This rather untidy tree with dull metallic leaves is described by
Corners as a 'dinghy' tree. It is sometimes seen in our Northern
mangroves. Usually found in the back mangroves and sometimes on
rocky shores. According to Hsuan Keng, it was found in Bajau, Kranji,
Pulau Jahat, Pulau Tekong. It seems intolerant of high salinities
and does not occur in very exposed areas or poorly drained soils.
Features: A much branched, untidy tree (15-25m tall) with rather
'dirty' looking leaves. Leaves thin but stiff, oblong (10-20cm long)
and are two-toned: dark green above and silvery white beneath. This
is because of overlapping star-shaped scales on the underside.
Leaves are arranged in a spiral and wither to a dull orange-yellow.
Flowers tiny (0.5cm), bell-shaped, hairy emerging in complex
clusters at the branch tips. Fruits are massive woody, shiny-brown
to purplish with a keel or short flange along one side so that they
resemble boats. The fruits can float for weeks and will germinate
when they are stranded at high tide. Each fruit contains one seed.
Each tree bears either male or female flowers. Bark dark or pinkish
grey, smooth becoming flaky, fissured when older. May have short
Human Uses: According to Burkill, considered "possibly the
toughest of Malayan timbers", it is valued for boat building. As
masts if the trunk is straight enough, or for rudders and other
parts. It is also used in a wide range of household uses. According
to Burkill, "the people of Malaysia formerly valued it for stopping
bullets. They built stockades of it and raised the thwarts of their
pirate canoes with it." Medicinal uses include using the twigs as
tooth-brushes, the tanning in them may be good for the gums. Seeds
are used in cures for diarrhoea and dysentery. According to Giesen,
the heavy wood is good for raw material to be made into wrapping or
printing paper. The fruits and seeds are used in treating diarrhoea
and dysentery, seeds are used in fish dishes and roots used as fish
Status and threats: It is listed as 'Endangered' in the Red List
of threatened plants of Singapore.