

There was another purpose for my visit and that was to find the nutmeg trees that once graced the land which became the Istana Domain.

According to history, 100 acres of land belonging to Charles Prinsep’'s nutmeg plantation was bought over for the construction of Government House. And according to the Istana website,

A few nutmeg trees still grow in the grounds of the Istana. Clove and nutmeg trees in this part of the grounds recall the original Prinsep plantation.
I was optimistic …. even though I can’t tell a nutmeg tree from a clove tree.

I did not manage to find my nutmeg tree (or clove tree) in the end. But my flora search revealed some interesting plants.

Paper Plant.

Paper Plant - Cyperus Papyrus

It was a surprise to find the Cyperus papyrus – Paper plant - in Singapore. I knew the ancient Egyptians used some kind of plant to make papyrus paper, but I didn’t know you can find it in Singapore. Today, the plant is cultivated not for paper but for ornamental purposes. In fact it is nearly extinct in its native habitat in the Nile Delta.

Blood Banana

Blood Banana - Musa Acuminata Sumatrana

A blood-stained yellow fruit? The Blood Banana is named for the dark red patches on its leaves (photo from far). The plant is ornamental and I read that its small fruit is “theoretically edible like any banana”, according to this wikipedia entry.


Jelutong - Dyera Costulata

Jelutong is a tree grown commercially for timber. I read here that it can be tapped for latex as well. In the past, Jelutong latex was an important source of chewing gum.

So I did not find my nutmeg tree. What a pity because such a tree may be a descendant or even a member of the original Prinsep plantation. If yg were there, he would be able to recognize one. In fact, he blogged about the few nutmeg trees in Lim Chu Kang. I think nutmeg trees are quite uncommon in Singapore.


yg said...

nutmeg trees are quite easy to identify. the foliage is very dense and the leaves are dark green in colour. you can find nutmeg trees along both sides of the road leading to the sungei buloh wetland reserve.
i have sent you pictures of the tree, its fruit and the flowers.

Icemoon said...

Thank you for those pictures. If I were to find a nutmeg tree inside Istana ground, I wonder how to tell its age.

Hopefully there is an original Prinsep Nutmeg Tree today. If not, its first generation descendant.