Nature Ramble by Dr Ho at Bukit Brown

Nature Society Singapore (NSS) organised another great event on the 19th February 2012. This time it is a nature ramble, led by Dr. Ho Hua Chew around the places in Bukit Brown affected by the 8 lane highway plus an additional bonus for those who are not tired out...a side trip to Kopi Sua, located near Mount Pleasant Road. I was definitely up for the challenge !

Let the Ramble begin
We started at 8 am and about 25 people joined this session when we started off. The place we started at the gates of Bukit Brown was already brimming with life ! On what i think is a wild cinammon tree, there were a number of snails going about it's business and we also spotted the eggs of the snails.  A caterpillar obvious to the surroundings, is munching away. The calls of the straw-headed bulbul and call and sightings of the banded woodpecker interrupted us but it was a welcomed interruption.

Dr Ho reinforced the importance of Bukit Brown as a green lung and important area that contributes to an healthy ecosystem such as:
  • the absorption of C02 as the wooded areas of Bukit Brown becomes more forested
  • a natural "rainfall sponge"retaining some of the heavy rainfall preventing floods in other lowland areas
  • a home to native fishes and forest bird life. (More about the birdlife and native fishes later).

Wild cinnamon tree brimming with life 

Hill 2 
We walked towards Hill /Block 2 where the 8-lane highway will one day disfigure this lovely hill and the stream that flows down it. Bukit Brown is made of 8 hills in which its valley feeds the natural streams around it. Dr Ho highlighted the numerous swallows and swifts flying above. Among the swifts found here is the Edible-nest Swiftlet.

To the layperson without a scope or binoculars it is hard them apart, but a very general guide:
Swallows: tend to fly closer to ground, distinctly broader wings. sometimes perch
Swifts: tend to fly higher, narrower sickle shaped wings, rarely perch.

[Left] Ficus benjamina and its beautiful leaves
[Right] a fungi that looks like a street lamp on the branch of a rain tree.  

The leaves of the ficus benjamina tree caught my eyes, as when the sun shines on it, a beautiful glow seems to form on its leaves, adding to the beauty of the surrounding areas in hill 2. Another wonder of nature that caught our eye is this "Street lamp" fungi that is growing on a branch of a rain tree.  "Street lamp" is a name i gave it ! don't blame the NSS folks.

A lovely stream and Hill 4 
As we made our way towards the next affected area, the lovely matured rain trees never fail to catch my eye. There was another big group nearby led by Raymond Goh of a.t. Bukit Brown and api that focuses on the rich heritage and stories of Singapore's early pioneers.
[Top] The Ramblers under the shade of a huge rain tree
[Bottom] Raymond Goh guiding another group  

As we made a left turn towards Hill 4, we stopped to enjoy the view of a valley with a stream that flows through it. A participant familiar with native fish life mention that such streams harbour native species of fishes such as the spotted barb, danios and swamp eel.

I have also seen posting of a researcher finding  a swamp eel and a box terrapin in the streams here. This streams are life to dragonflies and of course higher up the food chain, birds such as collared and white throated kingfishers.

In Hill 4, Mr. Goh Si Guim, a member of NSS and an experienced guide shared his knowledge of the fauna. He highlighted two forest trees, commonly known as Mahang that have made its way back to Bukit Brown woodlands among other trees. They are the Macaranga Gigantea (Giant Mahang) and the Macaranga hypoleuca. The difference can be clearly by the size and color of its leaves. Gigantea with its larger leaves and hypoleuca whose underside is silverish in color and smaller leaves.

[Left] Macaranga Hypoleuca [Right] Macaranga Gigantea
We seat for a while to rest and contemplate the potential destruction of this hill as a result of the impending 8 lane highway. I shared with the rest that along this road sometime back, i saw a Grey-headed fish eagle perched on a large tree. Dr Ho was pleasantly surprised of my encounter, saying that the Grey-headed fish eagle is listed as critically endangered in Singapore. As for me, i am just a happy trooper to have caught sight of this majestic bird in Bukit Brown.

[Left] Si Guim contemplating the destruction looming
[Right] Malayan Banyan and its prop roots 

Onwards to Kopi Sua
Kopi Sua means Coffee Hill in Hokkien. It's name is derived from the day's when it was a coffee plantation managed by George Henry Brown in which Bukit Brown got its name from. Our ramble through a wooded area in Bukit Brown, crossing a small wooden bridge over a crystal clear stream brought us to Gymkhana Road then Mount Pleasant and parallel to Onraet Road is the beautiful Kopi Sua. This is the tail end of our ramble and this is an area rarely explored by most visitors with beautiful Albizia and even durian trees aplenty. This area is made infamous with the news of the escape of Mas Selamat from the Whitley Detention Centre nearby.

Bukit Brown to Kopi Sua
We finally reach a hill overlooking the expressway (PIE). The sky was bright blue and we finally finish our ramble, experiencing so many wonderful places and taking in what mother nature has to offer. We sat /stood to ponder the faith of this hill as well taking in the view before saying one last goodbye, for now.

On our way back, we were rewarded with a sighting of a Changeable Hawk Eagle (dark morph) perched on a tree near the future Bukit Brown MRT. It is said that it is nesting around this area.

[Left] Top of the hill in Kopi Sua
[Middle] A trail along Kopi Sua, a huge fig tree for shade
[Right] Majestic Albizia trees. 


Area we covered - i didn't mark the trail we covered
A parting word, "we never miss someone or something till its gone" rang through my mind during this enjoyable nature ramble. The tombs erected by their love ones that now co-exist with mother nature's comeback (the trees, birds, wildlife) , is something that we should not be take for granted. I am proud to be a part of a group helping to safe and preserve this place.


  1. From post: "Another wonder of nature that caught our eye is this "Street lamp" fungi that is growing on a branch of a rain tree." [your photo]

    Interesting sight. That's a laterally stipitate (& almost spathulate) form of Ganoderma sp. -- ie. the basidiocarp (fruiting body) has a distinct stipe ("stalk") that is attached to the pileus ("cap") at the edge.

    The pileus can't be seen from your photo, but if the pileus is blackish/ dark-coloured with a pale underside (in fresh specimens), the fungus could be Ganoderma sinense (Purple Ganoderma, Black Lingzhi, Wood Ganoderma). This species is characterized by a purplish-black to brownish-black pileus, as well as a similarly dark but smooth & relatively slender stipe.

    * Image 1, Image 2, Image 3
    * Species Profile

    Wood-decay fungi like Ganoderma spp. are saprophytic -- ie. they feed on dead or decaying organic matter. This implies that the Ficus branch is at least partially rotten. So look out when you see wood fungi growing on otherwise living trees.

    Incidentally, Ganoderma spp. have a range of growth morphologies within the same species & even within the same colony.

    Disregarding micro-climatic factors like differing humidity levels, those growing on a horizontal surface tend to be more stipilate, while those growing from a vertical/ steeply-angled surface are more likely to be substipilate (attached by a short stipe) or sessile (inconspicuous or no stipe, attached directly to substrate, appearing bracket-like or shelf-like).

    Some photo examples below:-
    * Laterally stipitate, almost spathulate -- Ganoderma lucidum
    * Laterally stipitate -- Ganoderma tsugae
    * Centrally stipitate -- Ganoderma lucidum (foreground)

    * Laterally substipitate -- Ganoderma oregonese, G. tropicum, G. lucidum

    * Sessile -- Ganoderma lucidum, G. applanatum

    This research paper (with photos) show he various morphologies of Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi/ Reishi Mushroom).


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