Synchronised flowering of Pulai trees (Alstonia scholaris) in January (Singapore)

Important note: The identity of the Pulai tree in this post was corrected form Alstonia angustiloba to Alstonia scholaris; the colour of the flowers in the latter are not white but a yellowish-green; thanks to an alert by Angie Ng earlier this year and the provision of the link to the Total Vascular Flora of Singapore from and conversation with Adrian Loo. See also “Appreciate the beauty of Alstonias,” by Wilson Wong. Gardening with Wilson, 05 Jan 2010.

Have you seen Pulai tree (Alstonia scholaris) flowering this January? They are planted profusely along the Western Park Connector in Singapore, so you’d be hard-pressed to miss them if you live in Bukit Panjang, Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok, Jurong etc.

Amy Choong first alerted me in early January via facebook about the synchronised flowering and strong, peppery smells, “All the Alstonia (pulai) trees are flowering, unusual as they hardly show synchronize flowering. The green, peppery smell with some sweet scent is it. Strong in the evening and night.” [04 Jan 2010]

When I finally emerged after two weeks of confinement due to a bad flu, I saw that the ‘instant trees’ along South Buona Vista were indeed flowering. And when I went on a Zendog ride along the Western PCN last Sunday, the west was all ablaze with flowering trees. The paths below the trees were floor strewn with their petals and made for a lovely sight (sweepers might have a different perspective, though).

N78-587


Photos taken with my temperamental Nokia N78 during my ride along the western PCN
– the western extension of the Ulu Pandan Park Connector past the PIE

I am compiling photos and locations of flowering for Habitatnews (e.g. see the Syzygium grande (Sea apple) reports), so please send me your photos if you have ’em, with location details and let me know if and when you smelt them as well! Do also let me know if you are NOT staying in the west and have Pulai near your estate (e.g. Alvin says Pulai are “now being planted all around Punggol.”

Also let me know if the Pulai were not flowering in January at some places too. Well essentially, if you have Pulai trees near your house, tell me anything about them; I’m listening! Email: otterman@sivasothi.com

When, will, we see the fruit?

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5 thoughts on “Synchronised flowering of Pulai trees (Alstonia scholaris) in January (Singapore)

  1. There are several of these trees in my estate but unfortunately many residents think that the smell of the flowers is too pungent. When I come home from school in the evenings during the blooming season, I see the doors and windows of many neighbours closed when they are usually open. A couple of weeks ago, the town council sent some people to heavily trim the trees. Somebody must have complained of the overpowering smell!

  2. Hello Siva,
    It’s been a long time. Catherine and I are now in New Delhi–teaching. Alstonia scholaris is planted extensively here as a roadside tree. Many are flowering now–some started a month ago. Many Delhi natives find the scent a nostalgic marker for the onset of winter–generally regarded as a pleasant season. I’ve been curious about the tree and was trying to find out more about the pollinators (moths?)–found your blog post doing a google search. A common name is devil or Satan tree–the most I have found on that etymology is that some people take the scent as oppressive (maybe narcotic?) and avoid the tree. A few point to beliefs among tribal people that the tree harbors spirits, but I have found no real documentation so far of that. The “scholar” part is supposedly from the historic use of the wood for making writing tablets.

    I hope we get a chance to visit Singapore this year. Would enjoy meeting up.
    Regards,
    Richard and Catherine Frazier

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