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coastal plants
Mata pelandok or Seashore ardisia
Ardisia elliptica

Family Primulaceae

updated Nov 2016
Where seen? This shrub with pink star-shaped flowers, and colourful leaves and berries is now widely planted in our coastal parks. In the wild, it is found in tidal swamps, muddy and sandy river banks of tidal estuaries, usually in places only occasionally flooded at the highest tides. It was previously known as Ardisia littoralis.

Features: A shrub growing to 5m tall, with a single stem producing short perpendicular branches. Leaves eye-shaped (10cm long) leathery with veins hardly visible, arranged in a spiral. Young leaves somewhat pinkish. Twigs are swollen at the base and easily detached. Flowers small (1cm across) star-shaped, with five petals white or pink, in a cluster of 6-8 flowers. Fruit small (0.5-1cm) green berries ripening red to black. 'Mata pelandok' in Malay means 'Eye of the mousedeer' probably referring to its ripe black fruits. It is also called 'Mata ayam' or 'Eye of the chicken' and 'Mata itek' or 'Eye of the duck'.

According to Tomlinson, from the structure of the flowers and the fact that these produce nectar and a fragrance, the plant seems to be pollinated by insects. But there are no records of flower visitors. It is said that birds and other small fruit-eating mammals eat the fruits.

Human uses: According to Burkill, the young shoots were eaten in the Malay Peninsula. Medicinal uses include boiled leaves or roots used to treat heartache. Another Malay name is 'Daun bisa hati' or 'Heartache Leaf'. According to Wee, the Malays use a decoction of the leaves to treat heart pain. According to Giersen, the leaves are used to treat scabies and intestinal worms.

Status and threats:
It is listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened plants of Singapore. But in other parts of the world outside its natural range, this plant is considered an invasive introduced weed. Its ability to tolerate shade causes it to form dense carpets which exclude native plants.

Planted specimen.
Chek Jawa, Mar 09

Chek Jawa, Mar 09

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Sep 09

Pasir Ris, Apr 09

Pasir Ris, Apr 09

Mata pelandok on Singapore shores

Photos of Mata pelandok for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map


  • Ardisia elliptica on Total Vascular Flora of Singapore Online: photos and fact sheet.
  • Giesen, Wim and Stephan Wulffraat, Max Zieren and Liesbeth Scholten. 2006. Mangrove Guidebook for Southeast Asia (PDF online downloadable). RAP publication 2006/07 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific Bangkok.
  • Ardisia elliptica on Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER): details on about the plant and its spread as a noxious invasive weed in the Pacific Islands.


  • Hsuan Keng, S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Singapore University Press. 222 pp.
  • Corners, E. J. H., 1997. Wayside Trees of Malaya: in two volumes. Fourth edition, Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1: 1-476 pp, plates 1-38; volume 2: 477-861 pp., plates 139-236.
  • Tomlinson, P. B., 1986. The Botany of Mangroves Cambridge University Press. USA. 419 pp.
  • Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
  • Wee Yeow Chin. 1992. A Guide to Medicinal Plants. The Singapore Science Centre. 160pp
  • Burkill, I. H., 1993. A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula. 3rd printing. Publication Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1: 1-1240; volume 2: 1241-2444.
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