This tree is now rare in the wild. In Singapore, there were only a few trees at Woodlands Town Garden and the upper reaches of Sungei Seletar. In the past, it was also found in tidal rivers in Balestier plain and Changi. The tree, however, has since been replanted in Sungei Buloh. The tree is usually found in tidal river-banks and creeks with mud banks and is considered the most inland of the Sonneratia species.
Features: Tall tree 5-15m tall. The young branches hang down like those of the weeping willow (Salix babylonica) or angsana (Pterocarpus indicus). Leaves nearly circular or oval (6-8cm), narrow at the base, arranged opposite one another. The leaves have a ‘tidy’ appearance compared to those of Perepat (Sonneratia alba). Flowers with petals narrow and dark red, and many long white stamens that are pink at the base, forming a powder-puff shape. Sepals broadly triangular and yellowish greenish on the inside. The flowers open late in the evening and lasts for one night only. According to Giesen, the night-blooming flowers contain abundant nectar and are pollinated by bats and moths.
Fruit with calyx lobes flat, spreading out horizontally. Conical pneumatophores at first greenish grey with flaky bark that may grow to 2m tall at maturity. Many narrow roots may grow horizontally into the substrate at the base of the pneumatophore.
Human uses: According to Burkill, the young fruit is sour and used to flavour curries and chutnies. When ripe, the fruit have a “cheese-like taste” and is eaten raw or cooked. The pneumatophores are converted into corks for fishing net floats by shaping them and boiling them in water. The timber is not much used as the salt in it rusts iron nails and screws. Medicinal uses include various parts of the fruit for haemorrhage and coughs. According to Giesen, it makes poor timber but is occasionally used in salt-water piling. The pnematophores are used for making wooden soles of shoes.
Status and threats: It is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the Red List of threatened plants of Singapore.