Saturday, January 29, 2011

Erythropalum scandens: A most royal liana

Erythropalum scandens is a relatively uncommon liana in Singapore's rain forest today. Kulim (last photo below) and Petaling are some of the more illustrious local trees related to it in the family Olacaceae. Even if you do not know these trees, you probably heard of them by their namesake Malaysian towns. Littoral Hog Plum (Ximenia americana) - another family member - might ring a bell too.

Erythropalum scandens is a slender liana with fruits so showy as to make any keen gardener envious and eager for garden introduction. The fruit is actually a drupe enveloped entirely by an olive-green calyx which splits and recurves into irregular segments to reveal an electric burst of colours when ripe.

The inside of the calyx is a screaming red carpet upon which the royal indigo-blue seed sits like a resplendent king for all in audience to bow with adoration. Dangling freely as they do from boughs on high, I am disposed to think they attract winged creatures such as bats and birds for dispersal.

The liana climbs by peculiar tendrils which may either be singularly or doubly fashioned.

Fallen seeds expelled on the forest floor minus the coats. They reminded me of the proverbially-vain king adorned with an 'invisible coat', too proud to acknowledge his nakedness (Haha).

Note: The young leaves are known to be eaten by the Kammu Tribes.

Leaf and trunk of the garlic-smelling Kulim Tree (Scorodocarpus borneensis).

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