The tropical rainforest climate, with uniformly high temperatures and rainfall throughout the year, is one of the reasons why many exotic plants thrive in Singapore. Once covered by rainforest, this island boasts 3,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants, which include beautiful flowering plants and hybrid orchids.
Singapore rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) is a common shrub that can reach a maximum height of 12 feet. The stems are reddish and covered with small, rough scales. The leaves are narrow and pointed at both ends. Each leaf has three distinct ribs, also known as longitudinal veins. Its underside has bristles and is rough to the touch.
Flowers are showy and large. They appear as a short inflorescence at the end of the branch. Each flower measures 2 to 3 inches across. It has a cup-shaped, green calyx, which consists of five narrow, reddish sepals and five petals that are purple to pink and sometimes white in color. Singapore rhododendron flowers have ten stamens--five of them are large with yellow stalks and curved purple heads while the other five have straight, yellow heads. The flowers last only one day, opening after sunrise and closing the same day, with the petals falling off a few days later.
The berry-like fruits are oval with purple pulp and contain many tiny seeds. The fruits break open irregularly and are a source of food for birds. When eaten, the fruits are tasteless and can stain the tongue black. Singapore rhododendron is used for medicinal purposes, such as treatment for diarrhea, dysentery and ulcers and to prevent smallpox scars.
Singapore Graveyard Flower
The Singapore graveyard flower (Plumeria obtusa) is a gorgeous tropical tree with intensely fragrant flowers used in leis, arrangements and countless ornamental purposes. Undisturbed, it can grow up to 30 feet tall. This plant dies when exposed to temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. You will find the Singapore graveyard flower planted as a street tree or in graveyards, hence the name.
This evergreen has dark, shiny, leathery, blunt-ended leaves, measuring 6 to 10 inches long. It prefers full sun to light shade. It grows poorly in slow-draining soils such as clay, and it does not tolerate standing water.
Flowers are most fragrant at night, in order to lure moths to pollinate them. Each flower has five white petals that are yellow at the bottom, measuring approximately 2 to 3 inches. The flowers have no nectar and simply fool their pollinators. Propagate Singapore graveyard flower by taking a cutting of leafless stem tips in spring and allowing them to dry at the base before inserting them into soil.
Vanda Miss Joachim
Singapore has many orchids (1,200 dendrobium species) and some are even hybrids. It is no wonder Singapore chose an orchid, Vanda Miss Joachim, as its official flower. Vanda Miss Joachim is a hybrid of Vanda hookerana and Vanda teres. It requires full sun to grow. Tying this plant to a post is necessary for its survival because of its aerial roots; it can rot and die when left on the ground. It requires frequent watering, as many as three times a day. The flowers are large and pink, blooming throughout the year, a dozen or so at a time with four usually being open at one time.