Salam/ Indian Bayleaf
Scientific name: Syzygium polyanthum
Family name: Myrtaceae
Salam trees in Taman Tugu
The Salam 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”). This species was selected to attract fauna to the site – the fruits are consumed by various types of birds, such as the Jambu Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus jambu) and Cream-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus simplex).
The tree can grow up to 30m tall and attain 180cm in girth size with cylindrical or oval tree crown, greyish brown twigs, and grey flaky bark. The tree has opposite, stalked leaves that are thinly leathery, elliptic or lance-shaped and each has a pointed leaf tip, 1 vein running parallel to the leaf margin, and 6–11 pairs of side veins. It produces bisexual flowers that are creamy white, turning pink or reddish, faintly fragrant, in flower clusters located at ends of its branches, or axils of its leaves. The fleshy fruits are round to flattened round, red to purplish black when ripe, and contains 1 seed each.
The fruits are edible. The young leaves are a commonly used spice in Southeast Asian cuisine that is particularly popular in Indonesia. It has a slightly sour taste. The fresh or dried leaves are added to meat, vegetable and rice dishes, such as curries and stews. In Malaysia, a poultice prepared from leaves, roots, and bark is applied to the skin to provide anti-itch relief. In Indonesia, the leaf infusions and bark extracts are used to treat diarrhea. The dried salam leaves contain about 0.17% essential oil, eugenol and methyl chavicol are important components, ethanolic extracts of the leaves show antifungal and antibacterial activity.
The wood of this species is moderately hard to hard. Its colour varies from pale to pinkish brown. The wood is used to make furniture, as well as building material for home construction.
In the Dutch Indies, a bark infusion was once used to tan fishing nets and dye bamboo mats. The tree is sometimes planted in the understory of tree plantations to inhibit growth of weeds. The leaves are good mulching material because they decompose slowly.
These trees are widely distributed and locally common as an understorey tree in lowland primary and secondary forests, also in thickets, bamboo forest and teak plantations at elevations up to 1300m. These trees are native to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.