05 April 2009

A special shore tree on Semakau

At first I thought it was just another Sea almond tree, but taking a closer look, I think it might be Guettarda speciosa.
It was my first time seeing this endangered tree!

A spreading shrub or tree (4-10m tall), the leaves really do resemble those of the Sea almond (Terminalia catappa). Indeed, one of the Malay names for it is 'Ketapang pasir' or 'Sea almond of the shore'. But the large tubular flowers and the little round fruits clearly differentiates this tree.
The flowers are said to be fragrant and are said to be pollinated by moths as they open an hour after sunset and fall off the following morning. Indeed, many of the flowers were already doing just that.
But I saw a day-flying moth on a flower!
The fruits are round, green at first turning whitish or pinkish.
They have a hard stone with 4-6 cells, each containing one seed. It is believed that the buoyant fruits are dispersed by water.

The bark is used to treat dysentery as well as applied to wounds. The fragrant flowers were strung into garlands. The timber is used in Fiji for house blocks, although it is considered of little value elsewhere.

This tree is listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened plants of Singapore. According to Hsuan Keng, it was found on sandy and rocky shores including Pulau Seletar (which is currently facing development). Giesen considers it a mangrove associate.

References
  • Hsuan Keng, S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Singapore University Press. 222 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.
  • 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.

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