A Dipterocarp Arboretum

Singapore has dedicated itself to the cause of helping to save the members of the Dipterocarpaceae family, the forest giants of Southeast Asia.


Shorea bentongensis, endemic to peninsular Malaysia

These tall, straight trees play a central role in the region’s timber trade, and a number of the family’s 695 species are now endangered due to an excess of enthusiasm in the logging industry. So Singapore has built two arboretums for its dipterocarps: one at the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the other at the more remote and much-lesser-known Yishun Park.


The National Parks website says that the arboretum has been “designed to help visitors learn more about the unique features of the Dipterocarps,” but I didn’t see anything educational in sight aside from the usual small tags on various and sundry trees. And while I went expecting giant tree specimens, because planting at this arboretum only finished in 2008, many of the dipterocarps are still in the scrawny stage:


Shorea hemsleyana, peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, & Sarawak

As something labeled on the map as “Dipterocarp Arboretum,” this place felt puzzling. It’s more of an existing park in which someone decided to plant some extra trees (hence the tiny words “+Arboretum” under the much larger “Yishun Park” in the sign above). Once I figured that out, it became a much more interesting place to walk and explore.


Prior to redevelopment in the 1980s, this area was home to a giant fruit orchard, and the National Parks Board retained much of the original vegetation when they developed Yishun Park. So you can see breadfruit trees …


… tamarind pods scattered over the ground …


… and starfruit flowers:


There are many other beautiful trees on site, including this giant weeping fig:


And while the park’s signs warn of all sorts of animal dangers, from monkeys …


… to stray dogs …


… the only animal I encountered was this fairly innocuous monitor lizard:


Walk across an overpass …


… and you’ll find yourself at Yishun Pond …


… where you can sit in the shade of a rabbit-like pod.


There are really nice grounds if you want to take a walk around this park — but my favorite thing of all was the wording on this trash can:


I can’t say that I learned anything at all about dipterocarps, but this ended up being a really nice outing!

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