Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Citharexylum spinosum

Citharexylum spinosum, also known as Fiddlewood, is native to the West Indies and is from the family Verbenaceae.

This small evergreen tree can grow up to a height of 12m.

Its leaves are up to 20cm by 10cm and are attached to petioles that are green but it turns orange when aged and eventually drops off. The petioles are 5–30mm long. Leaf surface is generally papery or almost leathery in texture. It is about 4–20cm long and 1–6cm wide, smooth on the upper side, smooth or a little hairy on the underside. Colour is dark green on both sides or slightly brighter or rusty on the underside with the leaf margin being smooth. The fiddlewood is often grown for aesthetic purposes due to orangey appearance when leaves age.

Flowers are unisexual up to 30cm long in racemes (type of inflorescence) which are usually terminal and drooping. These flowers are fragrant, white, white-yellow, or white-red in colour and attract bees. Fragrant flowers and fast growing also make it popular as a roadside tree.

The oval fruit with a length of 6–10mm turns from yellow-orange to black when mature. Birds are attracted to fruits of this tree.

The seeds of this tree are dispersed by birds through their droppings. The common name fiddlewood derived from the use of the wood for musical instruments. Other than musical instruments, it is also used to make sounding boards for musical instruments and cabinets.

Ceiba pentandra

Ceiba pentandra, commonly known as Silk Cotton Tree or Kapok Tree is native to Tropical America and is from the family Bombaceae.

This is a very tall, striking, and deciduous tree. It has a very distinctive form as the branches are borne on the clear, erect trunk in horizontal layers. They mostly come in threes, thus resulting in a pagoda shape that is even more obvious when the tree has shed its foliage and the branches are bare. This tall and striking tree can grow up to 40m in height.

The leaves are spirally arranged, and are palmate compound with 5-8 leaflets crowding at the end of a 7.5-20cm long leaf stalk. Each leaflet is 8-18cm long, with an entire or slightly serrate margin.

The flowers are bisexual, 4cm wide, creamy white or have a pale-pink colour and have a milky fragrance. Flowers usually open after dusk and last one night, falling off by the following noon. Their odor is unpleasant, but is probably meant to attract the bats that pollinate them.

The fruits are large, smooth, woody, oval capsules that grow up to 15cm in length that are pointed at both ends. They burst open while still on the tree after the leaves have fallen. The colour changes from green through brown to black when ripe, after which they split from the base to the apex into 5 sections, releasing the black seeds inside.

The black seeds are round like peas and are found in pods. They are embedded in a mass of light, woolly hairs. The hairs are not attached to the seeds, but they can carry the seeds a great distance from the parent tree especially if there is a strong breeze.

Since it is buoyant and water resistant it is often used in flotation devices and padding. The seeds, leaves, bark and resin have been used to treat fever, asthma, and kidney disease. In Mayan myths the kapok tree was sacred. They believed that the souls of the dead would climb up into the branches which reached into heaven.

Terminalia catappa

Terminalia catappa also known as Sea Almond, is native to Southeast Asia and from the family Combretaceae.

It is tall tree with a distinctive pagoda crown shape that results from the horizontal held branches that spreads out at regular spaced intervals along the trunk. It can reach a maximum height of 35m.

Simple, oval leaves arranged spirally in whorls at the ends of the twigs. They measure 15-30cm by 9-18cm. The deciduous tree has its new bright green leaves turning various shades of red or yellow twice a year, thus shedding suddenly. New leaves have a covering of soft, pressed, brown hairs while mature leaves are mostly shiny, leathery, and dark green.

Small, greenish-white in short elongated clusters (spike) that are 8-25cm in length, the flowers are about 4–6 mm across, with five lobes, producing a mildly unpleasant smell. Within a spike the majority of the flowers are male, with only a few female flowers positioned toward the base. Plants usually commence flowering and fruiting from a young age, but this varies with site and genes.

The fruit is shaped like an Almond, turning green through yellow to bright red or dark purplish red at full maturity, an edible nut.  Fruit size varies considerably with extremes in length from 2.5cm to 10 cm. Each fruit contains a single seed. The seed is surrounded by a corky/spongy layer which enables the fruits to float on water for several days as they are dispersed by water. 

Unlike the commercial almond, the Sea Almond can be eaten raw. Oil extracted from the dried nuts is edible and used in cooking. Tannin and a black dye can be extracted from the bark, leaves and fruit. In Singapore, it is a common wayside tree, planted to provide colour and shade. Various species of biting and stinging ants have been found inhabiting hollow twigs of the tree. While the tree provides these creatures with a home, the ants in turn may protect the tree from insect predators

Ochanostachys amentacea

Ochanostachys amentacea, is also known as Petaling or Tamggal. It is native to Singapore and from the family Olacaceae.

This medium size and occasionally to large evergreen tree can grow to a height of 30m.

The leaves are arranged spirally, simple and entire. They are oval, measuring 6-13 cm by 3-7 cm.

The flowers are interruptedly arranged, measuring about 3 mm long, green to whitish-yellowish. They are either on their own or 2-4 together in an inflorescence known as a spike, which measures up to 12 cm long. There are 4 petals fused at the very base, and 2 stamens before each petal.

This 1-seeded fruit measures 2-2.5cm in diameter and when it is ripe it turns yellow. The seed is ovaland are edible when cooked or roasted.

A decoction of the bark has been used medicinally against fever and after childbirth. Petaling Jaya timber is used from house posts to heavy construction purposes. The high elasticity of the wood makes it suitable for gymnasium equipment, such as horizontal bars.

Rapanea porteriana

Rapanea porteriana, also known as Kicar, is native to Thailand, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo. It is from the family Myrsinaceae.

This evergreen small tree can reach a maximum height of 10m.

The leaves are dark green when matured and arranged in a spiral. It measures from 12-25mm wide by 36-80mm in length. Numerous oil glands are found on the leaf blades, like minute lenses, they are visible when a fresh leaf is held up against a light source. This is a characteristic of plants in the Myrsinaceae family.
White, yellow or golden the flowers are located in axils (angles between leaf stalk and branch) of present or fallen leaves. They are tiny, only about 3 mm wide.

The fruit grows on the older wood which is well below the leaf-bearing portion of the shoot. Measuring 5-6 mm wide, the fruit is pale green, turning pinkish purple when ripening. It is known that Bulbul’s are attracted to the fruit. Each fruit contains only one seed.

It is once commonly found in the mangrove and coastal areas, however, due to the major increasing rate of urbanization, much habitat of this plant is loss, thus making it vulnerable in Singapore.

Calophyllum soulattri

Calophyllum soulattri, is commonly known as Bintangor bunut, Malang-Malang or Mintak, is native to many places, from Indochina, Papua New Guinea, northern Australia and Solomon Islands (Includes Singapore!) It comes from the family Calophyllaceae.

This large canopy is capable of reaching a height of 26m. Leaves are simple, and are arranged in an opposite manner.

Being oval in shape, its leaves are 6.5-29 cm long by 2.4-10.2 cm wide. New leaves are pinkish in colour, turning from orange to beige before maturing to green. Midrib is raised on the upper surface of the leaf, but depressed only at the base of the leaf blade. Texture of the leaf is leathery.

Having a diameter of 0.9-1.6cm, its fruits are round, purplish black when ripe. It is non-fleshy and indehiscent. The fruit attracts birds.

Its flower clusters consist of 7-21 flowers.
The white flowers are about 1 cm wide, with numerous stamens. The flowers are mildly fragrant. Petals are 5-9 mm long. The flowers are pollinated by birds.

The seed is 1-10 mm in diameter and dispersed by birds. 

The timber was considered the best of the Calophyllum species and used in masts, spars and planking. Some considered it better than teak in being more elastic and harder. The fresh barks from the shoots are used as medicine for women who have just given birth.

Cynometra ramiflora

Cynometra ramiflora Commonly known as Katong Laut, Belangkan, Kangkatung Bukit, Kangkatong Laut or Cynometra is native to India to South East Asia to pacific (Including Singapore!). It is from the family Fabaceae.

Having its crown rounded like an umbrella, this evergreen tree can reach a maximum height of 26m.

The leaves alternate and are smooth. They consist of 1-2 pairs of leaflets which are leathery and about 8-14cm by 2.5-6cm long. Leaflet stalks are very short, about 2-3 mm long. Lateral veins forms loops well inside the blade margin. Young foliage is pinkish to beige in colour.

Its small, yellowish white flowers are found on rather inconspicuous clusters. Their petals are about 5-8 mm long. The flowers are yellowish white, and are surrounded by large bracts.

The fruit is hard, brown, and 2 to 4 centimeters long. The outer surface is clothed in wart-like protrusions.

Seeds are about 18-20mm by 31-35 mm, crescent-shaped to kidney shaped. The dark-brown, heavy and hard timber is used to make door-posts, because it is only found in small quantities, it is only used for construction locally. It is also being cultivated as an ornamental tree.

Tristaniopsis whiteana

Tristaniopsis whiteana, also commonly known as River Tristania or Pelawan is native to Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and Singapore! It is from the family Myrtaceae.

This tree is able to reach a maximum height of 25m.

The stalked leathery leaves alternate and measure 7-20 cm in length by 2-5.5 cm in width.

Its tiny flowers are about 5 mm wide. They have white petals and reddish sepals. Flowers are borne on a branched flowering shoot measuring 5-7.5 cm wide. It is insect pollinated.

Its fruits are small, about 2.5-4 mm wide. Its fruit contains from one to many seeds. They are thin, thinly membranous, straight or curved. It is native to Singapore but it is an endangered species

Monday, 17 December 2012

Maniltoa browneoides

Maniltoa browneoides, or commonly known as the Handkerchief Tree or Enam-enam is native to New Guinea. It is from the family Fabaceae.

The medium evergreen tree has a large, round, fairly dense crown that can grow to a maximum height of 12m.

Young leaves resemble soft white handkerchiefs that hang vertically downwards from the branches. They are arranged in a way that they overlap one another. The new leaves take a few days to harden and turn to shiny green leaves. The leaves are pinnately compound, and the mature leaflets have smooth, entire margins.

Surrounded by brown, papery bracts, the flowers are white with long stamens that grown in clusters, looking somewhat like powder-puffs. They turn rapidly from white to brown once pollinated or damaged. The flowers appear to attract birds such as starlings and sunbirds.

The fruit is dark brown, shaped like a nut and approximately 7 cm containing one small seed. They form a dense cluster at the tip of the twigs and each cluster is larger than 30 cm. Each fruit contains one small seed.

The timber is quite strong and durable, thus it is used for making furniture. This tree is also planted for aesthetic purpose.

Carallia brachiata ‘Honiara’

Carallia brachiata ‘Honiara’ or sometimes known as the, Freshwater mangrove and Billabong tree is native to the Solomon Islands. It belongs to the family Rhizophoraceae.

This evergreen tree with a wide spreading crown reaches a maximum Height of 20m.

The leaves are  5-15cm in length and 2-10 cm in width. Papery to thin leathery texture, the margin of the leaf is entire. There are scattered dark glands visible with a lens on the yellow green underside of the leaf blade, it’s not visible to the naked eye. The upper side of the leaf is dark green. Lateral veins form loops (often a double series of loops) inside the blade margin. 

The billabong tree flowers are about 3-4mm long. Stalkless or very shortly stalked, each flower is enclosed by two small bracts. Petals are white, pale greenish, creamy green, or yellow with red or green base. Stamens are twice the number of petals.

Fruits are round, about 8-9 mm in diameter, turning from pink to red when ripe. Each fruit contains one seed, and it is in a shape of a kidney that measures less than 1mm in diameter. 

The wood is suitable for many users, from building houses to musical instruments. Due to its high energy value, the wood yields good-quality fuel wood and charcoal. The fruits can be eaten and the leaves and bark are used in local medicine to treat septic poisoning and itch. The tree is also planted for aesthetic purposes, particularly for its narrow columnar habit and pendulous branches.

Cratoxylum cochinchinense

Cratoxylum cochinchinense also known as the yellow cow wood is native to most of the South East Asia countries (including Singapore!). it is from the family Hypericaceae.

Having a crown that droops, it can be planted as a shrub or small tree. Its maximum height is 30m, but in Singapore it usually reaches a height of 10m or shorter.

Its opposite arrangement leaves possess fleshy to papery leaf blades that are oval. It is 3–13cm in length and 1–4.4 cm in width, with minute gland-dots. Its mature leaf blades are green above, and grey-green on the undersides. Its leaf blades are also deep purple when young, before turning pinkish-brown then green.

The trees faintly fragrant flowers are 1.3–2.5 cm wide, with deep crimson to pink or pinkish-yellow petals. They are usually found in pairs, on 5.1–15 cm-long flowering shoots occurring at branch tips known as panicle. The flowers are pollinated by insects, mostly bees.

Its brown fruits are oval, 8–13mm in length and 4–5mm in width. Its seeds are narrowly drop-shaped to oval, 6–8mm in length and 2–3mm in width. Each fruit contains many seeds.

The seeds are released when the ripe fruit splits. Fever can be treated by taking a decoction of bark and leaves. A decoction (extract flavor by boiling) of the roots is given to women as a post-labour tonic. Despite the durability of the wood being disputable, it is used for cabinets, construction, furniture, and inside fittings.

Adenanthera pavonina

Adenanthera pavonina often known as Saga is native to South East Asia and is from the family Fabaceae.

The medium sized irregularly rounded crown legume tree reaches a maximum height of 25m. 

Leaves are bi-pinnate with 2-6 pairs of secondary stalks measuring from 10-40cm in length. Having a length of 1-4cm and a width of 0.7-2.5cm, individual leaflets are oblong, thin and pale green. There are 9-15 pairs of leaflet on each secondary stalk. The Saga tree is deciduous thus shedding leaves for brief periods every 6-8 months in Singapore, turning the leaves yellow before dropping off.

The flowers are small, 2mm long, star-shaped and mature from white to creamy yellow to dull orange. They are held in 7-15cm raceme inflorescences at tips of new shoots. Flowers open from bottom to top of the inflorescence and give a faint scent like orange blossoms. Tree blooms throughout year, having a peak in May.

The fruits of the saga are in the form of pods which are 15-20cm long. They start out thin, curved and green, but don't coil until they begin to split where they also turn blackish and woody to release 8-12 seeds.

Shiny scarlet red, hard, lens-shaped, with faint "heart line" around margin, the Saga seed is eaten and dispersed by birds. In India and Sri Lanka, the seeds have been used as units of weight for fine measures, gold for an instance.

Locally Saga seed were used as fill in a children's game of 'five-stones'. Powdered seeds are made into plasters to quicken the ripening of boils and to cure headaches and rheumatism. The wood is hard and reddish, which is known as red sandalwood used to build cabinets, furniture, wood ornaments and houses.

Fragraea fragrans

Fragraea fragrans commonly known as the Tembusu, is from the family Longaniaceae is native to Indochina, including Singapore!

This large evergreen tree with unique perpendicular branching is able to reach a height of 40m. The crown is fairly conical when young, but later grows into a lofty and irregular shape.

Smooth, glossy leaves are oval-shaped with smooth leaf margin. They are 5-8 cm in length and having a width of 1.5-6 cm. The leaves often have a distinct drip tip.

Trumpet-shaped flowers of the Tembusu are about 2 cm wide. Initially creamy white, the flowers gradually turns yellow and finally light orange when old. Each flower is made up of 5 triangular petals and about 5mm long, and white stamens that extend well past the petals. About 15-20 flowers are grouped together in clusters known as pedicel that are located at the branch tips. They open at night, releasing a strong fragrance that lasts till the following morning. The flowers are pollinated by nocturnal moths.


Round berries about 1 cm wide gradually turns from green, orange and then red over about 3 months. They are consumed by birds and bats which promote seed dispersal through their feces. The fruit contains numerous tiny reddish- brown seeds

A photograph of the finest Tembusu in the Singapore Botanic Gardens can be found on the back of the $5 note. It is one of Singapore’s very own Heritage Tree and is reportedly more than 150 years old. The wood is a rich golden brown and is extremely durable and resistant to termite attacks. It is often used in Singapore to make chopping boards.