Ask anyone who has visited; he is sure to have a cherished memory of the lush green Singapore Botanic Gardens. Its expansive grounds are ideal for an invigorating jog or a lazy picnic while its dazzling array of thousands of plants makes it a nature lovers’ paradise. Not forgetting to mention that it is a leading centre for botanical and horticultural research!! We should salute the foresight and vision of our forefathers that this sort of nature could exist in the middle of a sprawling city!!! No wonder it is conferred as the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site - A testament to Singapore’s reputation as a City in a Garden.
Sharp at 8am our group assembled near the exquisite Tanglin Core entrance with its four trademark pillars and straight away proceeded with the walk on a cool day to enjoy fresh air, sounds of birds chirping, the sounds of waterfalls.
First, we came across a room called “Shaker Room” where countless bottles with some greenery inside each of them shaking vigorously. We learnt that shaking the tissue helps to confuse the tissue about sense of gravity – they do not differentiate into shoots or roots but grow into more tissues. This way a very large number of plantlets can be obtained from the cluster of tissue in the flasks. Could not help but compare with humans- we are also jumping vigorously from place to place, country to country in search of tissues (material wealth) in the process losing our roots.
While walking, we were awe struck to witness the imposing skyhigh trees, some more than two centuries old. Be it the
· Palm Valley trees particularly the Tail Pot Palm which flowers only once in its lifetime
· Monkey Pot Tree (it derives its name from its unique fruit which looks like a pot with a lid. Monkeys are known to put their hands into the pot to get to its rich seeds)
· Ancient Jelawai tree - an uncommon species in the world more than 50 metres tall
· Dangerous Keluak tree (It emits cyanide!) with its massive bomb like fruits
· Penaga Laut (This tree plays host to several ferns, climbers and wildlife. Botany Centre was designed and built around it to accommodate growth of the tree- an excellent example of efforts made to conserve mature trees in Singapore)
· Awesome Dead Rat Tree (its trunk is like an elephant's leg )
· The Majestic heritage tree Tembusu (remember Singapore $5 note which features this)
On seeing these mammoth tress, one is reminded of Gita Verse 3 Chapter XV
“Na roopamasyeha tathopalabhyate
Naanto na chaadirna cha sampratishthaa;
Asangashastrena dridhena cchittwaa.”
Meaning: Its form is not perceived here as such, neither its end nor its origin, nor its foundation nor resting place; having cut asunder this firmly-rooted peepul tree with the strong axe of non-attachment…
We stepped up our speed and zoomed past
a) Evolution Garden (journey through time, from the fiery beginnings of our planet to the first living organisms and gradually changing plant life on land)
b) The Foliage Garden with an extensive collection of aquatic foliage and a board walk which offers a brilliant view of aquatic plants down under. This Garden showcases a wide array of ornamental plants with colourful foliage of varying shapes/textures and demonstrates that the beauty and diversity of plants do not lie in their flowers alone.
c) Ginger Garden which displays several hundred species of ginger with surprisingly beautiful leaves and very attractive flowers. A walk behind the waterfall and a pool adorned with giant Amazon water lilies, I must admit, are a photographer’s paradise.
Within limited time constraints, we could not even explore 1/3rd of the Gardens. There were various attractions to explore, even little areas not highlighted on the map can be surprisingly stunning too.
After a wonderful morning walk taking our time to appreciate the beauty of the Gardens and be fascinated by the variety of the trees and flowers, we reached our Centre to be warmly welcomed by our gracious hosts Mrs Anju and Prof Aditya. Nearly 40 people turned up for the meditation and for the brunch thereafter. Our sincere thanks to the hosts for organizing such a sumptuous brunch despite arriving in Singapore just the prior day after a hectic overseas tour.