coastal plants
Bedara laut
Ximenia americana

Family Olacaceae

updated Jan 13
Where seen? A shrub or small tree, it is seen growing wild on some of our undisturbed shores and back mangroves. According to Hsuan Keng, they were found in Changi, Jurong, Pasir Panjang and Pulau Seletar. According to Giersen, these plants are found throughout the tropics. It is also known as Tallow-wood or Tallowwood.

Features: A shrub or small tree up to 2-4m tall. Bark greyish brown with red cork and rounded lenticels.

Leaves oval (3-4cm) thick leathery with a short stalk. The crushed leaves have a strong smell of almonds as they contain cyanide. There are thorns in the leaf axils.

Flowers small (2-2.5cm) white and hairy, grows in clusters.

Fruits oval (2-2.5cm) thin-skinned, green ripening yellow to orange with firm green flesh. The fruits are edible but very sour and contains a hard stone. According to Giersen, the seeds are dispersed by birds and by the sea.

Human uses: According to Burkill, the sour fruits are eaten fresh or pickled. They are also used as a substitute for lemon with fish. The seed is oily and the oil is used in cooking in southern India. The nuts are eaten but have a strong purgative effect so ony a few can be taken at a time; "many cause deleterious effects". The crushed leaves smell of bitter almonds and are sometimes used as flavouring by the Dutch who lived in the tropics. The pounded roots are used to treat colic, in Africa the pounded bark is used treat sores on animals and used to keep insects away. The hard, heavy timber is pleasantly scented when freshly cut and is thus sometimes powdered and used as a substitute for sandalwood in India.

Pulau Hantu, Apr 09

Pulau Semakau, Dec 04

Pulau Semakau, Dec 04

Pulau Semakau, Dec 04

Fallen fruits on the shore.
Pulau Ubin, Jul 09

Bedara laut on Singapore shores
Photos for free download from wildsingapore flickr


  • Ximenia americana on Total Vascular Flora of Singapore Online: photos and fact sheet.
  • Ximenia americana on the NParks Flora and Fauna website: photos and fact sheet.
  • Giesen, Wim and Stephan Wulffraat, Max Zieren and Liesbeth Scholten. 2006. Mangrove Guidebook for Southeast Asia (PDF online downloadable). RAP publication 2006/07 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific Bangkok.

Other references
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