Spice Garden at Fort Canning Park, Singapore -- Showcase of Southeast Asian Herbs and Spices

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Rain tree (Samanea saman) towering over the Spice Garden trail. This particular tree is a "Heritage Tree", designated for protection and care under a programme to preserve majestic mature trees in Singapore.Sloping sections with steps make the Spice Garden trail a challenge for the not-so-fit. Wear comfortable shoes when you visit!
Rain tree (Samanea saman) towering over the Spice Garden trail. This particular tree is a "Heritage Tree", designated for protection and care under a programme to preserve majestic mature trees in Singapore.
Rain tree (Samanea saman) towering over the Spice Garden trail. This particular tree is a "Heritage Tree", designated for protection and care under a programme to preserve majestic mature trees in Singapore.
Sloping sections with steps make the Spice Garden trail a challenge for the not-so-fit. Wear comfortable shoes when you visit!
Sloping sections with steps make the Spice Garden trail a challenge for the not-so-fit. Wear comfortable shoes when you visit!

Not perhaps the best-known of Singapore attractions, the Spice Garden at Fort Canning Park is a veritable trove of Singapore's natural history, with over 100 varieties of plants and trees lining its trails. Located on Fort Canning Hill, the Spice Garden also offers a welcome respite from the tropical heat and panoramic views of Singapore city.

The garden's extensive collection of trees, plants and herbs includes:

  • the common (and not-so-common) spices and herbs used in cooking
  • spices which were important economic products for the region such as cloves
  • plants prized for their medicinal and healing properties
  • trees and shrubs grown for ornamental purposes.

Slice of Singapore's History -- Natural and Cultural

The Spice Garden traces its beginnings to 1822, when Singapore's first experimental and botanical garden was established on that very site by Sir Stamford Raffles, the "founder" of Singapore.

Raffles, who was at that time based in Bencoolen (in Indonesia), sent spices of economic value such as cloves and nutmegs to be planted in the garden.

The Spice Garden does a good job recreating the feel of that colonial-era botanical garden, albeit on a much smaller scale, with its walkways and terraces, shaded by many large, mature trees. The garden, sitting as it does on the slopes of Fort Canning Hill, also boasts great views over the bustling commercial areas of Singapore city.

Many of the trees and plants give insight to the culture and traditions of the peoples in the Southeast Asian region, particularly the Malays, who make extensive use of indigenous plants in preparing traditional food favourites and healing remedies.

You will find spice plants such as chilli, galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, curry leaves, "laksa" leaves, and many types of limes and gingers. Nutmeg and clove trees -- first introduced into the garden by Raffles -- can be seen in the garden as well.

Highlights of the Spice Garden I: Plants used in local cuisine

"Kadok" / Wild Pepper (Piper sarmentosum).The leaves of this plant is used to make various ethnic dishes in Southeast Asia. These can be found in abundance along the Spice Garden trails. Apparently, they grow easily even in shaded areas -- excellent
"Kadok" / Wild Pepper (Piper sarmentosum).The leaves of this plant is used to make various ethnic dishes in Southeast Asia. These can be found in abundance along the Spice Garden trails. Apparently, they grow easily even in shaded areas -- excellent
"Bunga kantan" / Torch Ginger (Etlingera Elatior). For cooking, the pale pink bud is picked when it's tightly folded, as in this picture. The bud is fragrant, with a slightly tangy taste. In Malaysia and Singapore, "bunga kantan" is added to dishes l
"Bunga kantan" / Torch Ginger (Etlingera Elatior). For cooking, the pale pink bud is picked when it's tightly folded, as in this picture. The bud is fragrant, with a slightly tangy taste. In Malaysia and Singapore, "bunga kantan" is added to dishes l
"Asam gelugor" (Garcinia atroviridis) leaves. This is a large-sized tree. The leaves are edible, with a slightly sourish taste. But it is its fruits which are commonly used. They are sliced and dried, then added to hot and sour dishes such as Penang
"Asam gelugor" (Garcinia atroviridis) leaves. This is a large-sized tree. The leaves are edible, with a slightly sourish taste. But it is its fruits which are commonly used. They are sliced and dried, then added to hot and sour dishes such as Penang
"Limau purut" / Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix). This type of lime can be identified by its distinctive leaves which are shaped like a figure "8".
"Limau purut" / Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix). This type of lime can be identified by its distinctive leaves which are shaped like a figure "8".

What I Like about the Spice Garden

  • The plants, herbs and spices are clearly labelled with short descriptions of what they are used for. I was particularly interested in learning about the plants used in traditional healing remedies.
  • The trail is well-shaded by the many large, mature trees growing there, giving protection from the tropical heat.
  • As you explore, you are likely to hear birds and if you are eagle-eyed, you may even spot a few. If you are lucky, you may see squirrels. There are also great views of the surrounding city areas.
  • If you have a guide with you to show you which plants are edible, you can actually snap off a leaf or two and taste them. They do not use pesticides at the park, so it is quite safe. Or you can pick the leaves, crush them with your fingers to discover the fragrances of the various plants.

Tips for Visitors:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and be prepared to walk up and down slopes.
  • Sign up for the National Parks Board (NParks) newsletter to find out about walks, talks and other park happenings: http://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/


Highlights of the Spice Garden II: Plants used in traditional healing preparations

Cat's Whiskers / "Misai kucing" (Orthosiphon aristatus). Believed to be excellent for kidney complaints and gout. Common herb used in Malay 'jamu' healing preparations
Cat's Whiskers / "Misai kucing" (Orthosiphon aristatus). Believed to be excellent for kidney complaints and gout. Common herb used in Malay 'jamu' healing preparations
"Mas Cotek" (Ficus deltoidea). Reputed to be good for eliminating toxins, but perhaps most sought-after for supposedly helping to increase sexual potency.
"Mas Cotek" (Ficus deltoidea). Reputed to be good for eliminating toxins, but perhaps most sought-after for supposedly helping to increase sexual potency.
"Pegaga Embun" (Hydrocotyle sibthopioides) is often found growing wild. It is believed to be excellent for treating a variety of infections (cough, flu, for example).
"Pegaga Embun" (Hydrocotyle sibthopioides) is often found growing wild. It is believed to be excellent for treating a variety of infections (cough, flu, for example).
"Mengkudu" / Noni (Morinda) tree. Most people know about Hawaiian noni, but not many realise that the noni plant is also indigenous to Southeast Asia, and is used by Malays for traditional healing.
"Mengkudu" / Noni (Morinda) tree. Most people know about Hawaiian noni, but not many realise that the noni plant is also indigenous to Southeast Asia, and is used by Malays for traditional healing.

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Comments 6 comments

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 6 years ago from South of France

It sounds lovely - I wish I could get there!


Se Lau 5 years ago

I visited the Spice Garden. I think it is very educational and fun! For those who wonder what's at the Spice Garden, I suggest you look at this virtual tour of the Spice Garden: http://bit.ly/SpiceGardenSingapore


Marlene_OnTheWall profile image

Marlene_OnTheWall 5 years ago from Singapore Author

Hi Se Lau,

Thanks for the comment!

and for the tip.


Anonymous 5 years ago

Fort Canning Park Rocks!!!!


Durant profile image

Durant 4 years ago from Canada

Would to visit there some day!


TheNerdyGardener profile image

TheNerdyGardener 4 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

I'd love to visit. From what I've seen and heard, Singapore has such lovely botanic gardens.

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