Save our albizia trees

29 Jan 2008   in Conservation, Plants 3 Comments »
Contributed by YC & Ho Hua Chew

Albizia (Paraserianthes falcataria) trees have been in the local news since the recent spate of tree falls that resulted in a number of people being injured and even killed – locally as well as in neighbouring Malaysia. As a result of the bad publicity in the media, various government agencies have been quick to remove these large and graceful trees from wastelands all over Singapore.

The tree is native to countries in east Malesia to the Solomons. It was introduced and grown in the Singapore Botanic Gardens in the 1870s. It has been flourishing in wastelands ever since. The nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are found growing in the roots help the trees to proliferate in these nutrient-poor soils.

The tree is fast-growing, capable of attaining 20 metres in three years or more. It bears compound leaves, bearing small white flowers that develop into pods. It grows tall, with wide-spreading branches and as such was once commonly used as a shade tree in coffee and tea plantings. Because growth is rapid, the wood is soft and earlier used in the manufacturing of matches and packing boards.

Since the start of Singapore’s Garden City Campaign in the 1950s, albizia has never been used as a roadside tree. In fact, any found growing near roads were removed. The shedding of branches during tropical storms and the aggressive roots that grow near the soil surface make it dangerous for such use.

Albizia trees are now confined to wastelands where they proliferate, helping to reduce soil erosion and providing refuge to a wide variety of wildlife (above). Yes, there is always the possibility of branches falling, but away from human habitation and in areas where few, if ever, any people venture, they should not pose any threat to life and limb. Their presence thus should be tolerated. To chop down these magnificent trees and replace them with other species is a waste of resources.

11125.jpg

11126.jpg

According to an article by Dr Ho Hwa Chew, these trees are rich in wildlife. There are at least 40 resident and migratory bird species that make use of the trees, either seeking food, nesting materials or a place to build their nests. Prominent among which are the Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense) (right), Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda), Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) and Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa). The White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus) and Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus) make use of these trees to nest.

At the same time, natural cavities that develop in these old trees provide potential nesting holes for hornbills, as seen in an old and magnificent tree at Eng Neo. Although the pair of hornbills, Great (Buceros bicronis) and Rhinoceros (Buceros rhinoceros), are both escapees, not to mention that they are also both females, the fact that they were prospecting for a nesting cavity points to the value of albizia to the bird life of our Garden City, if not a City in a Garden – see 1 and 2 for details.

Also, an old, rotting albizia trunk nearby, that was never a danger to anyone, was the centre of a busy and exciting community of birds that fought for the privilege of making use of the few cavities for nesting, posted earlier: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

So, where these large and beautiful trees pose no danger to anyone, can the authorities please leave them alone?

This post has been commissioned by Yong Ding Li, who is concerned that these trees would continue to be indiscriminately removed. Images by YC.




Related posts:
  • The beautiful bottlebrush trees Bottlebrushes (Callistemon spp.) are endemic to Australia where there are...
  • Loneliness makes strange bedfellows: Great and Rhinoceros Hornbills A pair of hornbills comprising a Great (Buceros bicornis) and...
  • African Tulip: Bulbul collecting nectar The African tulip (Spathodea campanulata) is a native of tropical...
  • Flowering Sea Apple Trees at Sime Forest A visit to Jelutong Tower at Sime Forest, MacRitchie, can...
  • Life around a rotting tree trunk 1: Introduction The location: A small piece of wasteland around Eng Neo...
  • Roost of the Great Hornbill As far as we know, there is only one Great...
  • 3 Responses to "Save our albizia trees"

    1. Gan Teck Koon says:

      It’s great that there are tree lovers fighting for these trees. I think the trees in East Coast Park really need a champion. Hundreds if not thousands of mature trees were fell in the past few months. In their place, were planted grass. It’s such a waste to cut these trees. Currently, they are clearing the trees near the NS Club. Do you know the reason why?

    2. YC says:

      No, we do not know why the trees in ECP have been cut. If you could send me some photographs and if there are some relevance to birds, we can make a posting and also make some queries.

    3. SEE KOK PENG says:

      These are the exchanges between myself and NPark Officer in reverse chronological order (later comes first):

      RE: Tree removal at Yishun Park‏

      照片 | 2012/6/27

      答复 ▼

      Nanthini ELAMGOVAN (NPARKS)

      Dear See Kok Peng

      The tree being felled in your photos is the tree we commonly call Albizia. NParks has been removing this species from all our parks and streetscape because it easily snaps due to its softwood. An example of how soft the wood is that it is used to make matchsticks. This is the tree species that caused the death of a jogger at Bukit Batok Nature Park a few years ago.

      Thank you,

      (Ms) Nanthini Elamgovan § Manager (Community Parks) § National Parks Board § Tel: +65 94553354

      Check out our website at http://www.nparks.gov.sg § Like us on http://www.facebook.com/nparksbuzz § Follow us on http://www.twitter.com/nparksbuzz

      Click here to sign up for NParks enewsletter and receive the latest updates on events and happenings at our Parks.
      Privileged/Confidential information may be contained in this message. If you are not the intended recipient, you must not copy, distribute or use it for any purpose, nor disclose its contents to any other person. Please notify the sender immediately if you receive this in error.

      From: seequincy [mailto:see_quincy@hotmail.com]
      Sent: Wednesday, 27 June, 2012 3:31 PM
      To: Nanthini ELAMGOVAN (NPARKS)
      Subject: RE: Tree removal at Yishun Park

      Dear Madam,

      Following your reply, I have a closed-up look of the trees that are fell today. To my surprise, they are all solid healthy trees! And there have been no instance of these trees snapping during adverse weather that I am aware of. I stay within 200 metres directly opposite where these trees are felled.

      In my view, your contractor is clearing up a whole big field for no valid reason.

      Please look at the attached photographs and tell us again what are the reasons for felling these trees?
      ——————————————————————————–

      From: NANTHINI_ELAMGOVAN@nparks.gov.sg
      To: see_quincy@hotmail.com
      CC: NEO_PECK_SENG@nparks.gov.sg; WONG_WEI_JUE@nparks.gov.sg
      Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2012 10:11:17 +0800
      Subject: Tree removal at Yishun Park

      Dear See Kok Peng

      Thank you for email regarding Yishun Park.

      Yishun Park is undergoing upgrading and we are removing trees of species which have soft wood and tend to snap and fall easily during a thunderstorm. This is in response to the same problem taking place around Singapore due to the increased frequency of inclement weather. Pls be assured that proper tree inspection is done prior to removal of any tree. Also, we are concurrently planting back more trees than we remove and also of local nativity to enhance the natural biodiversity of Singapore.

      Pls feel free to forward further queries to me.

      Thank you,

      (Ms) Nanthini Elamgovan § Manager (Community Parks) § National Parks Board § Tel: +65 94553354

      Check out our website at http://www.nparks.gov.sg § Like us on http://www.facebook.com/nparksbuzz § Follow us on http://www.twitter.com/nparksbuzz

      Click here to sign up for NParks enewsletter and receive the latest updates on events and happenings at our Parks.
      Privileged/Confidential information may be contained in this message. If you are not the intended recipient, you must not copy, distribute or use it for any purpose, nor disclose its contents to any other person. Please notify the sender immediately if you receive this in error.

      From: nparks_public_affairs@nparks.gov.sg [mailto:nparks_public_affairs@nparks.gov.sg]
      Sent: Monday, 25 June, 2012 3:32 PM
      To: NPARKS Public Affairs (NPARKS)
      Subject: Nparks – feedback forms

      Full Name: see kok peng

      Email: see_quincy@hotmail.com

      Feedback

      I stay adjacent to Yishun Park. Your contractor seemed to be clearing many big trees in Yishun Park? For What? Is Yishun Park going to be converted into children playground, instead of a park? Besides, I noticed that your contractors are removing many big trees unnecessarily, and pruning the trees until they are nearly completely `botak` look like skeletons, again, whose ideas is it? They might as well remove all those trees! Plants need their leaves to breathe right? With so little leaves left, you think they will be healthy? Have we in recent years employed some from the countryside who were so `sick` of green and want to replace them with concrete jungle instead?

      attach

      codeletter

      G1akW

      chrono_verification

      G1akW

    Leave a Reply