SINGAPORE: It was a stroke of luck that saw her hard work start to bear fruit.
Over the last four years, Choo Le Min has spent hours poring through old records and dried specimens of Sindora velutina to figure out when it typically flowers and fruits, as part of her research on the critically endangered tree species.
As a result, she knows the Sindora velutina like the back of her hand; from the type of fruit it produces to its ecological function.
Yet, despite her extensive knowledge, the colour and scent of the tree species’ flower remained a mystery to the senior researcher at the National Parks Board’s (NParks) Singapore Botanic Gardens.
These were important to know because they contain vital details which could help guide the conservation and preservation of the critically endangered tree species, said Ms Choo.
The species is very rare in Singapore and was presumed to be nationally extinct until it was rediscovered in 2019.
“From flowers, especially fresh ones, their colour, scent and shape will give you clues on what their pollinators are,” she explained.
“If their pollinators are very weak fliers and can only fly short distances, it means they cannot cross-pollinate whereas, if you have very large bees that are strong fliers, they can help to pollinate the trees over longer distances,” she added.
“If there’s more cross pollination, it actually improves and ensures the survivability of the species because there’s more mixing of the gene pool and it’s not totally isolated so there’s genetic connectivity.”
But with just six mature Sindora velutina trees recorded here, the chances of seeing one of them flower appeared to be slim – at least that was until May this year.