coastal plants
Bakung or Seashore spider lily
Crinum asiaticum

Family Amaryllidaceae

updated Nov 10
Where seen? A gianormous lily with lovely white flowers, it is seldom found wild on our shores. However, it is extensively planted as an ornamental in gardens and public places. According to Davidson, it is found in sandy shores and the back mangroves. Wild populations are restricted to Pulau Seletar, Sungei Khatib Bongsu, Sungei Mandai and the Western Catchment area. According to Hsuan Keng, it was formerly found on sandy shores including Changi, Kranji, Sungei Buloh, Sungei Tengah; eventually restricted to Pulau Semakau, Sungei Mandai and the Western Catchment Area.

Elsewhere, it is usually found in shaded areas, from sea level to 700m, but also in full sun. In sandy beaches, freshwater swamps and occasionally in (sandy) mangroves. Large specimens occur in freshwater and brackish swamps, while those occurring on dry, sandy seashores are usually smaller.

Features: The plant arises from an underground, fleshy bulb. From this grows a rounded and fleshy 'stem' (actually the lower part of the leaves). Leaves long (50cm-1m) and narrow with a pointed tip. Many white flowers in a cluster, large (8-9cm) and sweetly scented. Fruit irregularly rounded, white (about 5cm) containing green seeds.

Human uses:
According to Burkill, it is poisonous and medicinal uses include inducing vomiting when wounded by a poison arrow. The leaves are used by Malays in a poultice to treat fevers, headaches, swellings. Boiling the plant results in a lotion for general use on the body. According to Wee, the crushed leaves are used to wash piles. Mixed with honey they are applied to wounds and abscesses.

Status and threats: It is listed as 'Critically Endangered' in the Red List of threatened plants of Singapore.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Feb 09

Labrador, Mar 09

Wild plant.
Mandai, Mar 11

Chek Jawa, Aug 09

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Feb 09

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Feb 09


  • Crinum asiaticum 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.

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