The tree grows further inland usually at the high water mark. It can grow
in both stony and muddy ground. The tree can tolerate dry and salty conditions.
It grows quickly in open areas, but can also survive in shade.
Milky Mangrove, Buta Buta (Malay),
The milky sap of this tree can cause temporary blindness if it enters
the eyes, hence is common name in English and Malay. The sap can also
cause skin blisters and irritation.
Each tree bears either male or female flowers. So when they are in
bloom, the trees can look confusingly different! The flowers are wind
The young leaves are pinkish. Old leaves turn bright red when they
are about to drop off.
The fruit capsules explode when ripe to disperse the seeds by water.
The seeds have an air space within the seed coat to help them float.
They don't germinate on the parent tree.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Grows 14-20m tall.
Bark: grey, rough covered
with brown corky pores.
Leaves: 6-10cm long, pointed
tips. Old leaves turn bright red.
Flowers: Tiny flowers in
spikes. Male and female flowers occur in separate trees.
Fruit: Small, round, in clusters.
Status in Singapore: Rare.
World distribution: Africa,
across the Asian subcontinent to Japan, Southeast Asia
to Australia and the Pacific Islands.
Classification: Family Euphorbiaceae.
World 2 mangrove species.
Natives in New Guinea use the sap as an ingredient in arrow poison. The
sap is also used to stun fish. The timber is soft, white, light with a fine
grain and rots quickly. Nevertheless, in Bangladesh, the tree is an important
source of cheap planks, matches and matchboxes, and pulp for paper. The
timber is easily transported by water as it floats. It is also used as firewood
and converted into charcoal.
Traditional medicinal uses: The plant
is used to treat sores and stings from marine creatures. Smoke from the
bark is used to treat leprosy. The plant is being tested for modern medical
uses. Modern clinical trials show that the plant may have anti-HIV, anti-cancer,
anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
Role in the habitat: Like other mangrove
trees, they help stabilise the ground and provide shelter and food for small
creatures. For more, see mangrove trees.
- Peter K L Ng and
N Sivasothi, "A Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore I: The Ecosystem
and Plant Diversity", Singapore Science Centre, 1999 (p. 111-112:
description, habit, photo).
- Colin Field, "Journey
Amongst Mangroves", ISME, 1995 (p. 26: description, photo).
- Michael Mastaller,
"Mangroves: The Forgotten Forest Between Land and Sea",
Tropical Press, 1997 (p. 97-98, 102: medicinal uses and other uses).