Sunday, 12 January 2014

Singapore’s historic Botanic Gardens: UNESCO Heritage site in waiting?

Botanic gardens are not in short supply. Many cities around the world lay claim to having beautiful gardens and parks. However, there is no doubt Singapore's Botanic Gardens competes well with the best parks from around the world.

Singapore's Botanic Gardens (SBG) has a history few competitors can boast.

The gardens have been in the present location since 1859, over 150 years. During this century and a half the SBG has developed the National Orchid Garden – a wonderful collection of one of the most beautiful plants in the world: the orchid.

The Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, Singapore National Flower since 1981
Certainly, it is fitting for Singapore to host a collection of over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids given that the city-state's national flower is the Vanda 'Miss Joaquim' orchid. Additionally, Robert Holttum, Director of the SBG from 1925-49, was instrumental in technological advancements related to orchid breeding and 'hybridization.' (Hybridization is the process of crossing different orchid species to come up with a new 'combination' hybrid orchid.) To date, the SBG has registered more than 400 types of hybrid orchids in the international orchid register.

Other than orchids, the SBG contributed strongly to the development of the region's rubber industry. It was 'Rubber Ridley,' the SBG's first Director (1888-1911), who perfected a tapping method to harvest commercial quantities of latex without harming or killing rubber trees. 'Mad Ridley's' obsessive promotion of the rubber crop was one critical factor in the establishment of Malaya's rubber industry, a major source of wealth for Singapore and the region in the 1900s.

The gardens are also home to one of Singapore's best kept secrets: the Rain Forest. A six hectare patch of rain forest can be found smack-bang in the center of Singapore, a city better known as an urban concrete jungle. The SBG's rain forest retains the original vegetation which once covered most of Singapore – and made the island a prime playground for tigers!

A view of the Saraca Stream inside Singapore's Botanic Gardens
Though the Singapore Botanic Gardens continues to play a major role in research of the region's botany, it is the serene beauty of the landscaped gardens which charms the average visitor. Whether it is the Ginger Garden, the Healing Garden, the Evolution Garden, the many Heritage Trees or the public art spread out across the 74 hectares of green space, Singapore's Botanic Gardens is Singapore's nominee as a UNESCO Heritage site for good reason.
Imran is a licensed Singapore Tour Guide. Please contact Imran if you wish to arrange personalized tours of Singapore, including 'Green Tours' encompassing the Botanic Gardens, Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage at or +65 9786 7210. Imran also leads walking tours around the city, e.g. Singapore's Civic District Heritage Trail and Orchard Arts Trail. 

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