KNOW YOUR DILLENIA – TREBO Following is the introduction to the following selection of plants commonly encountered when trekking

in Singapore. HAIRY CLIDEMIA Clidemia Hirta HELICONIA Heliconia Spp JACKFRUIT Artocarpus Heterophyllus LANTANA Lantane Camara RAIN TREE Samanea Saman RATTAN Daemonorops Oblonga RESAM Dicranopteris Linearis

HAIRY CLIDEMIA (Clidemia hirta)
Originating from South America, this shrub is now commonly found in waste places as well as the roadside. The shrub is usually less than 2 m high. The most distinct characteristic is the leaves that are covered with soft and reddish hair. The leaves are elliptical or oval in shape and have 5 ribs rising from the top of the leafstalk. The flowers are white in colour. The fruits are small, oval shaped and turn purple and pulpy when ripe. The edible fruit taste slightly sweetish. Do you know …in the Kampung, Malay villagers give it the name Sendudok (same as that given to the Singapore Rhododendron.) The crushed leaves mixed with saliva is applied as a poultice onto a wound to staunch the bleeding.

HELICONIA (Heliconia Sp.)
The genus Heliconia is named after Mt. Helicon, the abode of the Greek muses in Euboea, and comprises 150 species native in tropical central and South America. All species have rhizomes from which arise false stems, formed from the rolled leaf sheaths, like the Banana. They have erect shoots, each composed of a stem and leaves and often terminated by an inflorescence of frequently brilliant color which comes from the bracts rather than the flowers. There are 3 basic leaf arrangement; those on which the leaves are oriented vertically and have long petioles, like bananas, those on which the leaves are more or less horizontally positioned and have short petioles, like gingers; and those on which the leaves stick out obliquely, like Cannas. All species of Heliconia produce an abundance of sweet sticky nectar at the base of the petals. This ooze out into the bracts and become mixed with any rainwater that has collected there. In the wild, it is an important pioneer of forest clearings. Do you know… daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the Muses were originally deities associated with mountains and springs. Later they became goddesses of the arts and followers of Apollo given title Apollo Musagetes (Leader of the Muses). The Muses lived on Mount Helicon in Boeotia near a spring called Hippocrene. There were nine in all: Calliope (Muse of Epic Poetry), Clio (Muse of history), Erato (Muse of Lyric Poetry), Euterpe (Muse of Instrumental Music), Melpomene (Muse of Tragedy), Polyhymnia (Muse of Mime), Terpsichore (Muse of Dancing), Thalia (Muse of Comedy) and Urania (Muse of Astronomy.)

JACKFRUIT (Artocarpus Heterophyllus)
The jackfruit originated in India at the foot of the Western Ghats. It has been cultivated widely throughout South East Asia for centuries. It is also cultivated in Africa and Tropical America. This fast growing latex producing tree can grow up to a height of 20 meters and borne the largest edible tree grown fruit. The fruits are borne on the main trunk and the older branches. The rind is pale green to dark yellow and covered with short, sharp, hexagonal fleshy spines. A well ripe fruit emits a pleasant smell, has a sweet taste and the flesh is waxy and golden yellow in color. The pulp of a ripe jackfruit is usually eaten fresh. The unripe fruit can be used as a vegetable, usually stewed in coconut juice, or in soups and pickles. The seed can be eaten boiled or roasted and has a chestnut flavor. Young leaves are eaten as a vegetable and the small fruits, added to soup. In Java, young flower clusters are eaten with syrup and thickener. The rinds and leaves are even used to feed live stock. In Burma, China and Philippines, the sap is used to treat ulcers and abscesses. In Thailand, the roots are used to treat diarrhea, the flowers to combat diabetes and the fruits as an astringent or laxative. The tree means good fortune to Thais and the trunk yields a yellow dye for the monk’s robes. Do you know…The name “Jaca” is the Portuguese word for jackfruit and this word originated from the Malayalam word “Chakka” (meaning ROUND), which was the word heard by the Portuguese when they first encountered the fruit in Kerala, South India.

LANTANA (Lantane.Camara.)
Introduced from it’s native South America as an ornamental plant, it soon escapes and now is found growing as a weed in most parts of South East Asia. The flower clusters is made up of florets; tiny tubes which have five lobes. The berry like fruit which is highly decorative are dangerously poisonous. The hairy leaves of the Lantana has a pungent smell, which makes them unappealing to most animals and human, earning it the Malay name of “Bunga Tahi Ayam” meaning “Chicken Shit Flower”. Insects and birds are however attracted to the flowers and the crushed leaves are used in traditional medicine for treating ulcers, wounds and insect bites. Do you know …that the Lantana rank among the top ten most toxic weed in the world.

RAIN TREE ( Samanea Saman @ Enterolobium Saman)
Originating from South America, this common wayside tree, by the end of the 19th century had spread throughout the tropics, arriving in Malaya in 1876. Planted chiefly as a shade tree because of it’s generous crown which can be 25 to 30 meter across, the saman is a perfect example of the so-called umbrella style of tree architecture. Because the reproductive parts need the stimulus of strong sunlight, the side branches of such trees grow faster than the center, lifting the flowering parts up to the crown and the outer surfaces. The result is a pleasant umbrella-shape, offering a fine display of colour in the flowering season. It has short stout trunk with greyish bark which is smooth when young & fissured and flaky when matured. It’s twice pinnate compound leaves close before sunset and open at sunrise to conserve water. The flowering period is long, spaced over two months, during which they are covered with flowers. The flowers are small pompoms with a mass of bright pink stamens. Because the flowering period is so long, the fruit, a long dark pod, appears long before the flowers fade. Fruits are fleshy pods containing a sweetish pulp that both children and cattle are fond of. The fruits turn black upon ripening and split open upon maturity. The saman is a fast grower, like many leguminous species and its wood is correspondingly soft and relatively useless. To conserve moisture in its own leaves, it closes its own leaves at nightfall, or earlier during a cloudy day. Hence the name rain tree, because when it has a droopy appearance, it is said to forecast the coming of rain. Do you know.. the Saman is also known as the 5’O CLOCK TREE because the leaves start to close when the time approaches 5’o clock.

RATTAN / ‘WAIT A MINUTE’ PLANT (Calamus genus)
If you have ever been held back by the hooks of the rattan fronds, you will understand how it earn its name of ‘Nanti Sikit’ or ‘Wait A Minute’ plant. Belonging to the palm family, the rattan together with the bamboo is the most useful plant to be found in the SE Asian jungles. The most common species of rattan in SE Asia are those of the Calamus genus which has seventy species in Malaysia alone. Rattans grow from seedlings which are scattered by wild animals eating the rattan fruit. When it first grows, it appears as a rosette of leaves visible above ground, enclosing the palm heart. The new sword leaves protrudes from the tip of the stem, tightly furled. This leaf opens out and slowly bends backwards. As it does, it may touch another plant or tree and then becomes closely attached to it by the hooks along the leaf’s mid-rib. The mid-rib is extended as a whip armed with more fearful hooks which enable the rattan to reach the canopy by clinging to the growing trees. The rattans are frequently inhabited by scale insects. They are transported there by ants so that the insect can suck the sap of the stem and than the ants milk the scale insects for a sugary fluid. The rattan benefit by having ants living on it providing a final line of defense against marauding animals looking to get at it’s palm heart. Rattan produce fruits which are covered with hard shiny scales which overlap in neat patterns, each with a groove from base to pointed tip along the mid-line. Scales of rattan fruit vary from yellowish brown to black, with some striking exceptions, such as a magenta colored fruit and an ivory and black parti-colored fruit. The brilliant red of some of the rattan species comes from a red resin which thickly encrusts the scales. This is known as dragon’s blood and is used in various ways in handicrafts and medicine. Within the scales of the rattan fruits is a layer of flesh which may be sweet and tasty or sour and inedible. The tip of the rattan palm, the palm cabbage or palm heart is enjoyed by wild animals and also man. The rattan heart is toasted by Thai tribal hill peoples and eaten as a slightly bitter but aromatic vegetable. Do you know…. Dragon’s blood was once a major commodity of trade between South East Asia and China. When the fruits are shaken in a basket filled with cockle shells, the resin is scrapped off. It then falls out through small holes in the basket as a gritty powder. This powder is than pounded and then softened with hot water and kneaded into lumps and sold as an ingredient for medicines, often as an eye medicine. In Europe, it is better known as a cure for dysentery and diarrhea

RESAM (Dicranopteris Linearis)
Resam is common in secondary forests, growing well on poor clay soils. It is among the few branching ferns and quickly develops into thickets up to 2 m tall, shading out all other plants. Climbing on trees, they can reach 7 m. The wiry fronds mesh together and make it almost impossible to move through. The fronds are forked, with new branches emerging at the junction of the fork. Being among the few plants that can grow on poor soils and scramble over steep slopes, Resam quickly takes over bare soil after a land slide, or soil affected by erosion and other wastelands. The quick growing fern helps to bind the soil and return nutrients to the soil. The slender, spreading rhizomes and the mat of old leaves protect the soil from further erosion, while the young leaves trap debris. As these decay, nutrients are returned to the soil. However, the fern often does this too well and few plants can grow where a Resam thicket dominates. But, the thick mat of dead leaves are highly flammable and the thicket can be quickly destroyed by fire during the dry season. New plants can then grow in the area, and as Resam cannot survive under shade, there is a chance for other plants to continue the succession. In Malaysia, the crushed leaves of the resam are applied as a poultice to control fever. In Indochina, the plant has been used to expel intestinal worm. In New Guinea, not only is it used to treat boils, ulcers and wounds, these climbers are also used to lash posts together when making houses. In addition, the leaves are used as personal decorations both daily and for special ceremonies; or the plant may be woven into decorative arm and waistbands. Do you know… the word “fern” comes from the old English fearn which means feather. This is because most people think of ferns as plants with lacy delicate fronds as the leaves are called. These fronds thus look very much like feathers.

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