Saga Tree (Adenanthera Pavonina)
The Saga Tree (scientific name: Adenanthera Pavonina) is a deciduous tree that grows up to 20 metres in height.
The Saga Tree has a large spreading crown, and its leaves have two to six pairs of side stalks, each with 9 to 15 pairs of leaflets. The tree sheds its leaves seasonally, turning yellow before dropping off. After the leaves fall, flowers appear on long stalks (8-12cm) from the ends of the new shoots. Its petals are cream-yellow turning dull orange.
The Saga bears long and curved fruit pods. When the pods ripen, they turn black in colour and split open to reveal deep red seeds. The Saga is commonly known for its red seeds, which are hard, glossy and heart-shaped. Saga seeds symbolise love in many countries and are known as xiang si dou (相思豆) in Mandarin – which roughly translates to ‘longing peas’.
Its scarlet seeds are also known for their uniform weight – four seeds make up exactly one gram. In the past, Saga seeds were often used to measure gold and silver because of their exact weights. In fact, its name ‘Saga’ has been traced to the Arabic word for ‘goldsmith’.
Saga trees are found on some shores such as Sentosa and Berlayar Creek, as well as the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. It is also planted in some of our parks, but is not considered suitable for roadsides as the tree is ‘susceptible to damage in strong winds and becomes untidy with age, dropping large amounts of leaf litter’ according to the National Parks Board (@nparksbuzz).
Today, a Saga tree with Heritage Tree status is found at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, near the Lady on a Hammock sculpture. It has a girth of 4.68 metres and height of 13.1 metres.
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