Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore Botanic Gardens, CC BY-SA 2.0




Three pink orchid flowers

Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore Botanic Gardens, CC BY-SA 2.0

General Description / Cultural Significance

Over 220 native orchids once grew wild in Singapore. They are still abundant because they are conserved, but some are endangered or have become extinct. The culture of Singapore developed around orchids and Singaporeans’ love of them continues to be deeply ingrained. The rare Vanda Miss Joaquim (Agnes variety) orchid was chosen as the national flower of Singapore in 1981 to represent Singapore’s hybrid and unique culture.

Singapore’s reverence for the orchid flower is evident in numerous ways. The Singapore Botanic Gardens help to conserve the 179 wild orchids distributed across the country, including the rare and largest specie: the tiger orchid. This national interest manifests itself in the National Orchid Garden collection, which has become home to the most expansive collection of tropical orchids in the world. “Orchid diplomacy” is another example of how respected the orchid is across the country. In this traditional Singaporean practice, orchid hybrids are named after respected individuals visiting from other countries, such as foreign dignitaries, as a sign of goodwill.

Climate Change / Conservation Status

Singapore’s island landscape includes sunny tropical rainforests and swampy mangroves, perfect for orchids. However, as a low-lying city-state, Singapore is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels because 30% of the island is less than 5 meters above sea level. Scientists predict that Singapore will experience a mean sea level rise of up to one meter by 2100. Looking ahead, Singapore is taking rising sea levels into consideration when building infrastructure, and the buildings are now constructed four to five meters above sea level. Singapore has also begun experimenting with polders, which pump water from behind a wall in the sea to prevent water from venturing inwards towards land.

Temperature rises continue to threaten Singapore, with the temperature rising 0.25 °C per decade from 1948 to 2015. Singapore has always been subject to endemic tropical diseases. But now, dangerously warm weather has led to a higher frequency of vector-borne diseases in Singapore. Furthermore, temperature rises are affecting Singapore’s natural plant and animal diversity because of the effects on soil formation and nutrient storage.

Recent scientific research indicates that Singapore is particularly vulnerable and more prone to climate change than was once thought, due to its proximity to the equator, which receives the most radiation. With changing precipitation and rising heat, orchids are under threat. Organizations such as National Orchid Garden have designed unique climate-controlled spaces for orchids to help safeguard as much orchid biodiversity as they can.


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