Where seen? This plant with tiny flowers on a branched
cluster is commonly seen on many of our wild shores. It is also apparently
known as Premna angustior, Premna integrifolia as well as Premna
obtusifolia. Plants of the genus Premna have a 'rather foetid
tissue' according to Corners. And indeed, the crushed plant does have
an odd, rather unpleasant smell. One of its Malay names is Buas-buas.
'Buas' in Malay can mean fierce or wild. The plant seems harmless
enough, so I'm not sure how its name came about.
Features: According to Corners,
the species is "so variable that it is still undecided whether it
does not consist of several species". The typical form is of those
that grow on rocky and sandy coasts. The plant first starts as a climber
or 'straggling shrub' eventually developing a 'stout stocky trunk'
and a bushy crown to become a tree up to 5m tall. The leaves are leathery,
light green and comes in various shapes. From spoon-shaped with rounded
tips to almost heart-shaped with pointed tips.
The tiny white flowers appear on a many branched cluster that resembles
a little white tree. 'Corymbus' means cluster or bunch of flowers.
The tiny fruits are oval and black.
Human uses: According to Burkill, the leaves are eaten
as a vegetable and sometimes cooked with fish of "an objectionable
flavour to mask their taste". The timber is not considered of high
value, although small household items are sometimes made of it. Various
parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine and one of the
common names for this plant is 'Headache tree'. I'm not sure whether
this means the plant gives us a headache or cures the headache.
Changi Beach, May 09
Sisters Island, Aug 09
- 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.