The Most Famous Tree in Singapore: Tembusu $5 Tree

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exploringsingapore is exclusive ExplorerSG mini series where we reveal some of the lesser-known places, facts and history of Singapore.

At the back of the green five-dollar note is a Tembusu tree with its signature low-lying branch. 

Looks familiar? That’s because the tree can be found at Botanic Gardens!

The tree is believed to have existed before the founding of the Botanic Gardens in 1859, putting the tree at over 160 years old!

In 1999, the Monetary Authority of Singapore released the Portrait Series, the fourth and current set of dollar notes. Designed by local artist Eng Siak Loy, the front featured the portrait of Yusof bin Ishak while the back contained themes linked to his life.

In particular, the five-dollar note featured the iconic Tembusu tree and Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore’s national flower; Yusof had an active interest in gardening and cultivated orchids in his free time. The tree soon earned its name as the Five-Dollar-Tree.

Ladies taking photo at the Tembusu tree | Image credits: National Archives of Singapore

The Five-Dollar-Tree was also incorporated into Eng’s ‘Heritage Trees Stamp’ series, which was rated as the second most beautiful stamp in the world by Paris-based Timbropresse Group. 

A dynamic support system was installed in 2014 to prop up the lateral limb of the iconic tree. The tree was also fenced up to prevent visitors from damaging the roots and branches.

Today, it is one of 258 Heritage Trees registered under NParks Heritage Tree Scheme and undoubtedly one of Singapore’s most-photographed trees.

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