Scientific name: Baccaurea parviflora
Family name: Phyllanthaceae
Setambun trees in Taman Tugu
The Setambun tree is an indigenous rainforest tree which is amongst the 4,100 trees added to the Taman Tugu site. This tree was selected in collaboration with Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (“FRIM”) and Malaysian Nature Society (“MNS”) as the fruits from Setambun trees attract birds and mammals such as squirrels and monkeys.
The Setambun tree is a small irregular sized tree that only reaches 6m in height. The greenish-grey to light yellow-brown to brown bark is minutely fissured in strips of 5mm wide and has a papery-feel.
Its stalked oval-shaped leaves are pinkish in colour when young that turns green when mature. Its male and female yellowish-green flowers are borne on separate plants. The scented male flowering clusters are found upright on ring-like burs on the trunk of the tree, whilst the female flowering clusters grow on reddish stalks and are found at the base of the trunk. The Setambun produces edible fruits in strings at the base of the tree which are oblong and pointed. The fruits are dark red to purplish black when ripe and contain 1-3 seeds in a sour pulp.
Timber from the Setambun is hard wood, durable and is commonly used to make small utensils, box-wood, gardening implements and walking sticks.
The bark of this tree is used as dye to colour silk yellow, red or mauve, using the dyeing process known as ‘pekan’ in Malay. It is also good support for the climbing rattan palm, a similar trait with trees that produce their flowers and fruits on the trunk of the tree.
Medicinally, the bark is used to relieve eye inflammation.
These tropical trees grow in primary and secondary forests and are native to Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Myanmar, Thailand, and Singapore.