12 April 2009

A pretty climber: Colubrina asiatica

Peria laut (Colubrina asiatica) is a pretty climber that used to be common. I've seen this at Pulau Semakau and today, I saw a nice one on Pulau Hantu.
According to Hsuan Keng, it was commonly seen along coasts including Geyland and Changi.

It is a climbing glossy shrub that normally grows up to 4m tall but in the presence of a support it may grow up to 6 to 7 m. Branches are vine-like, climbing or drooping that can reach 10m in length. The plant germinates rapidly in full sun growing upwards where there is supporting vegetation, rooting where the stem falls back onto the groud and then growing upwards again. The stems resprout vigorously when cut or injured. As such, the plant may overgrow other shrubby vegetation on the coast.The climber has thin glossy leaves (4-9cm) with a toothed margin, arranged alternately along the stem.

Small star-like flowers (about 0.4cm) appear in clusters.
Today, Samuel and I saw a fly on the flower seeming to drink something from it.

Fruits are small capsules (about 1cm), green and fleshy, turning to dark brown with age. Each fruit contains three, small, greyish seeds.
The seeds are dispersed by water as well as birds.

According to Burkill, the bark contains saponins that lather in the water and is used as a soap. According to Giesen, it has long been used as a substitute for soap in the rural areas in some countries. It is thus also called Latherleaf. In Samoa it is used for bleaching and cleaning mats. Although the leaves and fruits are used as fish poison, the young leaves are "eaten with relish" in Ambon.

In the Maldives, leaves are used to alleviate inflammations and boils. In order to alleviate painful swellings, leaves are crushed and juice is rubbed on the affected body. Young stems are cut into pieces and boiled in water, which is drunk to alleviate stomach disorders. Medicinal oil is prepared from seeds along with other ingredients, which is used to treat rheumatism and numbness in adults and also in treating weak legs in children.

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