More Flora and Fauna!

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Yep, more entries.

  1. We saw several sea poison trees (Barringtonia asiatica) with their large pinkish-white, pom-pom helter-skelter in Woodlands Industrial Park (above). These spectacular flowers give off a sickly sweet smell to attract bats and moths, which pollinate the trees at night. Sea poisons trees are listed as “Critically Endangered” in the Red List of threatened plants of Singapore.
  2. The Preschooler spotted a Javanese grasshopper (Valanga nigricornis) atop a dustbin near her school. This yellowish-brown locust is huge, and I flinched when it darted at us. Its hind wings are a deep rose color, and we had the chance to marvel at them as it flew away.

More Fauna!

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We recently added three more entries in our nature journal!

1. An osprey (Pandion haliaetus) seen diving for dinner near Marina Bay. This massive bird of prey is a common winter visitor to Singapore, which is when we spotted it.

2. A yellow-eared spiderhunter (Arachnothera chrysogenys) seen soaring overhead in The Coastal Settlement (lovely setting, mediocre food) in Changi Village. We heard its penetrating, squeaky “chick” call from high on.

3. A dark-sided chorus frog (Microhyla heymonsi) seen hopping along a sidewalk off River Valley Road. This amphibian is minuscule (only 2.5 cm from nose to tail) and we initially thought it was some sort of hopping insect!

Flora and Fauna

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I have recently begun encouraging The Preschooler to keep a nature journal to document (in drawings and collages of found objects [seeds, leaves]) her observations of the flora and fauna in our neighborhood. The other day, she pointed out a tree that I’d never taken note of before—a Maniltoa browneoides, or handkerchief tree. The young leaves of this tree cascade from its branches and resemble soft white handkerchiefs; in a few days, these pinnately compound leaves will “harden” and turn a shiny green. This tree looked more like “an-entire-pile-of-linen-sheets-falling-out-of-the-cupboard tree” than a “handkerchief tree!” It was so spectacular. Maniltoa browneoides are native to New Guinea, but cultivated in Singapore, according to Siyang Teo of uforest.org, who I reached out to, along with @Hopeily, to help me identify this plant.

We also spotted what I thought was a Idea leuconoe chersonesia, or mangrove tree nymph, at a nearby playground. Further research indicates that it was probably not this rare, mangrove-dwelling butterfly that was once thought extinct, but its cousin, Idea leuconoe clara, which is native to Taiwan. This Taiwanese subspecies has been successfully bred by the Singapore Zoo and is rather common.

NONG and Naiise

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I grew up eating fresh vegetables from my parents’ garden. They didn’t farm their own produce because they were proto-hipsters; they did because, then as new immigrants, it was by far the most economical thing to do. Decades later, they continue to sow seeds and reap the economic and health benefits of their bounty.

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Given my “farm to table” childhood, I’m always interested in learning about new urban and suburban gardening initiatives, especially here in Singapore.

NONG Pop Up Store is a collaboration between Naiise.com, an online marketplace, and Edible Gardens, a movement that aims to promote urban farming in Singapore. The shop features a retail space carrying a mix of sustainably sourced, upcycled and locally designed kitchenware, furniture, stationery, and gardening equipment; organic gardening, herb propagating (for which I’ve registered), and urban beekeeping workshops; and a real farmers’ market where chefs from local restaurants like The Cajun King and Morsels cook food using ingredients from NONG’s garden.

The pop-up, which runs until the end of March, can be found on the rooftop of People’s Park Complex.

Connect with Edible Gardens on Facebook to register for workshops throughout the month of February. Connect with Naiise on Facebook and follow Naiise on Twitter.

Orchids!

Step three in my ambitious plan to grow my own orchids?* Inherit five potted monopodial orchids from my repatriating neighbor.

OK, OK, I’ve cheated a bit. My original “step three” was to visit Mandai Orchid Garden, one of the oldest and largest commercial orchid gardens in South East Asia. But it had shut down to make way for the expansion of the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari (*snore*). The garden is now in Kranji, in the far north west reaches of Singapore, and I have yet to visit. However, the new garden houses only 5,000 of the orchids, one-tenth of the original collection.

The Mandai Orchid Garden was started in 1951 by the late John Laycock, a lawyer and founder of the Malayan Orchid Society, now known as the Orchid Society of Southeast Asia.

When he died in 1960, his daughter, Amy Ede, and her husband, John, took over the business until he died in 2003 and she, in 2007.

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So, these beauties (above) are climbers and have wound themselves into the crevices on our balcony. Their single stems will grow indefinitely and will tend to stay at the same thickness throughout with leaves each of about the same size. I don’t know exactly what variety these are. Perhaps that’s step four?

* Step one: Visit the National Orchid Garden. Step two: Visit the Armenian Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

Singapore Mini Maker Faire

“Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new,” Maker Faire is a gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, artists, and students. The first Maker Faire was held in San Mateo, CA in 2006. “Maker Faire Bay Area celebrated its sixth annual Bay Area event in 2011 with some 100,000 people in attendance. As Maker Faire has grown in popularity and relevance, additional flagship Faires were launched in 2010 in Detroit and New York City. Community-driven, independently produced Mini Maker Faire events inspired by Maker Faire are now being produced around the United States and the World.

We dropped by the inaugural (?) Singapore Mini Maker Faire earlier today. I, of course, gravitated towards the crafty “makers”: The DIY Lifestyle Challenge by Evon Tay, SugarPunk by Ling Ling Ng, and Paper Geometrics by Jeremy Jue Min Lim, Jian Le Lee and Yongquan Lu, among others. I particularly enjoyed The Sustainable Living Labs’ (SL2) “mini kampung.” Tinkerers, young and old, made their own play dough, cardboard sculptures, and other handmade toys alongside the SL2 team.

It was a cosy event. I do hope that it was well-attended and that the organizers will think bigger next year.

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Singapore Mini Maker Faire was held at the Science Centre, an interactive science museum and learning center. The centre also houses Singapore’s first and only IMAX theater. Our little girl loved the “Sound” gallery. We’ll definitely be spending much more time there in the future.

(Additional credits: Photo layout via Pugly Pixel.)