Passionate landscaper saves rare coconut trees before they are cut down

When a friend told him they were going to chop down his babies, Mr R. Vengadasalam rushed down to Yishun Park yesterday.

The 55-year-old private landscaper was just in time to save them too.

The "babies" in question are twin coconut trees which he planted in 1990.

In 1998, the then team manager of Woodlands Wellington, once a powerhouse in the S-League, told the media the trees were his source of solace.

Whenever he was stressed, he would go there and look at the trees, and that would take his mind off his problems.

"They are the only twin coconut trees in Singapore," he claimed in the 1998 interview.

"They're my babies, planted by me."

The trees were scheduled to have been chopped down today to make way for North Park Residences, a new condominium which will be part of an integrated development in Yishun Central called Northpoint City.

By the time Mr Vengadasalam got to the site at about 3.30pm yesterday, five other trees around the twin coconut trees had already been chopped down.

He then spoke to the workers, who said they were reluctant to chop them down as well.

"Even in my hometown, where coconut trees are very common, I've never seen such a tree," said a worker from India, who declined to be named.

"It is a special tree and brings good luck. But if the supervisor says it has to go, then we will have to chop it."

Mr Vengadasalam quickly contacted developer Frasers Centrepoint.

The developer then contacted the contractors from Lum Chang.

The supervisor from Lum Chang, who only gave his name as Mr Chen, then came out to meet Mr Vengadasalam.

Mr Chen assured him that he would do all he could to protect the trees, and got the workers to put barricades around the coconut trees.

He added that they will be getting arborists to assess the trees, and hopefully relocate them somewhere else.

"You are very lucky," Mr Chen told Mr Vengadasalam. "In two days, my bulldozer is due to come and bulldoze everything here."

A relieved Mr Vengadasalam recalled how he had gone to a nursery in 1990 and saw a coconut with two shoots. The nursery staff told him it would not grow, but he insisted on trying.

He was then a property officer at Sembawang Town Council, and decided to plant it at a spot in Yishun Park.


To his surprise, the two shoots from the coconut became what it is today: Two fully grown trees sharing the same roots, he said.

He said: "I saw them as small saplings. They grew and grew, and look at them now."

Mr Yusri Abdul Majid, 30, an arborist, told The New Paper that such trees are rare.

"Usually you have one stem and then it splits," he said. "But this is two stems. I haven't heard of or seen another tree here like it."

Other arborists, who did not want to be identified, said it was impossible for two trees to come from the same coconut.

Instead, they believe that there were two coconuts in the same place in the ground that became two trees.

But Mr Vengadasalam insists the trees grew from a single coconut, and hopes that if they cannot be preserved in its current spot, that they be relocated somewhere else.

"It's my passion, landscaping and hunting for trees," he said.

"I am sure our chief gardener, (the late) Mr Lee Kuan Yew, would have wanted these unique trees saved too."


This article was first published on April 16, 2015.
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