Monday, August 20, 2012

Some city biodiversity in Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City is formerly known as Saigon prior to the Vietnam War which ended in 1975, but people still used the latter name frequently. This is a continuation of my previous post, showing some of the biodiversity which can be found here. The flora and fauna life listed here is certainly not exhaustive, as there are many which I did not feature here. It is just a matter of showing what I think are the more interesting ones in this post.


The city, just like Singapore is pretty abundant with mistletoes. Mistletoes are semi-parasitic plants that attached on its host tree and derive water and nutrients from it.


All of the mistletoes I saw seemed to be an unknown species of Dendrophthoe, which have yellow flowers. I was browsing through the Flora of Vietnam in the library the other day and I was unable to find a close identity. It doesn’t help that the book is in Vietnamese too…


Many of their cultivated tree species are also commonly planted in Singapore. An example is this Tanjong Tree, Mimusop elengi. I was trying to take a photo of the flowers when a bee decided to steal the limelight. :)


I must be quite ignorant because this is the first time I saw the Flame of the Forest tree (Delonix regia) fruiting with their large seed pods! I don’t think I have seen it in Singapore yet. But I guess they planted it more in this city then compared to Singapore, making it more obvious when the whole row of Delonix fruits.


This is one of the two larger parks which I visited near my hotel in District 1. It is a rather pleasant respite from the blazing sun. It is pretty quiet on a working day morning…


But during the weekends, many come for a jog or walk, and also play badminton and other sports.


At night, my friends brought me to another park to chit-chat. I was amazed to see it to be filled with people (mostly teenagers and young adults). They told me that it is always packed at night. What a big contrast with our parks here.


The next morning, I went to Tao Dan Park, beside the reunification palace. Two Ang Mohs were learning martial arts from a Vietnamese girl on the right. And I must say… they were pretty good at it!


Some of the trees are tagged. I doubt most park visitors were interested but it is definitely well appreciated by me.


I was rewarded with some interesting fauna life after lingering around the park looking up at the large trees. This is a Golden Tree Snake (Chrysopelea ornata; thanks Ivan for the ID). It slithered quickly into a hole on the tree when I saw it.


I initially thought that this was a baby Plantain Squirrel that is very common in Singapore till I realised that the strips was at the wrong side.


There are four distinct white stripes on its back (compared to two on the Plantain Squirrel’s belly). It looked similar to the Himalayan Striped Squirrel (Tamiops macclellandi) but I can’t be sure since the IUCN only put its range in Vietnam as North Vietnam only.


I find this street (Truong Dinh Street) which cuts through the park quite aesthetic because of the tall pillars of Dipterocarps (Dipterocarpus alatus) flanking the roadside.


To my Vietnamese friends, the spinning dipterocarp fruits are already a common sight for them. But they are much revered for students of biology in Singapore (at least that is what I feel) since these primary forest species are few and very much threatened in our remaining forests.

After visiting a few Southeast Asian countries, I am of the opinion that Singapore probably put in the most resources in urban greening; hence deserving of the title of “Garden City”. However, Ho Chi Minh City also hold a special place in me because of its giant Dipterocap trees which have probably been here for a century.

Till we meet again, Vietnam!

 Related posts:

1) Giant trees of Ho Chi Minh City
2) Tree climbers in Ho Chi Minh City

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tree climbers in Ho Chi Minh City

I was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for a holiday for the past week. It was an enjoyable trip during which I spent two mornings sitting in the park observing the people around. And the main highlight was definitely the gung-ho tree pruners.

I am not sure how the contractors in Singapore prune the trees in parks, but I am pretty certain that they do not do it like their Vietnamese counterparts!


Basically, these people use a rope system to physically hurl themselves up the tree, saw down the unwanted branches and climb down again. Of course, this is easier said then done (though it certainly does seemed like that it was a piece of cake for them).


Firstly, a rope was thrown up a branch and the end was secured to the pruner. An assistant will then hold on to this rope to help him climb up the trunk. The selected pruner, barefooted for better grip I guess, wrapped a thicker band of rope around the trunk, secured to his harness and started to ascend quickly.

Once up, a saw was delivered to him using a rope pulley system. Just prior to the pruning, the same rope used to pull him up was used to secure a large branch which needs to be removed. You can roughly see this knot on the branch in the picture below.


And so, the sawing starts…


The branch he was sawing was pretty large as you can see here. the secured rope was tugged by the ground men to pull it down once the branch was partly snapped from the sawing.


I decided to take a walk around the park at this time, and returned to the same spot about half and hour later. By then, the guy has already removed enough foliage to fill up a trunk.


And… he was up about 10 metres high… His only safety net is nothing more than a rope secured on the tree branch. If he fell, he will surely suffer a spine-snapping injury from the force of the rope holding him, just like when Bruce Wayne fell during his failed attempts in the dungeon prison climb to the surface in recent Batman movie.

Worse still, the entire branch could break under his weight.


Obviously, he is immune to the fear of heights and still diligently saw the next few branches, taking a few seconds of break once in awhile if the branch is too thick.


It is probably best to be just be the assistants and lend some morale support.

Keep a lookout for my next post of my encounters of the the flora and fauna of Ho Chi Minh City!

Related posts:

1) Giant trees of Ho Chi Minh City
2) Some city biodiversity in Saigon

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Champerai Trail on National Day

It has been more than 6 months since I last visited a forest in Singapore. This year has been an especially interesting one, since I have changed a few of the priorities of my life because of some chance events. Nevertheless, I am glad to say that my obsession with plants did not falter.

Since I have a bit of time to spare this morning, I decided to head down MacRitchie Reservoir for a walk around the Champerai Trail to familiarised myself back with its floral life.


I was in luck! The Bats Laurel, Prunus polystachya, was showing off its fluffy white flowers during national day.


The entire tree was flowering profusely as you can see.


In cahoots with the Bat’s Laurel, the Aidia densiflora also decided to show off its national pride by hanging out their bright and red berries. It was really quite a spectacle to behold when almost all of these individuals along the boardwalk decorated the landscape in these dots of red.


Not to be left behind, a few Clerodendrum laevifolium managed to display its black fruits flanked by its red starry sepals.


From my writing, I was in an obvious cheerful mood today. Three Pacific Swallows also shared my joy by whistling loudly and flying back and fro to a low lying branch.


There is a plant whose identity eluded me, for now. Looks like it did not managed to get its fruits ripen in time for this festive season though.

It is quite unfortunate that most of the visitors who venture to this nature reserve gave scant notice to the rich and beautiful flora life here. So if you happen to be one of them, open your eyes wide next time!

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