Enjoying Butterflies & More at Singapore's Greenest Hospital

Activity Article: Enjoying Butterflies & More at Singapore's Greenest Hospital

by Amy Tsang & Simon Chan

Photo credits: Woo Lai Choo, Suressh & Amy Tsang

Today, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (or KTPH) records sightings of nearly a 100 butterfly species in its widespread ground and hanging gardens that skirt the Yishun pond and extend right up to the hospital's fifth level storey.  Its impressive greenery has beckoned both butterflies and visitors alike.  Thus, not surprisingly, on the sunny morning of 25 May 2019, over 30 participants from NSS and the public, with some children and teens in tow, showed up before the designated meeting time.  Amy, the walk coordinator, and Simon, the leader of the day, were there to greet them. While registering, participants were given the chance to view caterpillars and pupas of the Common Rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae asteris).  

The group's first stop was Basement 1 Tower C where there were 3 huge boards displaying photos of butterflies sighted in KTPH.  Simon shared that though the hospital monitored the biodiversity of its place closely, the number on the board had yet to be updated to 97. The plan was to update just one more time upon reaching the target of a 100 species.  Next, everyone was ushered into a fairly small enclosed space which had several stands of tall bamboo trees growing within.  Simon asked everyone to look closely at the trees, and to everyone's surprise, there were a few Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bats (Cynopterus brachyotis) on the higher branches and also an untidy, suspended clump of dead leaves which was the Olive-backed Sunbird’s (Cinnyris jugularis) nest.  Other basement sights were a roaring man-made waterfall and a long, narrow stream stocked with fish.  Members learnt that hospital patients love this cool and relaxing site.

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Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bats suspended on a bamboo plant.

Leaving the basement, Simon led everyone up to the 4th floor Tower C garden. At this vantage point he showed everyone the entire landscaped area from the 2nd floor to the 4th floor, and pointed out a few butterflies flying around. They included a Striped Albatross (Appias libythea olferna), two Lemon Emigrants (Catopsilia pomona pomona), a Leopard (Phalanta phalantha phalantha) and two Painted Jezebels (Delias hyparete metarete). It was here too that participants saw a sleek, shiny black, male Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) with red eyes up-close perched on a fig tree, and later three more Koels at level 5 garden feeding on the Buah Cherry fruits.

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A Leopard resting on a leaf

Thereafter, descending from a long flight of stairs, everyone found themselves on the ground floor where there was a large patch of well-kept Lantana plants. Participants were delighted to spot many butterflies there. Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus chrysippus) and Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis lampa) fed on the flower nectar, with a few Leopards, Orange Emigrants (Catopsilia scylla cornelia) and Lemon Emigrants flitting about.

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Participants exploring the Lantana patch

Just 100 metres from the Lantana patch was the Medicinal Garden.  Simon highlighted that most butterfly sightings occurred there. At this garden, one could see many host plants of the more common species of butterflies, including Crown Flower for the Plain Tiger, Weeping Willow for the Leopard, and the Bushy Cassia for the Orange Emigrant. Planted here too were rarer plants like the Indian Birthwort for the Common Rose and the Common Birdwing (Troides helena cerberus) - both local butterflies at risk (Conservation Status: Vulnerable) - and the Spider Tree for Chocolate Albatross (Appias lyncida cassava). As the group made their way around the medicinal garden for a closer look, a variety of butterflies were spotted, namely the Cycad Blue (Chilades pandava pandava), the Blue Glassy Tiger (Ideopsis vulgaris macrina), some Plain Tigers and Leopards and the Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus malayanus)  along with one damselfly -  the Common Bluetail (Ischnura senegalensis). Other unexpected finds included a Ichneumon wasp cocoon and a moth caterpillar. 

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A Cycad Blue catches the sunlight as it rests on a leaf

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Wasp coccoon delicately hangs on a twig.

For those feeling still energetic after the rounds of greenery at KTPH, Simon led the way around Yishun Pond. Though no carefree otters were in the pond, there were other good sightings.  They included a Clouded Monitor Lizard (Varanus nebulous) up a tree, and three butterflies - Common Mime (Chilasa clytia clytia) feeding on Ixora flowers, a Ciliate Blue (Anthene emolus goberus) resting on the pond barricade and a Bush Hopper skipper (Ampittia dioscorides camertes) resting on a lallang near the water’s edge.  As the clock ticked to 12 noon, and a light drizzle commenced, it seemed a natural end to a very pleasant day of butterfly and nature exploration!