I wonder do the people who visit or work in Biopolis noticed some of the nice plants and trees that have been planted there. For me, one of plants that I found quite beautiful and took fancy was the Brazilian Ironwood. It is botanically known asCaesalpinia ferrea and is a member of the bean family, Fabaceae. Many thanks to my friend, Cheow Kheng, from the National Parks Board for helping me to positively identify this tree.
Several stands of the Brazilian Ironwood have been planted in clusters of three trees on both sides of the street lining the Genome Building, which I have visited several times to do some experiments. Because Biopolis is still quite a young establishment, most of the Brazilian Ironwood trees grown there are quite young. At present, they are about 4 to 5 m tall with a small canopy perched on top of a rather slender trunk.
The Brazilian Ironwood is native to Brazi and it grows into a medium-sized tree of about 30 m when mature. Due to the close proximity between individuals and the adjacent building and small amount of rather clayey soil they are growing in, I doubt there is any intention to allow these trees to grow to the size expected from a mature tree.
The branches and leaves of the Brazilian Ironwood seem to grow in noticable layers. It has small, pinnately arranged leaves that confer a flowing and fern-like appearance, which I like a lot. Hence, planting the Brazilian Ironwood in Biopolis certainly helps to soften the sterile and rigid appearance of the buildings in the vicinity. Because the tree is still young, there are no flowers in sight but if they do appear, they are yellow and borne in a cluster.
One of the other very notable characteristics of the Brazilian Ironwood is that the thin bark of the tree exfoliates constantly to reveal the new wood beneath that appears in a multitude of colours including off-white, brown and green, which makes the trunk extremely visually appealling. Due to this habit, the Brazilian Ironwood is also called the “Leopard Tree” and it can be easily be mistakened to be a Eucalyptus species.
The Brazilian Ironwood tree earned its common name from the very hard and durable wood it produces. A Google search done on the Internet yielded an interesting article written by Jerry Meislik who visited Singapore a while ago where he met up with members of the local Singapore Penjing and Stone Appreciation Society. The article is rather informative where it shares on how one can train and create a bonsai out of the Brazilian Ironwood tree: