Where seen? These hardy pines with refreshingly bright
green leaves are still found on the natural cliffs of Sentosa. But
as suitable habitats are becoming increasingly rare, so too are the
trees. It is believed that there are less than 50 wild specimens of
these trees in Singapore.
According to Hsuan Keng, the tree is considered a species native to
Singapore and found in Labrador, Kranji and other parts of the island,
usually near the sea or at the back of mangroves. It was also recorded
growing in gardens. According to Giersen, it is endemic to Southeast
Asia and mainly found on sandy beaches where it is found in groups
at the high water mark, as well as on coastal cliff, swampy forests,
and back mangroves. Inland, it is found on limestone hills. Its Malay
name is 'Jati bukit' which means 'hillside teak'.
Features: A shrub or small tree
(1-20m tall). The trunk is sometimes fluted and sometimes has buttress
Leaves long, narrow and pointed (3-10cm) thick glossy, bright green.
The Sea teak is a conifer. That is, it produces seeds but no flowers.
Instead, it has reproductive structures called cones or strobili.
Male plants produce clusters of 3-5 cream-coloured cones which shed
whitish, powdery pollen. From Corners, the scientific name refers
to 'many (poly) ears of corn (stachys)' which is what the male cones
resemble. Female plants produce a highly modified cone. The seed is
green when ripe and below it is a fleshy red swollen receptacle which
is eaten by birds and bats.
uses: According to Burkill, the timber is small but still
used for house building, carts and various other uses. Indeed, the
Malay name for the tree is Jati Laut (translating to Sea teak) as
well as Setada or Sentada. Burkill notes that medicinal uses possibly
ascribed to it include the use of the leaves as an alternative to
treat rheumatism and painful joints.
Status and threats: It is listed
as 'Critically Endangered' in the Red List of threatened plants of
Singapore. With the loss of our natural coastal habitats and mangroves,
this once common plant is also becoming increasingly rare. Joseph
Lai has recently recorded Sea teak at Sisters
Island, Pulau Jong
and Pulau Sarimbun.
It is also found in abundance on Sentosa's
natural cliffs at the Tanjung Rimau natural shore. According to
the Red Data Book, it is also found at St. John's Island. On the mainland,
it is only found in the Sungei Mandai area. But the tree is now widely
planted in many of our coastal parks.
on a natural cliff.
Sentosa, Apr 09
seed on top of swollen receptacle.
Creek, Jan 13
red receptacle attracts birds and bats.
Labrador Park, Apr 09
Sentosa, Aug 07
teak 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.
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.
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.