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mangroves | Sonneratia in general
Sonneratia ovata

Family Lythraceae

updated Jan 2013
Where seen? This rare mangrove tree can be seen in a few of our accessible mangroves. It can be seen on Pulau Ubin and Chek Jawa, as well as at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Kranji Nature Trail and is also planted at Pasir Ris Park. According to Ng, in Singapore only a few trees at the hot springs (Kampong Unum) of Pulau Tekong. Trees at Kampong Melayu (Pulau Ubin) and Kampong Mandai Kechil have died or been destroyed with development. It is found on the landward-side of mangroves. But in the past, it was considered widespread in our back mangroves and tidal creeks in Singapore.

Features: Small tree up to 5m, occasionally to 20m tall. Pneumatophores conical short (20cm).

Leaves fat ovals (5-7cm) usually not narrow at the base, thick and leathery.

Flowers large (10cm diameter) with no petals, only many long white stamens forming a powder-puff shape. Stiff cup-shaped calyx with sepals broadly triangular and reddish on the inside. The flowers open at dusk releasing a small of sour milk, and last only for one night. These attract bats and honeybirds.

Fruit globular (7.5cm) leathery with calyx lobes that clasp the fruit and do not bend away as in other Sonneratia species. When ripe, the fruit falls and smashes open releasing the seeds.

Similar to Perepat (S. alba) except that it tends to be a shorter tree with shiny, dark green leaves and the flowers have no petals.

Gedabu is the preferred local food plant for caterpillars of the moths Eucosma, Taurometopa pyrometalla and Zeuzera conferta.

Human uses: According to Ng, the fruit is eaten. As a result, the tree is often cultivated in Malay villages.

Status and threats: It is listed as 'Critically Endangered' on the Red List of threatened plants of Singapore.

Kranji Nature Trail, Jan 11

Leaves glossy, not narrow at the base.
Pulau Ubin, Apr 09

Calyx sepals pinkish inside.
Mandai, Mar 11

No petals, only fluffy white stamens.
Pasir Ris, May 11

Unopened flower.
Chek Jawa, Jan 11

Young flower buds.
Pasir Ris, Mar 11

Ripe fruit falls and splits open releasing seeds.
Kranji Nature Trail, Jun 11

Calyx lobes clasp the fruit.
Pulau Ubin, Apr 09

Gedabu on Singapore shores

Photos of Gedabu 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.
  • Davison, 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.
  • Burkill, 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.
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