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Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea

Family Rubiaceae

updated Jan 2013
Where seen? This pretty bush with waxy green leaves is often seen in undisturbed mangroves. It is also sometimes found on our natural rocky shores. It was previously common in our mangroves and muddy shores and found in Jurong. Elsewhere, it is considered a very common plant among mangrove and sea shore vegetation and its fruits plentiful among flotsam on the shore.

Features: A shrub up to 3m, but in Singapore, rarely more than 2m tall. Twigs reddish when young. Bark greyish black, ridged and fissured.

Leaves spoon-shaped (3-5cm long) smooth waxy glossy and held upright, arranged opposite one another. Old leaves are yellow then turn shiny pink. Terminal bud and young leaves coated in a varnish-like substance.

Flowers tiny (0.5cm) in dense clusters about 3-4cm across. Corolla with four white curving lobes and a short pink tube. Nectar is secreted at the base of the tube which is accessible to short-tongued insects.

Fruit tiny (0.5cm) oblong with 6-8 ridges, first green then white. The outer layer of the fruit is fleshy with a corky inner layer. The fruit separates into two halves when ripe. Each fruit contains 4 or fewer seeds. The fruits float because of the spongy inner layer.

Sometimes mistaken for Teruntum (Lumnitzera sp.), which has its leaves arranged in a spiral.

Human uses:
According to Giesen, the wood may be used to make household objects such as spoons, while larger pieces are used for fence posts and firewood. The leaves are used to treat stomach problems.

Pulau Ubin, Nov 09

St. John's Island, Jul 09

Small ridged fruits.
Pulau Ubin, Jan 09

Small pinkish flowers.
Pulau Ubin, May 09

St. John's Island, Jul 09

Chengam on Singapore shores

Photos of Chengam for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map



  • Hsuan Keng, S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Singapore University Press. 222 pp.
  • Corners, 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.
  • Tomlinson, P. B., 1986. The Botany of Mangroves Cambridge University Press. USA. 419 pp.
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