Nature Ramble at Bukit Brown on 19 Feb 2012

The Bukit Brown locale is made up of small, gentle and wooded hillocks. Thousands of graves lay densely on the slopes of these hills. Being away from mainstream traffic, it has been mostly undisturbed for most parts of its existence. This has allowed the vegetation, particularly large trees and shrubs, to mature. The area is also colonized by pioneer plant species from the adjacent rainforest of MacRitchie.

The enhanced diversity has, in turn, enabled Bukit Brown to support a great diversity of wildlife. This is certainly greater than that found in manicured and sparsely vegetated parks in the midst of urban centres.

The original vegetation of the area was lowland rainforests, very much similar to the nearby MacRitchie forest. Little, if any, of these can be found here today. The vegetation type here is composed of colourful ornamental shrubs planted alongside graves. Some large shade trees were also planted, such as the Daun Salam, Tembusu and Raintrees. Many beautiful towering wild-grown Albizia trees are also widely distributed over the landscape. Many of these old-growth trees have achieved stature and elegance.  In particular, many giant Raintrees are festooned with a variety of ferns and orchids. Looking up from underneath one of these trees gives one a sense of awe and the laden outstretched limbs make a breathtaking sight. Be it against a clear blue sky or silhouetted against a grey backdrop, it is a mesmerizing picture.

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Dawn over Bukit Brown

Ornamental plants

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Ferns on raintree

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Raintree silhoulette


Many of the large fig trees, such as the Banyans and Warringins were most probably left alone during the initial land clearance. Some, especially those found associated with large trees, could have been brought in by animals such as birds and squirrels. These ‘strangling figs’ can now be seen in the advanced stages of ‘snuffing out’ their host plants.

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Hanging roots of Banyan


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Warringin strangler

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Red-stem fig

Wildlife is ever present but do not lend themselves easily to observation. Most of what we see would be more active and by chance, sometimes with the aid of equipment such as hand lens, binoculars or cameras. Most of the wildlife resides in the deeper recess of the dense vegetation.



Pink-necked Green Pigeon

During this trip, there was a profusion of small snails and slugs on trees and dead vegetation. There was a constant presence of birds in the forest. They can be observed actively foraging for food or their calls could be heard over great distances. Commonly encountered birds included sunbirds, Common Flamebacks (woodpecker), Banded Woodpecker, Striped-tit Babbler, Pink-necked Green Pigeons, Spotted Dove, Blue-tailed Beeeaters, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Changeable Hawk Eagle. Rare encounters reported included the critically endangered Grey-headed Fish Eagle and the White-bellied Woodpecker. Winter migratory birds also visited Bukit Brown to forage for sustenance.

Some plants common to secondary rainforest were also found here. The Macaranga hypoleuca stood out from the greenery as the underside of the leave was white, even as dried, fallen leaves. Another related example is the Macaranga gigantea, whose leaves are large, hence the name.

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M. hypoleuca

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M. gigantea

These were but a small selection of flora and fauna in Bukit Brown that can be encountered at any time. A great variety of plants and animals has yet to be uncovered. Their relationships and associations have developed over a long period of time into a complex ecosystem. A habitat of equilibrium has been established.

This equilibrium is resilient but once subjected to human disruptions, is difficult to recover. This must be avoided or minimized.