01 April 2009

Tiup tiup tree

I know so little about our coastal plants. The best way to improve, I thought, was to learn one plant at each shore trip.
Today I decided to find out more about this tree that I keep seeing. It has pretty leaves and intriguing flowers, and has a fascinating relationship with bats!

This is the Tiup tiup tree (Adinandra dumosa)The small flowers are cream and the petals do not open. The bit sticking out is the style. Fruits are small globular berries (about 1cm), ripening green to brownish. The leaves are leathery, dark green above and pale beneath. They wither dull scarlet, young leaves are reddish pink.

According to Corners, it begins to flower at a height of 2m "when it is about 2-3 years old and continues daily for some hundred years". He says it grows slowly but steadily, "even in the most improverished places".

Corners adds that it is said the flowers are pollinated by bees, but as they do not open, it is likely that they are self pollinated. The seeds are distributed by small fruit bats which carry the fruits one at a time from to the tree to their resting places where they suck out the pulp contents and disgorge the seeds.

According to Corners the tree was "one of the commonest" in Malaya. It is found in secondary forests, often forming almost pure stands. According to Burkill, the name 'Tiup tiup' probably arose because the style resembles a blow pipe.

  • 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.
  • 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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