Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Bruguiera gymnorrhiza

Also known as Black Mangrove or Tumu Merah in Malay, this mangrove tree is native to South and East Africa, Madagascar through to India, Myanmar, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, throughout Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, northern Australia to Ryuku Islands, Polynesia and Samoa.

This medium-sized tree is slow-growing and grows to a height of 10m at most, with a initial conical crown to a more irregular shape. The bark is black in colour. It has short buttresses and characteristic knee roots that are green in colour at the beginning but becomes grey, glossy, and hairless with time.

The glossy apple green leaves grow at the ends of branches, turning yellow with age. The leaves have a pointed tip and interpetiolar stipules that drop off early. 

The flowers grow singly, around 4cm long with 8 to 18 petals and sepals. The petals are a creamy white colour while the sepals are green in shade and pink in direct sun. Its flowers are pollinated by sunbirds. It is the preferred local food plant for caterpillars of the moth, Olene mendosa. 

The fruits of the Black Mangrow is a fleshy berry about 3cm long. It germinates on the tree for form an incipient root which is actually a brown hypocotyl. 

Fruits and leaves are edible. The leaves are also eaten as salad or flavouring. The inner flesh of the hypocotyl is eaten with sugar.

The bark is used as a medicine for diarrhoea and occasionally malaria. An extract of the bark is also used as a source of tannin and dye. Fruits are reportedly used as an astringent and food.

The brownish or yellowish brown, heavy, fine-grained wood is used as timber for piling,  house posts, furniture, and rafters by the Malays. The wood is also made into charcoal.

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