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Plant of the Month
 
Dreaming of a White Christmas
As Christmas approaches, many children in the Northern Hemisphere are looking forward to the first snowfall. We won’t be getting any snow here in Singapore, but we can still celebrate winter by growing plants that look like they’re covered in snow. The Barometer Bush (scientific name: Leucophyllum frutescens) is one such plant which has silver, velvety leaves and grows up to 2.4 m tall. It is called the Barometer Bush, because it often produces an abundance of bright purple, tubular flowers after it rains. The leaves can be steeped in hot water to make an herbal tea which is good for treating cold symptoms like coughing and congestion. It also has a calming effect which may help you get a good night’s sleep. This low maintenance, sun-loving plant grows best in well-drained soils or raised beds that are kept on the dry side and prefers not to be fertilized.
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Animal of the Month
Common Palm Civet
The Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), also known as musang or toddy cat, is a nocturnal mammal found in both urban and forested areas of Singapore. This omnivore feeds on small prey and fruit and defecates viable seeds, making it a potential seed disperser. The excreted coffee beans occasionally ingested by this species of wild civet in parts of the Southeast Asian region are used to produce the world's most expensive coffee, kopi luwak. However, the reputation of this industry has been tainted by their reported cruel treatment of poaching and caging the palm civets. In Singapore, civets face the threat of being trapped or becoming roadkill due to the proximity of civet habitats to humans.
Interestingly, the secretions from its anal scent glands have been described as smelling like pandan, so if you ever smell pandan in an area without such plants, keep your eyes peeled for these shy creatures, recognisable by the presence of a black facial mask across their eyes. Find out more about this charismatic animal and celebrate its existence as Singapore’s last wild native urban carnivore!
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Did You Know?
 
Stink Beans
Did you know that the garlicky scent of Stink Bean is so powerful that it lingers in your body for a few days after consumption! Highly prized in Southeast Asia for its flavour, these innocent looking beans are the seeds of Parkia speciosa, and are often cooked as vegetable. Seeds are developed from its iconic cream-yellow flower clusters, which emit strong rancid smell and attract bats for pollination.
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What's Up?
Fauna News
Flora News
A Naturally Caffeine-Free Tea
A group of scientists has recently found a wild tea tree called Hongyacha in Fujian, China, which produces almost caffeine-free tea leaves. Tea is one of the world’s most popular drinks because of the distinctive flavor and stimulating effect of caffeine found in tea leaves. However, a cup of decaf tea is also popular among tea drinkers who want to limit their caffeine intake for some reason. Inevitably, the decaffeination process will remove certain amount of antioxidants and loss the original tea flavors. The naturally caffeine-free Hongyacha might be a potential alternative for decaf tea drinkers. Click here for more information.
 
 
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