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Penang Botanic Gardens, 130 years of Legacy

The Penang Botanic Gardens receives tourists and regular visitors on a daily basis, and during weekends, the number of visitor increases to an average number of 5000 visitors. The gardens is the oldest botanical institution in Malaysia and was also the first of its kind in the north of Peninsular Malaysia. It was first known as the Penang Waterfall Gardens and was developed initially as a garden of spice or spice garden in 1800. The Penang Botanic Gardens was established in 1884 at the foot of Penang Hill, with Charles Curtis as its first curator. The lush greenery and tranquil setting made the gardens a favourite park, and popular tourist attraction. Being the one and only of its kind in Malaysia, and a repository of flora unique to the country and the region, it is Penang’s unique natural heritage, and it serves as a 'green lung' to Metropolitan Penang.

There is a herbarium collection of over 4000 samples, and over 10,000 species of plants that live naturally in the gardens. Other than living plants, the Penang Botanic Gardens also houses natural living animal fauna in the likes of 'kera' or apes, monkeys, lutong, anteater, turtles and more. Out of the many species of plants in the gardens, there are a number of heritage and popular plants the gardens feature such as below.


 
Pokok Pukul Lima or Samanea Saman. 
The age of this plant is more than 130 years, one of the trademark plants at the main gate of the gardens.
The magnificent rain tree at the main entrance of Penang Botanic Gardens has greeted many visitors since 1800’s. This fast growing shade-tree can grow up to 35 meters in height. It provides much shade with its large, widespread and umbrella-shaped crown and it’s flowers form in small pinkish white clusters. Locals call it the 'Pokok Pukul Lima' or the '5 o’clock Tree' because the compound exhibit 'sleep motion', as they close just before sunset and open just after sunrise. This feature retains more moisture for the tree by enabling more dew to settle when the leaves are folded.
 
Canon Ball Tree
A beautiful and fast growing tree with a height of 25m. The leaves of this tree have a life span of approximately six months after they will shed rapidly and the crown is usually bare for a day or two. It is a remarkable flowering tree bearing large pinkish red, fragrant waxy flowers borne on the tree trunk along woody twigs. Later, large reddish brown globular fruits will emerge, each attaining the size of a human head and containing a mass of sour smelling pulp.
 
The Argus Pheasant Tree, Asam Kuang, Sengkuang, Sekuan
This is a tall deciduous tree reaching 31m in height with a rounded crown and a strong buttressed trunk when old. It is a handsome ornamental tree. The Sengkuang is a village fruit tree well sought after by children. The flowers and leaves are also edible. The five equatorial flecks on the fruit are characteristic and resembles the markings on the Argus Pheasant, hence the name.


 
The Candle Tree
An evergreen tree with brown trunk growing up to 6 - 10m. The flowers from this tree are big, solitary, bell shaped and white in colour, measuring 8cm wide. The palmate leaves look trifoliate in appearance, and are ovate in shape and green in colour. The fruits from this tree resemble little green candles about 17cm long on its trunk and green branches. The fruits are yellow when ripe.
 
The Ebony Tree
An evergreen, stout and shady wide-spreading tree with dense dark-green and glossy leaves, and a compact dome shaped conical crown. The flowers are fused and have a light creamy colour while the edible fruits are feathery brown in colour. The young fruits have medicinal values and are traded for dyeing cottons and toughening fishing nets, while special oil extracted from the seeds is used in traditional Indian medicine.

In the years to come, Penang Botanic Gardens will continue its legacy of being recognized as a natural heritage park, and will remain relevant to the community of Penang as the natural beauty in this metropolitan city. The management of Penang Botanic Gardens will work towards maintaining the gardens as one of the best botanical garden in Malaysia and be an example to other botanical gardens in Malaysia.

For more on location of Penang Botanic Gardens, click here.