| Ketapang or Sea
Where seen? This spreading tree with large leaves is commonly
grown in our parks and roadsides. It is also commonly seen growing
wild on undisturbed shores. In fact, Corners says it is one of the
most common Malayan trees in the wild on the coast and inland where
it is planted for its shade in villages and along the road sides.
It is found on sandy or rocky beaches and back mangroves. According
to Burkill, it is a native of sandy coasts in Malaya and the Pacific
but has been cultivated "far beyond its natural area". It
is also called the Tropical almond tree.
According to Corners, the tree sheds its leaves twice a year, in January
or February and in July or August. Before falling off, the leaves
turn vivid red, in a few cases, yellow. According to Burkill, this
habit is "peculiar among Malayan trees" and make the trees
very conscpicuous. Such 'autumn leaves' are very rare in the tropics.
After the crown is bare, all the twigs develop new leaves and the
tree is freshly green. The tree then flowers after the new leaves
have developed. This habit occurs even in saplings 3-4 years old.
Features: A tall tree (20-35m)
with a typical pagoda-shaped growth form: it sends out a single stem
from the top centre. When the single stem reaches a good height, it
sends out several horizontal branches. The bark is grey, fissured
and slightly flaky. The tree often has buttress roots.
Leaves large spatula-shaped (15-30cm long, 9-18cm wide) thin leathery,
arranged in a spiral at the tip of the twig. Young leaves reddish.
Leaves turn yellow and red and drop off up to twice a year.
Many tiny white flowers emerge on long spikes (10-12cm long). The
flowers lack petals and only have a star-shaped calyx. Male flowers
are found at the tips of the spike, female flowers at the bottom of
the spike. The flowers are said to smell bad.
The fruit is almond-shaped (4-8cm long), developing in clusters, green
ripening yellow. The fruit has a thick, leathery, corky outer layer
enclosing air cavities, with a hard thick stone in the centre. Inside
the stone is a sliver of edible kernel composed of tightly coiled
seed-leaves of the embryo. But this is difficult to extract. The fruit
floats and is able to survive for many days in water, during which
time the fibrous outer coating rots away.
Role in the habitat: According
to Corners, fruit bats eat the husk of the fruit. According to Giersen,
besides bats, the fruits are also dispersed by monkeys and by water.
Sometimes other similar trees are mistaken
for Sea almond. Here's more on how to
tell apart Sea almond and other similar trees on the shores.
Human uses: In Singapore, aquarists often put the leaves
in their aquariums as they have an antibacterial effect due to the
release of tannic and humic acid, which is believed to promote the
fish health and provide a calming effect. According to Burkill, the
timber is considered good as it is elastic, easy to work and seasons
well. It is used interchangeably in some places as Penaga
Laut (Callophyllum innophylum) for building things that
need to be tough and durable such as houses, boats and carts. Although
the embryo is edible, tasting like almonds, it is not worth the effort
to extract. Medicinal uses include the bark to treat dysentery, leaves
applied to rheumatic joints, juice of young leaves for headache and
colic. According to Wee, the leaves are used in the Philippines to
expel intestinal worms.
colours' before the tree sheds its leaves.
Chek Jawa, Oct 01
'pagoda' growth form.
Changi, Apr 09
with buttress roots.
Pulau Hantu, Feb 10
Chek Jawa, Sep 09
flowers on the ground.
Chek Jawa, Mar 09
Lazarus, Apr 12
Lazarus, Apr 12
embryo is edible but not
worth the effort to extract.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Jan 09
St. John's Island, Aug 04
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.
- Tee Swee
Ping and Wee Mei Lynn (eds). 2001. Trees of our Garden City.
National Parks Board. 202 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.
P. B., 1986. The
Botany of Mangroves
Cambridge University Press. USA. 419 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.
- Wee Yeow
Chin. 1992. A
Guide to Medicinal Plants. The Singapore Science Centre.