Scientific name: Cyrtophyllum fragrans
Family name: Gentianaceae
Tembusu trees in Taman Tugu
Tembusu trees that are native in Taman Tugu are one of the more dominant hard word species with 13 mature trees located within our forest. The trunk diameter for one of the Tembusu tree is 190cm, which is considered rare even in virgin primary forests. These trees are one of the oldest trees on site estimated to be between 80 – 90 years, standing at 30 – 40m in height.
The Tembusu tree is a slow-growing, large, evergreen tree that can grow up to 55m. The crown of the tree is conical when young and becomes lofty and irregular as the tree matures. The trunk is unique in the sense that it has distinctive dark brown fissured bark and is usually fluted or with buttresses up to 2.5m high. Its opposite, stalked leaves have thinly leathery to leathery leaf blades that are usually elliptic and are distinctly tipped.
The flowers are bisexual and develop in 4–12cm wide flowering clusters at the leaf axils. The creamy white flowers turn yellow with age and are strongly fragrant especially in the late evenings. The fruits are berries that are broadly ellipsoid or round, tipped, green turning orange or red.
The medium-weight, hard, extremely durable timber is long-lasting and resistant to termites. It is used in various construction projects, such as bridges, boats, railway sleepers, paneling, posts for electric and telephone lines, barrels, amongst others. The wood is so hard that the Malays in metaphor compare a hard heart to it. The wood yields a very high-quality fuel wood and charcoal. The latex found under the skin of the fruits is often used as an adhesive.
Medicinally, the bark can be made into a decoction to alleviate fever, malaria, and to treat dysentery. The leaves and twigs can be made into a decoction to be drunk for treating severe diarrhea. The Tembusu is planted in reforestation and soil stabilisation programmes.
Tembusu trees are tropical tree that grows in evergreen or mixed deciduous forests, including secondary vegetation, grass fields, open and swampy lowlands, along roads, and beaches, up to 800 m altitude. The trees are native to Malaysia, the rest of Southeast Asia, Northern India, Bengal, Andaman Islands, and New Guinea.