Bob’s Far Eastern Adventure, March 2014


I have recently spent two weeks in Java (Indonesia) and three days in Singapore. The visits to Bogor Botanic Gardens, Java, and the Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, were of particular interest to me and are illustrated and described here.

Bogor Botanic Gardens, Java (Lat 6.6027 South, Long 106.7987 East)

These were founded in 1817, by Dutch botanist Casper Reinwardt who began collecting seeds from the whole of the archipelago to investigate plants which he intended to promote for agricultural and horticultural use. In 1848 the gardens received seeds from West Africa of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) which has now spread commercially over much of Indonesia, much to the detriment of the natural rain forest habitats. The gardens also had a part to play in introducing the anti-malarial quinine, produced from the bark of the Cinchona tree, originally from Peru. In 1942 the Japanese invaded Java but the gardens were protected and developed by Prof Nakai and other Japanese botanists. In 1962 the gardens became part of the National Biological Institute which continues to develop the gardens through research but also strives to raise awareness of environmental issues and the protection of plants in the interests of the public. A simple walk around the 87 hectares of the gardens will impress on the visitor the importance of the natural tropical forest, most strikingly through the fantastic tree specimens, some shown below.


Ceiba pentandra var indica – adult tree produces hundreds of pods containing seeds surrounded by fluffy fibre generally known as kapok commonly used for stuffing mattresses.


Koompassia excelsa is one of the tallest trees of the rain forest. The large buttress roots serve to maintain stability and spread over the surface where more nutrients are available.


Gogo vine (Entada phaseoloides) is a large woody climber popularised by Tarzan in his swinging adventures. Its other uses include traditional medicines, soap making, handicraft material.


Terminalia copelannii. A common tree in primary forests and swamps over most of the East Indies, its wood being used in construction or, here, as a suitable shelter from the heavy downpour!



A rather delightful path design within the Botanic Gardens which caught my eye and which uses local stream pebbles.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (Lat 1.2816N, Long 103.8642E)

According to postings on TripAdvisor, these gardens are a “great place to visit”, “nice experience”, “fabulous themed gardens”, “back for our second visit”, “simply beautiful and very refreshing”. But I had already been enthused by a talk in our University’s Sustainable Landscape series and was anxious to experience the supertrees for myself. I wasn’t disappointed.


The lush gardens do require a certain amount of maintenance. Here a gardener is thinning out some of the ground cover.


The branching structure of the supertree canopies is repeated in ground-level features (see below).



The high-level walk-way gives you an unequalled view of the supertree grove and close-ups of the vegetated trunks. But health and safety warnings are very much in presence (see below).



A great effort has been made to explain and educate the visiting public through a variety of information boards and these range from the simple summaries (above) to more in-depth technical specifications (below).


In conclusion, I would recommend anyone interested in landscapes and landscape architecture to visit the places I visited in early March 2014. I very much enjoyed the whole experience of life in the tropical rain forests of Indonesia, the climate, the vegetation and the culture, and found it instructive to compare the ecology as manifest in the managed rain forest in Bogor Botanic Gardens with the simulated environment of the Gardens by the Bay and with the purely natural forest (on Mount Salak, Java, see below).


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