Scientific name: Barringtonia acutangula
Family name: Lecythidaceae
Indian Oak trees in Taman Tugu
This indigenous rainforest tree species is amongst the 4,100 trees added to the Taman Tugu site, selected in collaboration with Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (“FRIM”) and Malaysian Nature Society (“MNS”). It was selected as its nectar attracts bats, moths, and birds like honeyeaters and lorikeets. The fruit from this tree attracts the Yellow Tussock Moth as it lays eggs on the underside of its leaves for the caterpillars to feed on the fruits. These caterpillars cause skin irritation giving rise to the tree’s nickname: Itchy Tree.
The tree is a small bushy, multi-stemmed tree that can grow up to 12m. The leaves are thick and glossy green with prominent veins and is partially shed during extended dry periods. This fissured grey bark tree produces scarlet red flowers with numerous filamentous stamens, held in dangling racemes the length of a human arm, with up to 90 flowers per chain. Mildly-fragrant and nocturnal (opening at sunset and aborting by daybreak), the flowers bloom periodically throughout the year. The fruit produced is ribbed which gives rise to the species epithet ‘acutangula’ meaning sharply-pointed angles.
The leaves are consumed by locals as vegetable. Various parts of this plant is also used in Ayurvedic medicine – the cooling roots to relieve fever; bitter-tasting leaves to treat diarrhoea and indigestion; seeds rubbed over the chest or eaten with ginger helps induce vomitting and expel respiratory mucus. It is also used as a health tonic to relieve weakness, improve blood circulation, and to regulate menstrual cycle.
Its timber is used in construction and as firewood, whilst the bark is used as painkillers and anti-microbial medication. The leaves and bark are used to deoxygenate water to stun fish for an easier catch.
This species grows on floodplains of rivers or along riverbanks and swampy inundated areas. The trees are native to Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, India, and New Guinea.