People impressed 200-year-old tembusu tree seen on S$5 note still stands at S'pore Botanic Gardens

It is a symbol of hardiness.

Belmont Lay | September 09, 2022, 01:37 PM

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A Facebook post comparing the actual iconic tembusu tree in Singapore Botanic Gardens with the image on the back of the Singapore S$5 note made the rounds online recently.

Those who expressed awe were surprised that the image on the note was based on an actual tree, and were even more shocked to find out that the tree is still standing till this day, and is open to the public.

For the uninitiated, the tembusu with the distinctive lateral lower branch that makes it highly recognisable, is located on the lawn overlooking Swan Lake, accessible via the Tanglin Gate side.

However, the image of the tree on the S$5 note has become so ubiquitous that people tend to overlook it.

Hardy tree

According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the tree is more than 200 years old:

The back of the $5 note features a dramatic Garden City landscape dominated by the portrayal of the old tembusu tree (Fagraea fragrans) which still stands on the grounds of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The majestic tree of more than 200 years is characterised by its firm and towering presence. The tree bears small red berries and has white flowers that are exceptionally fragrant. The sturdy tree, with its highly branched canopy, epitomises the spirit of Singapore - strong, resilient and continuously striving for progress.

It is also believed to have existed before the establishment of the gardens in 1859, according to Infopedia.

This particular tembusu in the Singapore Botanic Gardens was one of the first to be recognised as a “heritage tree”.

This particular specimen stands at a height of 32m and has a girth spanning 6m in circumference.

It has since been fenced off in the gardens.

via NParks

The hardy characteristics of the tembusu are well known.

The tree's wood is extremely durable and resistant to termite attack, making it highly suitable for heavy construction, bridges and carving, according to NParks.

The wood was known to be so hard that the Malays here, as a metaphor, compared a hard heart to the tree's wood.

The Singapore five-dollar note in the portrait series featuring the tembusu was issued in 1999.

Top photos via Au Yeong Kok Cheong & NParks