(Images and illustrations may be available when you place your cursor over the record title.)
The tiger orchid (Grammatophyllum speciosum) plant grows on big trees and forms immense clumps. The 10-cm-wide flowers are yellow coloured with maroon or dark red spots. It blooms only once every one to two years when the 2m-long spikes of flowers make a magnificent show.
First Natural Orchid
The first natural orchid hybrid is the Vanda Miss Joaquim, an indigenous natural hybrid between Vanda teres and Vanda hookeriana. It was first discovered in 1893 by Agnes Joaquim in her garden and was described in the same year by Henry N Ridley, then director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Earliest Orchid Honours
3 hybrids earned First Class certificates and highest horticultural honours: Vanda Miss Joaquim from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in 1817, Vanda Tan Chay Yan from the RHS in 1954 and Mokara Zaleha Alsagoff from the Orchid Society of South-East Asia in 1997.
First Orchid To Win International Competition
Singapore established herself on the world orchid map in 1954, when a hybrid named Vanda Tan Chay Yan won a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society and a First Class Certificate at the Chelsea Flower Show in UK. Robert Tan Hoon Siang, the great-grandson of Tan Tock Seng, personally developed the hybrid and named it after his father, a renowned merchant and philanthropist.
First Airfreight Orchids
In May 1939, the first airfreight parcel containing orchids was sent from Singapore to London. It arrived at the destination 6 days later in perfect condition.
First Cut Orchid Export
The first orchid to succeed as an export cut flower is the Arachnis Maggie Oei. It was bred by John Laycock in 1941.
First Orchid Show
The first orchid show was organised by the Malayan Orchid Society on 27-28 Mar 1931 at the YMCA Building in Stamford Road. The society was formed by Prof RE Holttum together with John Laycock and Emilie Galistan in 1928.
First Orchid Hybrid
In 1928 Prof Richard Eric Holttum, director of the Botanical Gardens, experimented with the germination of orchid seeds in glass flasks, using agar as the medium of sterile culture. He achieved a breakthrough with orchid hybridisation in 1931, being the first man in Singapore to do so. The earliest success was the Spathoglottis Primrose (Spathoglottis aurea x Spathoglottis plicata). Later, he developed a hybrid which was excellent for the cut-flower export trade, and he named it Aranda Deborah, after his daughter. There are 24 plants named after him.
World’s Largest Orchid Display
Located in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the National Orchid Garden has the largest orchid display in the world. 3 hectares of landscaped slopes provide a setting for over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids, with about 600 species and hybrids on display.
First VIP Orchid
From 1957, the government began to honour state visitors and other VIPs by naming selected orchid hybrids after them. To date, the Gardens has named over 100 VIP orchids. The first VIP orchid was Aranthera Anne Black in 1956, after Lady Black, wife of a former Governor of Singapore, Sir Robert Black.
Largest Collection Of VIP Orchids
All heads of states and heads of governments making official visits to Singapore are given with the opportunity to have a unique orchid named after them. The National Orchid Garden currently has 181 orchids named after foreign heads of state and government as well as their spouses. Only Singapore has a regular programme of naming orchids or plants after the visiting dignitaries or their wives. In order to produce that handful of new and unique orchid varieties ready to be christened, the garden has to cross-breed thousands of flowers each year.
World’s First Successful Bioluminescent Flower
In Dec 1999, Prof Chia Tet Fatt succeeded in producing the world’s first successful bioluminescent flowers, using a white-petalled strain of Dendrobium White Fairy #5. Utilising particle ¬bombardment, he transferred biologically active DNA containing the luciferase gene from fireflies into the orchid tissues. These bioluminescent orchids will glow for up to 5 hours at a stretch.
The Changi Tree (likely to be Hopea sangal) was a 76m legendary tree of Singapore. It is believed that Changi was named after this tree. It started to appear on maps at around 1888 and was a major landmark due to its height. In Feb 1942, the tree was cut by the British to prevent the Japanese artillery from using it as a ranging point during World War II. Another of the rare Hopea sangal was found in Halton Road, Changi but the 35m tree was felled in 2002 despite its heritage status. Fortunately, its seeds had been collected and have now sprouted new saplings at the Changi Museum, Kent Ridge Park and the zoo.
A photograph of the tree was taken in 1936 by George Crouch and published on the cover of the Malayan Nature Journal (vol 22, 1969).
Tallest And Oldest Existing Trees
The tallest trees in Singapore belong to the Dipterocarp family, popular as a tropical hardwood timber. Some trees from this family grow to a height of over 40m at the Bukit Timah Reserve. One Seraya tree (Shorea curtisii) from the Dipterocarp family, believed to be about 360 years old, is the oldest tree in Singapore.
Largest Monocotylenous Tree
The Dracaena maingayi is the largest monocotylenous tree in Singapore. At Labrador, one such tree reaches 12m and is estimated to be more than 80 years old.
Fastest Growing Tree
The Albizia tree has been considered a weed ever since its first introduction into the Singapore Botanic Gardens in the 1870s. An experiment shows that its sapling could grow a whopping 10.7m in 13 months – or 2.6 cm a day – making it among the fastest-growing trees in the world. Due to its excessive growth, the Albizia species is considered to be too invasive and may disrupt power lines, pipes and other infrastructure.
Oldest Pomegranate Trees
The oldest pomegranate trees are the 100-year-old trees found at the Chinese Garden, which were flown in from Shantung, China and planted at the Garden of Abundance.
The tree with the largest trunk circumference in Singapore is the Angsana (Pterocarpus indicus) in the compound of the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Hotel. It is 27m high and has a girth of 10.2m.
Most Elusive Plant
A specimen of the Thottea dependens, which was initially presumed to be extinct, was discovered by a group of researchers from NParks, in a swampy area in the western part of Singapore in 2008. Prior to this, the last sighting and record of this plant was in 1893. Also known as the Honeybear’s Ear Leaf, the shrub can grow up to a metre high and has deep purple petals at its base.
First Rubber Trees
In 1877, 22 rubber seedlings (Hevea brasiliensis) arrived in Singapore. 11 of the seedlings were grown in the Botanic Gardens while the rest were sent to gardens in the Malay Peninsula. Henry N Ridley, the first Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens arrived in 1888, experimented and brought rubber to become the most important crop of the region at that time.
Most Wanted Tree
Dr William Montgomerie, Senior Surgeon to the Straits Settlement was the first to investigate the gum of the Taban Merah tree, better known as gutta percha (Palaquium spp), when he was in Singapore in 1829-44. He found that the gum’s properties make it suitable for making medical instruments, adhesives and root canal fillngs. Its secret lies in its malleability in hot water and hardening at room temperature. The introduction of telegraph in 1837 led to tremendous demand for gutta percha as underwater telegraph cable insulators. It was estimated that 412 tons of the gum was exported to Europe between 1845 and 1846 and 69,000 trees were cut down. By 1847, the gutta percha tree had disappeared from Singapore. Thereafter, the resin was harvested and collected in Malaya, and sent to Singapore for packing and export.
Biggest And Oldest Bodhi Tree
The Bodhi tree at the former Jin Long Si Temple built in 1941 in Lorong How Sun, is over 120 years old and has a girth of approximately 8.5m and height of about 30m. The temple site was acquired by the government in 2008 and the government plans to retain the Bodhi tree in its redevelopment of the site.
Most Common Roadside Tree
The most common roadside tree in Singapore is the wild cinnamon or kayu manis (Cinnamo-mum iners).
Most Common Seagrass
The most common of all seagrasses is the tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) which occurs in shallow waters. It has a green ribbed fruit which bears 6-7 edible seeds that taste like water chestnut.
Largest Bonsai Garden
The largest bonsai garden in Singapore was opened in Jun 1982 at the Chinese Garden and is the largest Suzhou-style bonsai garden outside China. It houses over 1,000 bonsai plants.
Asia’s First Heliconia Repository
Heliconias are best known for their exotic blooms. In 1989, the Heliconia Society International designated the Jurong Bird Park as an official Heliconia Collection Centre. Currently, the park has 167 species and cultivars of heliconias, making it one of the largest collections in the region.
Oldest Primary Rainforest
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is the oldest ¬primary rainforest. It is located 12 km from the city centre and measures 164 ha. The forest was never extensively cleared for ¬cultivation and is home to more than 840 flowering plants and over 500 species of animals. These include towering trees, ¬climbing palms (better known as rattans), ferns, orchids, gingers and strange blooms such as the Black or Bat Lily.
Largest Stretch Of Mangroves
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves has 60 ha of mangroves. This is a remnant of the extensive mangrove system that used to fringe the Singapore coast.
Largest Diversity Of Flora
About 7,100 species of plants are found within the 0.63 sq km compound of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, including 620 native species.
Last Freshwater Swamp
The Nee Soon freshwater swamp forest is found within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and is the last remaining natural freshwater habitat of its kind in Singapore. The 5 sq km area harbours about more than half of all freshwater fish and amphibians, in Singapore.
Nearest Forest To City Centre
Singapore is one of only 2 cities in the world with a considerable area of primary rainforest in close range (12 km) to the city centre. The other city is Rio de Janeiro.
First Tree Planting Campaign
The first tree planting campaign in Singapore was launched by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1963.
First And Last Trees In The Garden Of Fame
The first tree in the Garden of Fame on Jurong Hill Top was planted by Princess Alexandra of Great Britain in 1969 for the 150th anniversary of Singapore’s founding. Deng Xiaoping of China, on 29 Nov 1978, planted the last tree.
Singapore’s smallest ¬mammal, the South-East Asian white-toothed shrew (Crocidura ¬fuliginosa) weighs just a few grams and reaches a maximum length of about 11 cm. It is usually found in forested areas and is extremely reclusive.
The rarest mammal in Singapore is the cream-coloured giant squirrel (Ratufa affinis), which measures up to 85 cm from tip to tail. It was last spotted in 1995.
Most Common Mammal
The common fruit bat (Cynopterus brachyotis) is a nocturnal creature which rests by day in communal roosts under the shelter of large trees.
Most Common Primate
The long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) is the most common primate in Singapore.
Most Endangered Monkey
The banded leaf monkey (Presbytis femoralis) lies in the forest of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. It is a critically endangered species with a population of approximately 40 individuals left in the reserve.
Most Common Rat
The brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) is common throughout Singapore.
Last Wild Cat
The leopard cat, supposedly the last wild cat species known, can be found in the nature reserves, Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. The adult cat is about 50 cm long. It is not only a skilful climber but also a good swimmer.
Most Successful Breeding Programme
Breeding in the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari is among the most successful among zoos worldwide. To date, a total of 36 orang utans, 13 proboscis monkeys 42 cotton-top tamarins, 18 douc langurs, 20 lion-tailed macaques, 22 Malaysan tigers and 14 pygmy hippos were bred.
Smallest Domestic Cat
The Singapura Cat, native of Singapore, entered the Guinness as the smallest breed of domestic cats. The cat is a combination of both the ticked coat pattern and the dark brown in colour. In the early 1970s, the Singapura cat was brought to the US and in 1982, this breed was accepted for registration by the Cat Fanciers Association and given championship status in 1988. The breed is also known locally as Kucinta, the Love Cat. In 1991, the government placed statues of these cats along the Singapore River and began featuring the breed in its promotional literature.
Largest Breeding Of Orang Utans And Proboscis Monkeys
The Singapore Zoo boasts one of the world’s largest collection of primate species, with a ¬total of 320 specimens from 39 different ¬species (almost half of which are endangered). It has the world’s largest number of orang utans and proboscis monkeys bred in captivity.
Largest Tree Dwelling Mammal
The orang utan is the largest arboreal mammal. A typical adult male orang utan weighs 83 kg and measures 1.5m tall. After the gorilla, it is the world’s largest primate.
First Tropics-Born Polar Bear
Inuka, the first and only polar bear to be born in the tropics, was born in the Singapore Zoo on 26 Dec 1990, weighing 500g. His parents, Nanook and Sheba, were the zoo’s first polar bears when they first arrived from Canada and Germany, respectively.
Largest Land Mammal
The wild pig (Sus scrofa), has been found in Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. It is believed that they swam there from Johor.
Most Common Non-Farmed Bird
A survey in 2001 found 1,152 Javan mynas out of 8,417 birds counted. Coming from Java, they were first detected here in the 1920s.
First Birds To Be Born In Captivity
The Jurong Bird Park became the first park in the world to successfully breed the black hornbill in captivity in 1995 and the 12-wired bird of paradise in 2001.
Largest Colony Of Humboldt Penguins
The Jurong Bird Park exhibits 57 Humboldt penguins, the largest colony bred in captivity. The penguin is an endangered species with only 12,000 to 15,000 left worldwide.
Most Comprehensive Collection Of Pelicans
The Pelican Cove, which spans 2,500 sq m at the Jurong Bird Park houses the most comprehensive collection of pelicans in the world, with over 40 birds, including all 8 species of the pelican family. The cove, which is designed to simulate the pelican’s habitat, boasts the world’s only underwater viewing of pelican feeding, allowing visitors to observe the birds’ underwater feeding behaviour.
White-bellied fish eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster) have a wingspan of 50 cm and body length of 70 cm. They hunt prey that are found near the water surface, mainly sea snakes and fish.
The spotted wood owl (Strix seloputo) feeds on small mammals and birds. It habitually roosts in tall trees from where it calls.
Largest Collection Of South-East Asian Birds
The Jurong Bird Park boasts the world’s largest collection of South-East Asian birds. To date, it has a collection of approximately 260 South-East Asian species from 1,000 species of birds in the region. It recorded the world’s first hatching of the black hornbill and Great Indian hornbill in captivity. The park is also one of the most successful in the region in the breeding of the endangered king penguins, with a record of 7 born and bred in the park.
The great-billed heron (Ardea sumatrana) can stand up to 115 cm tall, making it Singapore’s largest bird. It lives in shallow waters, spearing fish with its long, sharp bill and usually resides in coastal areas such as islands, coral reefs and mangroves.
Largest Collection Of South-East Asian Hornbills
The largest collection of South-East Asian hornbills can be seen at the Jurong Bird Park. Covering an area of 2,000 sq m, the exhibit houses a total of 54 hornbills displayed in an aviary comprising 18 species.
Largest Collection Of Flamingos
The flamingo population of the Jurong Bird Park’s Flamingo Lake is 1,001, the largest collection of flamingos in any bird park or zoo.
The Brahminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) also known as the flowerpot snake is the shortest snake ever to be found in Singapore. This slender, black, worm-like burrowing snake reaches a maximum length of 15 cm.
The reticulated python (Python reticulatus) is one of the longest snakes in the world. It has a potential length of 10m, but pythons in Singapore only reach up to 5m due to scarcity of large prey. The reticulated python can even be found in urban areas, where it preys on rats and stray cats.
Most Venomous Snake
The blue Malayan coral snake (Maticora bivirgata), the most venomous snake found here, lives in tropical rainforests and has venom glands that extend along one third of its body.
Most Common Snake
The painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus), an agile tree-climbing species, feeds on vertebrates such as frogs and lizards and can reach a length of 1m. It inhabits secondary forests as well as parks and gardens in Singapore.
The banded wolf snake (Lycodon subcinctus), a forest-dwelling creature, has only been sighted a few times in Singapore.
Most Common Lizard
The spiny-tailed house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) is the familiar cicak that inhabits urban areas, coming into homes to feed on insects by night.
The frilly gecko (Cosymbotus craspedotus), the rarest lizard here, is so named because of the flaps of skin along each side of its tail and between its toes. It is found in localised areas of tropical rainforests.
Smallest Mangrove Lizard
The dwarf gecko (Hemiphyllodactylus typus), the smallest mangrove lizard in Singapore, reaches a maximum length of just 8 cm and inhabits forests and mangrove swamps.
Smallest Freshwater Turtle
The black marsh terrapin (Siebenrockiella crassicollis), the smallest freshwater turtle found in Singapore, inhabits canals, ponds and reservoirs and its shell grows to a maximum of 20 cm. It emits a foul-smelling odour when disturbed.
The giant leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) the world’s largest turtle came up onshore at Siglap in 1883 and is now preserved in the Raffles Museum. There were later sightings of the turtle in the Singapore waters.
The Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator) reaches up to 2.5m or more and can be easily found in mangrove swamps at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. It is an adept swimmer and climber.
Most Common Freshwater turtle
The red-eared terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans), originally from North America, is the most common species of freshwater turtle found here.
Largest Turtles And Tortoises Collection
The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum at the Chinese Garden houses 3,456 tortoises and turtles, including more than 1,000 live specimens, the largest collection of turtles and tortoises in the world.
Most Poisonous Frog
The Cane Toad (Bufo marinus) is the most poisonous toad found in Singapore. When agitated, the toad’s paratoid glands will secrete noxious poison that will cause pain or intense irritation to any potential predator.
The St Andrew’s cross toadlet (Pelophryne brevipes) is so named because of the distinctive X marking on its back. It is one of the rarest frogs to be found in Singapore.
The smallest frog that can be found in Singapore, the Bornean chorus frog (Microhyla borneensis), reaches a maximum size of 2 cm. It hides under leaf litter in forests and is rarely seen.
Most Common Frog Frog
The St Andrew’s cross toadlet (Pelophryne brevipes) is so named because of the distinctive X marking on its back. It is one of the rarest frogs to be found in Singapore.
The Malayan giant frog (Limnonectes blythii), the largest of its species found here, reaches a potential maximum size of 26 cm. It has thick, meaty hind legs that are considered edible in other countries.
Loudest Insect Noise
The calls of the cicadas (Purana spp) produce noises unique to each species. The male makes these noises by using its muscles to rapidly vibrate two drum-like membranes at the base of its abdomen.
Greatest Head Turner
The praying mantis (family Mantidae) grows up to 15 cm long. It is the only insect with the ability to turn its head 180 degrees.
Most Common Ant
The most common ant is the black crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis) which is commonly found in houses.
Most Diverse Insects
Beetles are the largest and most diverse group of insect order. Dominant families include the ground beetles (Carabidae), scarab beetles (Scarabaeidae), leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae), jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and weevils (Curculonidae).
The atlas moth (Attacus atlas), common in Singapore, is the largest moth in the world in terms of wing surface area. Its wingspan is 20 to 30 cm across.
Largest Firefly Breeding Programme
Night Safari has been breeding fireflies (Pteroptyx valida) since 2001. The insect ¬usually lives for about 2 weeks during which they mate, reproduce then die.
Largest Insect Egg
The 15-cm Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) lays eggs that measure 1.3 cm, the largest in the world. Some insects, mainly mantids and cockroaches, lay egg-cases that are much larger than this, but these contain as many as 200 individual eggs.
Largest Stick Insect
The giant Malayan stick (Phobaeticus serratipes) is the longest insect in the world. It is found only in Singapore and Malaysia. With the legs fully extended in the front and rear, it can reach 500 mm long.
Most Common Butterfly
There are about 1,000 species of butterflies in Singapore. The most common is the lime butterfly (Papilio demoleus).
Most Poisonous Fish
The most venomous fish in the world is the stonefish (Synanceja horrida), found in Singapore shores. Its sting has been known to cause human deaths. The dorsal spines along its back are linked to glands packed with lethal venom, and even a slight brush with them can result in excruciating pain for the victim.
Smallest Freshwater Fish
The Malayan pygmy rasbora (Boraras maculatus), the smallest local freshwater fish, reaches 2.5 cm in length and inhabits shallow, acidic forest streams. It feeds on worms and small crustaceans.
The giant mudskipper (Periophthamodon schlosseri), lives in mangrove swamps and can measure up to 27 cm in length.
Largest Collection of Seahorses
In 2004, the NUS Tropical Marine Sciences Institute (TMSI)’s research institute at St. John’s Island succeeded in breeding two species of native ¬endangered ¬seahorses, ¬Hedgehog seahorse (hippocampus spinosissimus) and Tiger tail seahorse (hippocampus comes).
The coral spider crabs (Halicarcinus coralicola), found in Singapore are among the smallest crabs in the world. The species here rarely exceed 2 mm in body length and are found on rocky shorelines.
The ghost crab (Ocypode ceratophthalma) scavenges at night and have long legs well adapted for swift running.
Most Poisonous Crab
The colourful mosaic crab (Lophozozymus pictor) found in Singapore waters, is the world’s most poisonous crab. Its shell contains saxitoxin. Gram for gram, it is 1,000 times more deadly than cyanide. If consumed it causes paralysis and death, even after cooking.
Most Endangered Crab
The freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis) was discovered in 1987 by a local biologist Prof Peter Ng. It is endemic to Singapore. The crab, which can grow to a size of 30mm, has a striking red shell and lives in streams running through undisturbed forests.
Only Marine spider
The reef spider (Desis martensi) lives on coral reefs. During high tide, it stays in an air chamber sealed with a waterproof mat of silk over a crevice in a coral or rock. It emerges at low tide to feed on sea cockcroaches and other reef insects.
The knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus) possess rows of ‘horns’ – black conical points arranged in a single row – radially on the dorsal side. It can grow up to 30 cm.
On a routine survey dive off St John’s Island in Mar 2011, DHI Water & Environment’s marine biologists encountered the young Neptune’s cup sponge (Cliona patera). It was thought that the sponge was globally extinct for more than a century. The sponge was first described from Singapore waters in 1822 and the last was sighted in 1870. Worldwide, the last live specimen was recorded in Indonesia in 1908. In its mature adult form, the sponge stands over one metre in height and half a meter in diameter. Stories were told of large Neptune’s cups been used as bathtubs in the old days. DHI specialises in water and environmental engineering and science.