Where seen? This rather innocent looking treelet has a
formidable reputation as a purported aphrodisiac. It is still sometimes
seen growing wild on some of our natural places, including on our
shores and rocky cliffs. It was also found in our primary and secondary
forests including Tanglin and Bukit Timah.
Features: A small tree or a shrub
(2-3m tall) with an umbrella-like rosette of leaves at the tips of
the branches. The leaf (50-60cm long) is made up of 45-80 leaflets.
The tiny, hairy cup-shaped flowers are purplish-crimson, and according
to Corners, with a slightly foetid smell. Male and female flowers
are found on different trees. These turn into oval fruits that ripen
yellow then red.
Human uses: The tree
has many traditional medicinal uses. According to Corners, the bark
and especially the roots are 'exceedingly bitter' and the bark was
used as one of the native remedies for malaria. According to Burkill,
the bark is also used in a tonic for after childbirth. It is also
pounded and used externally for headaches, wounds, ulcers and sores.
Status and threats: This plant
is listed as 'Critically Endangered' on the Red List of threatened
plants of Singapore. Elsewhere, the plant is also threatened by over-collection
for the traditional herbal trade.
ali 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.
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.
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.
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.