Thursday 29 May 2014

Botanic Gardens' iconic Tembusu tree gets better support

Springing to the support of a stately green icon
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 27 May 2014

ONE of Singapore's most iconic trees is standing tall, thanks to a $25,000 project to prop up a low-hanging branch.

The Tembusu at Singapore Botanic Gardens is more than 200 years old and features on the $5 note, but it had been in danger of having its sagging, 20m arm snap off.

A team of eight, including engineers from local defence contractor ST Kinetics and arborists from the National Parks Board, worked for a year to develop a system to prop up the branch at three points without hindering its growth.

Previously, it had been supported by wooden props which, while effective for the short term, restricted its movement and could have made the tree unable to bear its own weight over a longer period.

The new system consists of structures with springs that allow the branch to move, and another part nearer the trunk to support it.

These allow the branch to gradually adjust to wind conditions and regain strength while helping it to grow at the same time.

The 32m-tall Tembusu, one of more than 40 heritage trees at the gardens, has been fenced off since last December to prevent visitors from treading around it and affecting the growth of its roots.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam visited the tree yesterday on a tour of the gardens - which have been nominated as Singapore's first UNESCO World Heritage Site - as he launched the first book about its heritage trees.

A decision on World Heritage status is due in June next year, and Dr Tan said it would be "a very nice part of our SG50 celebrations".

"It has got all the qualifications in its history, introducing the rubber industry, many new species of plants, pioneering orchid cultivation," he said. "It is part of our history; it is also one of the best preserved colonial gardens in our part of the word."

Gardens director Nigel Taylor said he is confident the 155-year-old landmark will be given the status, adding: "We have the experience and resources for maintenance and conservation."

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