An hour with… the Rubber Pavilion

Individual Science Centre exhibits usually get no more than a few minutes of attention, but spending a whole hour near one can be interesting…

Singapore has had rubber trees since 1881, and you can learn all about the history, cultivation, harvesting and processing of this versatile natural resource at the Rubber Centenary Monument in the Ecogarden, one of the Science Centre’s outdoor exhibitions.

Henry Ridley
A Green Crab Spider (Dieta virens) on the display case around the bust of Henry Nicholas Ridley, the ‘father’ of the rubber industry in the Eastern Tropics.

The Rubber Pavilion has display cases and panels packed with artefacts and information, but the real attraction is its environment. As you browse the displays and learn about the tools used for rubber tapping, you notice a moth on the frame of a panel, not quite as well camouflaged as it would be on a tree trunk. There are ants of all sizes foraging at your feet, a solitary wasp is exploring the corners of the roof structure, and a gecko jumps across the 20cm gap between a pillar and a panel. (I had never before seen a gecko jump!)

And of course you can hear everything that’s going on around the pavilion: Mynas, Kingfishers, cycadas, crickets, frogs – I’m sure I heard a frog somewhere in the grass – and the humming of wasps and buzzing of flies, as well as the distant traffic noise and the grass cutters across the field. And every now and then, there’s a loud cracking noise.

Those cracks intrigued me, so I sat down to wait and see what made them. With the next two cracks I noticed that they were immediately followed by things falling from one of the trees in the rubber plantation. But there were no squirrels or birds in that tree at the time. Then I realised that  was observing exploding rubber fruit!

Rubber seeds
Some of the rubber seeds and pods that kept exploding out of the trees. Each of the split pods represents one third of a rubber fruit.

Sadly, the one thing that we encounter only very rarely at the Rubber Pavilion is visitors…

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