The Rain Tree (Samanea Saman)
Easily recognised by its massive, widely-spreading crown, the Rain Tree is commonly planted along roadsides in Singapore. The umbrella-shaped crown can span up to almost 20 to 30 metres across, at up to 30 metres in height, making the Rain Tree (scientific name: Samanea Saman) an excellent provider of shade and shelter.
Its leaflets are highly sensitive to light: they open at sunrise and fold up about one and a half hours before sunset, which is why the Rain Tree is also called ‘Pukul Lima’ (5 o’clock in Malay) because 5pm used to be closer to the sunset hour in Singapore and Malaysia before changes to the Standard Time were made on 1 Jan 1982.
The leaflets also close during the day when the sky is overcast or just before a rainy weather, allowing rain to fall through the crown to the ground below, thus giving rise to its name, the Rain Tree.
When it blooms, the crown of the tree is covered in clusters of slightly-fragrant pink-white flowers resembling small ‘pompoms’. The mature fruit pods are thick, long, straight, and fleshy on the inside, ripening to black but do not split open. The seeds develop into seedlings, sometimes while still inside the fruit.
Today, 22 Rain Trees along Connaught Drive have been listed as Heritage Trees by the National Parks Board (@nparksbuzz). This ‘Avenue of Heritage Trees’ holds the record for having the largest number of trees in a single area endorsed under the NParks’ Heritage Tree Scheme, and is part of the Civic District Tree Trail. Generally estimated to have been planted in the mid-1880s, these trees may be over 130 years old now.
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