The 5-Dollar Tembusu Tree

The 5-Dollar Tembusu Tree

We have become so accustomed to cash exchanges in our daily grind that we no longer pay our dollar bills a second look. The next time you fish out the green five-dollar bill from your wallet, do spare a few seconds to examine it. While the front design features the first President of Singapore Encik Yusof bin Ishak as do all bills from the Portrait series, the back design theme is Garden City with a Tembusu tree of a long outstretched low-lying branch.

The back design of the Singapore Five Dollar bill featuring the Garden City theme.

The back design of the Singapore Five Dollar bill featuring the Garden City theme.

The information panel that accompanies the old Tembusu.

The information panel that accompanies the old Tembusu.

This is our 5-Dollar Tembusu tree. It is not just a default artist’s illustration. As a matter of fact it is a feature of Singapore’s most famous Tembusu tree. Located near the Tanglin entrance of the Botanic Gardens, it is believed to have existed long before the gardens was officially laid out in 1859. That puts the tree at close to two centuries old!

With its low lying branch to sit on and boundless green backdrop, this old Tembusu has long been a popular site for family portraits and outdoor wedding photo shoots. The tree has been inducted into the Heritage Trees of Singapore, which was launched in 2001 to identify and safeguard mature trees that serve as important green landmarks in our natural heritage.

Native to Southeast Asia with different names such as Urung in Philippines, Trai in Cambodia and Tam Sao in Thailand, the Tembusu can grow up to 30 to 40 metres high. While some may be distressed over the old Tembusu’s ability to support park visitors, it is comforting to know that this is one hardy tree. In fact the Tembusu is heavy hardwood timber that is often used in heavy construction, bridges, and boats.

An added measure to safeguard our Heritage Trees. Only in Singapore, our trees come attached with security cameras.

An added measure to safeguard our Heritage Trees. Only in Singapore, our trees come attached with security cameras.

The Tembusu is also known as the Fagraea fragrans.

The Tembusu is also known as the Fagraea fragrans.

5-Dollar Bill (Portrait Series)

The Portrait series was the fourth set of notes to be circulated in Singapore. It was first introduced in 1999, before the polymer version was released in 2007. The back design theme for the 5-Dollar bill is Garden City, which features the grand old Tembusu of Botanic Gardens as well as Vanda Miss Joaquim, the national flower of Singapore. Fitting since the late Encik Yusof bin Ishak was said to be very fond of Orchids.

The Portrait series was designed by a local artist, Mr Eng Siak Loy. He also designed the 2002 HSBC Care-for-Nature Heritage Trees stamp series (featuring the Tembusu as well) which was awarded ‘Asia’s Most Beautiful Stamps’ and ‘2nd Most Beautiful Stamp in the World’ in 2003 by Paris-based Timbropresse Group, a leader of the French-speaking philatelic press with Timbres Magazine.

Under the Tembusu crown.

Under the Tembusu crown.

The Tembusu tree blooms twice a year during May and October. There is word that a Tembusu in full bloom is a sight to behold. If you have missed the cherry blossoms in Japan, why not throw a picnic with friends at Botanic Gardens with our grand Tembusu in full bloom?

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