SINGAPORE – When an Uncaria climber bloomed in 2022, three National Parks Board (NParks) staff patiently manoeuvred a 10m-long pruner to obtain tiny winged seeds from the notoriously inaccessible plant.
Their prize: the eventual rediscovery of the Uncaria attenuata, which was last seen in the 19th century and therefore thought to be nationally extinct.
The woody member of the coffee family is just one of more than 320 plant species rediscovered or found in the city-state for the first time in the last 14 years, said researchers from NParks and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Britain.
Their study was published online in scientific journal Plants, People, Planet on Jan 16.
The high number of new records and rediscoveries in Singapore is surprising because its flora is well studied, the study’s lead author Louise Neo told The Straits Times.
Dr Neo, a researcher at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, said: “The findings show that there is still time to find and prevent the extinction of rare plants in a densely populated city like Singapore, where most of our forest cover has actually been lost since the early 1900s.”
The report focused on vascular plants, or flora with systems for transporting nutrients and water, as this group of plants has been well documented over the past few decades.
Like the Uncaria, other recent plant rediscoveries and finds largely took place in nature reserves with the largest tracts of native species-dominated forest: the 163ha Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, which spans over 3,000ha.
Said Dr Neo: “The numbers show that remaining fragments of original forests that alre...