A Milkwood Pinwheel Flower: Tabernaemontana divaricata, Botanical Gardens, Singapore

More evocative perhaps is the beautiful German word: Schmetterlingsgardenie (= Butterfly Gardenia), but this wonderful white flower goes by many other names as well. Complicated Latin ones: Ervatimia coronaria, Tabernaemontana coronaria, Nerium coronarium and divaricatum; and nicely lighthearted ones such as Pinwheel Jasmine, Flower of Love and - probably translated from the Latin incorrectly - Nero's Crown. The species was given its Latin name by Charles Plumier (1646-1704) for the so-called "father of German botany", Jacobus Theodorus Tabernaemontanus (1522-1590), whose "Kreuterbuch" was highly important to early-modern botanists.

Whatever its name, this pretty blossom is a member of the Milkwood family; in other words, it bleeds white sap when its leaves or twigs are broken. This combined with the name 'Flower of Love' reminds of the great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas (1914-1953).

His marvellously realist and yet up-beat radioplay "Under Milk Wood" describes the people of a town LLareggub - let's not go into philological detail here for propriety's sake! - in their dreams at night. Someone has written that here 'eccentricity is tolerated, sin is forgiven, love is nurtured - or at least dreamt about and possible'. Ancient Mary Ann Sailors, one of the characters in the play, knows that her town is 'a God-built garden... Heaven on earth'. And looking out of her bedroom window she exclaims softly: 'It is Spring in Llareggyb in the sun of my old age, and this is the Chosen Land'.

A Chosen Land, that is how the Singapore Botanical Gardens might be described. And this Tabernaemontanum in all its purity strikes a note of optimism.

This particular shrub was in Singapore, but the plant is found throughout southern climes of Asia, and has also become a World Citizen.

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Taken on June 23, 2008