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Highly cultured.  Murraya paniculata, Orange jasmine bonsai. Botanic Gardens, Singapore | by Rana Pipiens
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Highly cultured. Murraya paniculata, Orange jasmine bonsai. Botanic Gardens, Singapore

It's hard to imagine a greater contrast. The High Horticulture of the Botanic Gardens of Singapore and the uncultivated forest nature reserve there of Bukit Timah. Both were established in the last third of the nineteenth century. The first for beauty, but originally based on the needs of a vegetable garden at the beginning of that century. The superindendent of that garden of botanical culture, Nathaniel Cantley (????-1888), recommended in 1882 that also a forest reserve be created to protect the original flora and fauna from the onslaughts of lumbering. This is present-day Bukit Timah (also the highest point of Singapore at about 160 metres).

This morning I walked the fine verdant trails of the reserve admiring huge Diptocarps, gingers and ixoras, and espying high in the forest canopy epiphytes such as the Staghorn fern and marking underfoot giant ants (Camponotus gigas). Birds and monkeys in abundance until the runners and tai-chi-ing meditators and chattering children made humans uncomfortably close... A marvellous place, though, and much there to be seen and admired.

But the highly cultured cultivation of bonsai is fascinating as well. This photo is of a blossom of Murraya paniculata or Orange jasmine from the Gardens' bonsai collection. Today it is named for a pupil of the great Carolus Linnaeus, Johan Anders Murray (1740-1791). But a first description was made of it by our Georg Eberhard Rumphius, who worked on Ambon, Indonesia. He named it Camunium japonense, thus latinising its Malay name: Kamuning. Highly prized for its fragrance and for medicinal properties (its leaves have analgesic quality), its wood was favorite for fashioning the handles of the murderous kreeses, the infamous Malay dagger. No fear of such a weapon today in neat Singapore, virtually crime-free.

This little blossom is about 6 mm. across.

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Taken on August 19, 2009