Scientific name: Parkia speciosa
Family name: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Petai trees in Taman Tugu
The Petai tree is an indigenous rainforest tree that are 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 one of the species selected to attract fauna to the site – the flowers secrete a nectar which attracts bats and other pollinators.
The Petai tree is a perennial deciduous plant that can grow between 15m-45m tall. This open and umbrella-shaped tree has green alternate, stalked, twice pinnate compound leaves. The trunk can grow up to 100 cm in diameter with pinkish or reddish-brown bark, and form buttress roots. The buttresses are small and can go up to 4m high and spreading up to 2m. The Petai tree bears flowers in a light bulb-shaped mass at the end of long stalks. The fruits emerge as long, twisted, translucent pods in a cluster of seven or eight pods which are foul smelling, green, elliptic. The petai beans or seeds are formed when the pods mature.
The Petai tree has edible flowers, seeds and leaves. Malaysians consume the fresh seeds, young or ripe, that may be eaten raw, cooked, or roasted as a side-dish with rice. It is normally served with fermented anchovies (budu), sambal, or mixed with dried shrimp, chili peppers, red onions, belacan (prawn paste), soy sauce and prawn. The seeds are also dried and seasoned for later consumption. When dried the seeds turn black. The Pulai tree is sometimes cultivated as a shade tree, such as in plantations and nurseries. The tree trunk yields a lightweight, occasionally medium-weight hardwood, with a straight or slightly-interlocked grain and moderately coarse and uneven texture. The wood pulp used to manufacture paper.
These tropical trees grow in lowland rain forests, sometimes in tall secondary forests. They are also found in waterlogged locations, in freshwater swamp forests and riverbanks, up to 1,000 m of altitude. These trees are native to Malaysia, South Thailand, Singapore, Sumatra, and Palawan.