Heritage Gardens

Get to the root of Singapore's diverse history and culture through the fascinating story of plants in the Heritage Gardens. Walk around the themed gardens and discover how plants are intricately linked to Singapore's culture.

Heritage Gardens

The Heritage Gardens is a collection of four themed gardens that will take you through the history and culture of Singapore’s three main ethnic groups and colonial past.

As you walk through each garden, discover the stories of the contribution from different ethnic groups towards Singapore’s formation. The Malay Garden, ‘a Reflection of Community,’ stresses the role of edible fruits and medicinal plants used by the local Malay population, while the Colonial Garden, ‘a Reflection of Ambition’, covers issues like plant transportation and profitable crops that have shaped Singapore’s history and economy.

Four Horticultural Treasures

Have you ever wondered why the British chose Singapore as a trading port, or how the indigenous Malays lived in pre-colonial Singapore? What is the connection between literature and poetry in China, or religion and reflection in India? Explore the Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Colonial-themed gardens and unearth the roots of Singapore's diverse history and culture through the fascinating story of plants.

Did you know?

The Indian Garden is laid out in the shape of a traditional folk art floral motif design known as Kolam.

The beautiful sculpture of a human cutout, “Li Xiang”, represents the Chinese leaving home to venture out to foreign lands.

Banana plants are actually herbs because they aren’t woody and the stem is at the base of the huge leaf stalks.

A giant nutmeg sculpture stands in Orchard Road to remind us of the nutmeg orchards that used to line it in the 1830s.


Things to look out for

Night Life of Trees Panel (Indian Garden)

Keep an eye out for the decorative motifs on the circular blue fence surrounding the Indian garden. They depict fantasies of the supposed natural origins of certain animals from plants, based on the artistic book Night Life of Trees. See if you can spot the snakes morphing into an extraordinary tree!

Benevolent Buddha (Chinese Garden)

As you leave the Indian Garden and head to the Chinese Garden,
try to spot the smiling statue of Buddha sitting under a Sacred Tree. Buddhism originated in India and Nepal, and was brought to China around 200 BCE. The Sacred, Peepal or Bodhi tree is also a medicinal tree with many uses.

Kampong House (Malay Garden)

The Kampong House is specially designed by the Malays using materials solely derived from nature – the roof from the Nipah or Rumbia Palm, the walls and floors from the Nibong Tree trunk, and mats and bed from Bamboo. Take a break in the Kampong House and enjoy the short film presentation on traditional Malay crafts.

Black and White Verandah (Colonial Garden)

The black and white shelters shaped like verandahs in the Colonial Garden reflect the black and white bungalow houses that are often associated with Singapore’s colonial past. The white paint was quicklime made from crushed shells, while the black paint protected the wood against termites and beetles.


Gardens in the Heritage Garden


Indian Garden


A Reflection of Devotion

The Indian culture is strongly influenced by Hinduism and their ideas and practices were derived from the enshrined principles in the Vedas – the collections of hymns to a pantheon of gods.

Hindu beliefs and the knowledge of the Vedas are central to the development of how plants permeate many aspect of the daily Indian culture, such as Ayurveda where the forests represents endless self-regeneration of life, and the use of plants as offerings to gods and deities. Henna is used as body art, while Kolam is a floor design made with ground rice powders and layers of flowers.



Asian Palmyra Pam (Borassus flabellifer)
The Asian Palmyra Palm has many edible parts – the nut’s sap can be made into drinks, while the nut can be roasted or germinated and eaten as a vegetable. The Indians call this the ‘celestial tree’ as every part has a use, for example the trunk, sheath and leaves can be used as building materials.


Forbidden Fruit of India, or Divi-kaduru (Tabernaemontana dichotoma)
The Divi-kaduru is valued for its ornamental flowers and fruits. Its bark and roots are used for treating high-blood pressure, pain and inflammation, while the soft wood of its trunk can be made into masks used for Sri Lankan "Low country" dancing. This ancient tradition includes the "Kolam" and "Thovil and Bali" dances, and uses masks representing Devils, Gods and humans, such as the Mudliars (village headmen).


Banyan Tree (Ficus benghalensis)
The National Tree of India, the Banyan Tree is considered sacred and symbolises eternal life. In Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is sometimes depicted as sitting in silence under this tree.

Chinese Garden


A Reflection of Literature

For centuries, plants have been a popular feature in the Chinese imagination for ornamental, religious and ceremonial purposes. China was given the name ‘Hua Kuoh’, meaning ‘land of flowers’. Gardens were designed to reproduce natural scenes as closely as possible, and have been very dear to the heart of the Chinese.

Stroll through the Chinese Garden and discover the relationship of nature and the idea of balance through the art of imitating natural landscapes, using rocks to resemble mountains, water features to resemble rivers and waterfalls, or pruning and training trees to appear windswept.


Pine (Pinus spp.)
An evergreen tree that is often found during winter, Pine symbolises longevity, persistence, tenacity and dignity. Among the species planted in the Chinese Garden is the Pinus caribaea, a substitute tropical species that can withstand hot and wet climates.


Chinese Pistache (Pistachia chinensis)
The Chinese Pistache originates from the hills and moutains of Taiwan and China. An extremely bitter medicine can be extracted from a plant parasite that grows from the root of this plant. You may have heard of the phrase ‘playing the zither under a Chinese Pistache tree’. This is associated with seeking happiness and pleasure during difficult times.


King Sago Cycad (Cycas revoluta)
Don’t be fooled by this gnarled and twisted looking plant. Known as the King Sago Cycad, it is a symbol of longevity. Starch similar to palm sago can be extracted from the pith of this plant, but it has to be washed several times as other parts of the plant are poisonous.

Malay Garden


A Reflection of Community

The Malay community in Singapore cultivated many fruits like rambutan, jambu, coconut and durian; as well as alternative vegetables like bread fruit and pandan. The Malays also used plants for medicinal purpose, for example tongkat ali is known for its aphrodisiac qualities and belimbingis a remedy used against various infections and inflammations. The forest also played an important part in the community’s daily lives, providing raw materials for building houses and boats.


Bread Fruit Tree (Artocarpus altilis)
Originally from Southeast Asia, this tree is now cultivated in many tropical countries. The fruits on the Bread Fruit Tree can be used as a bread substitute by baking, roasting or boiling its flesh.


Star Fruit (Averrhoa carambola)
The Star Fruit originated from Malaysia and today it is cultivated throughout the tropics. When you slice it, the fruit actually looks like a star and can be eaten fresh or made into jams and preserves. Star Fruit is also known to prevent diabetes and to alleviate hypertension.


Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia)
Keep an eye out for this infamous plant referred as Malaysia’s homegrown Viagra for its aphrodisiac properties. Originating from Malaysia and Indonesia, the extremely bitter leaves, bark and roots of this plant are traditionally used for its anti-malarial, anti-diabetic and antimicrobial purposes.

Colonial Garden


A Reflection of Ambition

Come explore aromatic plants from Singapore’s colonial past. Singapore’s geographical position on the Spice Route brought about trading of the Old and New World cash crops. Discover Singapore's founding period and the spice trade and cash crops such as Cloves, Nutmeg, Rubber, Oil Palm, Coffee and Cocoa Trees.


Rubber (Hevea brasiliensis)
Rubber originates from the Brazilian Amazon, a country that used to monopolise the production of rubber. However, during the colonial days the British obtained some seeds and had the seedlings germinated. They were then sent to Ceylon and Singapore where they were propagated extensively.


Cocoa (Theobroma cocao)
Considered by the Azrec and Mayans as a drink for the Gods, the Cocoa tree from Central America is still a precious commodity today. This small tree benefits from shading as it is often grown under as the Madre de cacao or Cocoa's mother tree.


Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis)
A native of West Africa, the Oil Palm was brought to Malaysia by the British. The Oil Palm was a substitute for rubber as there was tremendous demand for its cheap saturated oil. Faced with concerns regarding biodiversity loss, Oil Palm is now cultivated in areas of the world which are unrivalled for their diversity and also home to species like the orangutan.