Singapore’s Heritage Tree Series – Broad-Leafed Mahogany

Launched on 17 August 2001, the Heritage Tree Scheme advocates the conservation of the old mature trees in Singapore that have beautified the country’s landscapes and served as green landmarks for decades. Open to the public, anyone can nominate trees to be considered as heritage trees, as long as the trees have a girth (trunk circumference) of more than 5m and have perceived values in botanical, social, historical, cultural and aesthetical aspects.

Till date, a total of 263 trees in Singapore have been given the heritage tree status by the National Parks Board (NParks). One of the heritage trees is the broad-leafed mahogany (scientific name: swietenia macrophylla).

Introduced to Malaya and Singapore from Central and South America in 1876, the broad-leafed mahogany, a native from Honduras, has been a popular roadside tree. It possesses a dense crown of dark glossy leaves, and can grow up to 30m tall. Its small flowers are greenish-yellow in colour and have a faint scent. The fruits are large brown woody pods of about 10 to 15cm long. When ripe, they split open to release dozens of flat winged seeds.

The broad-leafed mahogany’s densely-grained timber is highly valued for the manufacturing of furniture, panelling and musical instruments. Its fruits are also sometimes used as native medicine for diabetes treatment.

A total of nine broad-leafed mahoganies with heritage tree status can be found at Seletar Airport (five), Tanglin (one) and Sentosa (three). The ones at Seletar were planted when the Seletar West Camp was developed in the 1930s. While they had probably provided the shade along the passageway for the British servicemen in the past, they are now the shade trees at the Singapore Youth Flying Club premises. The Seletar broad-leafed mahoganies were endorsed as one of Singapore’s heritage trees in 2003.

Besides the broad-leafed mahogany, there are also the African mahogany (scientific name: khaya nyasica; introduced to Singapore in the late seventies) and West Indices mahogany (scientific name: swietenia mahogani) trees in Singapore.

Published: 21 April 2021

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