Where seen? This beautiful stately tree is commonly planted
in our parks and road sides. In the wild, they were found in open
and swampy lowlands throughout Malaya, most commonly to the south.
It was also known as F. cohinchinensis. According to the NParks
website, it is "highly robust and can grow even in poorly drained,
Features: A tall tree (30-40m),
older trees have typical U-shaped angular branches that stick out
horizontally before making a sharp turn to grow vertically. The bark
is typically deeply fissured, which Corners describes as "rugged".
Leaves (5-8cm long) oval with pointed tips. Flowers (2cm across) creamy
white trumpet-shaped, appears in clusters and are strongly fragrant
especially in the early morning and late evening. They turn yellow
with age. The fruits are round berries (about 1cm) with lots of tiny
seeds. Initially green, turning orange then red, they can take more
than 3 months to ripen. Ripe fruits are eaten by bats and birds which
disperse the seeds.
Corners describes how "flying foxes come to gorge upon the fruits
at night". He says "the yearly fruiting of the Tembusu is
one of the marvels of local natural history. The flying foxes arrive
from far and wide, flapping across the evening sky from islands to
the south, from the mangroves of the mainland, and even from the coast
of Sumatra. For two or three weeks they revel nightly. At other times,
the flying foxes are scarcely to be seen." Alas, flying foxes
are no longer found in Singapore. Corners adds that the berries are
too bitter to be relished by other beasts.
A slow growing, long-lived (more than 100 years) hardy tree that is
quite resistant to pests and diseases. Corners says "in all its
activities, the tree is leisurely", slow to flower, put out new
leaves and even describes it as "lethargic".
Human uses: The timber is extremely durable and resistant
to termite attacks. Thus is it used for heavy duty construction such
as railroads, bridges, boats and wharves as well as for flooring,
panelling, furniture. According to Burkill, the Malay metaphor for
a hard heart compares it to the Tembusu. In Singapore, huge wooden
chopping boards used by hawkers to chop up chicken and meat are often
made of Tembusu timber.
Heritage Trees: There are twelve
Tembusu trees with Heritage
Tree status. The ones near the shores include at St John's
Island (Blk 15 Prison Gate) with a girth of 4.3m and height 25m;
at St John's Island (Blk 5 & 8, beside Neem Tree) with a girth
of 4.5m and height 25m, and at Sentosa (beside IOS) with a
girth of 4.6m and height 27m. The Tembusu tree at the Singapore Botanic
Gardens is reportedly more than 150 years old and a photograph of
it is reproduced on the back of the ‘Portrait’ series $5 note.
to Changi Creek.
Changi, Apr 09
Park, May 11
Planted in the Park
Pasir Ris, Sep 09
Growing wild on a natural cliff.
St. John's Island, Aug 09
Island, Aug 09
Island, Aug 09
Park, May 11
- Tee Swee
Ping and Wee Mei Lynn (eds). 2001. Trees of our Garden City.
National Parks Board. 202 pp.
- Hsuan Keng,
S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The
Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons.
Singapore University Press. 222 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.
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.