20 May 2009

The climbing noni: Morinda umbellata

I've seen this sprawling climber with elegant leaves and orange fruits many times before. Including the coastal forest of Chek Jawa, more recently of Labrador, as well as in the mangroves of Pulau Ubin.
But it was only recently that I learnt more about it.

Thanks to Ben, I found out it is Morinda umbellata. It is thus a relative of our more familiar Noni tree or Mengkudu (Morinda citrifolia). This climber is known in Malay as 'Mengkudu akar' which means 'climbing Mengkudu'.

Indeed, taking a closer look at its flowers, the resemblence to the Noni is more obvious.
The little round green fruits turn orange.
A climbing shrub, it has elegant leaves that are thin, leathery, narrow and 7-12cm long. It is also found inland.

According to Hsuan Keng, it was found in open sandy places including Kranji, Changi and Pulau Ubin.

According to Burkill, the roots are used to produce a yellow dye. Boiled roots and leaves are used in traditional medicine. In India, the fruits may be eaten while green in curries and when raw when ripe. The tough stems are used as ropes in Sri Lanka.

  • 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.

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