updated Jan 13
seen? The Yellow-eyed pong pong tree is a commonly planted
tree in our parks and roadsides and is also sometimes seen growing
wild on our shores. But the beautiful Pink-eyed pong pong tree is
rare and only sometimes seen on our shores and coastal forests.
Features: Tree up to 15m tall,
but in Singapore usually shorter. Bark fissured, flaky, grey to brown
with lenticels. Produces a white sap.
Leaves (12-30cm long) oval, dark green and glossy, held in dense spirals
at the tips of the twigs. Flowers (about 5cm) white appearing at the
tips of the twigs. Fruits (5-7cm) spherical or ovoid, with 1-2 seeds.
First green then pink, rosy purple and finally black. The fruits float
are dispersed by water. When they wash up, often only the fibrous
husk is left, around a hard stone.
Human uses: According to Burkill, only the seeds are poisonous
and no other part of the plant is toxic. In the Philippines, the seeds
were used as a fish poison in small streams. The wood produces a fine
charcoal that was used for gunpowder by the Thais. Oil pressed from
the seeds were used in lamps but produces an irritating smoke. Medicinal
uses for the oil include treating itches, rheumatism, the common cold
and as hair oil that doubled up as insect repellent.
According to Corners, the fruits are poisonous and native medicinal
uses are made of the bark, leaves and oil extracted from the seeds.
According to Tomlinson, some native societies use the fruits as a
means of committing suicide. According to Wee, the tree contains cerberin
or cerberoside. According to Giesen, cerberin is similar in structure
to digoxin, found in foxglove, which kills by blocking calcium ion
channels in heart muscles and disrupting the heartbeat. More ominiously,
it is also suspected of being used in an increasing number of murder
cases. The bark, sap and leaves are used as a purgative, and for inducing
Status and threats: Cerbera
odollam is listed as 'Vulnerable' while Cerbera manghas
is listed as 'Critically Endangered' on the Red List of threatened
plants of Singapore.
Pulau Semakau, Jan 09
Planted in a park.
Changi, Apr 09
Island, Aug 09
on the high shore.
Pulau Ubin, Nov 09
pong trees on Singapore shores
- Hsuan Keng,
S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The
Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons.
Singapore University Press. 222 pp.
- Tan, Hugh
T.W. and T. Morgany. 2001. Growing
the Native Plants of Singapore. BP Science Centre Guidebook.
- Tee Swee
Ping and Wee Mei Lynn (eds). 2001. Trees of our Garden City.
National Parks Board. 202 pp.
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.
P. B., 1986. The
Botany of Mangroves
Cambridge University Press. USA. 419 pp.
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.
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.