green almond-shaped fruit turns red to purple when ripe. The seeds are dispersed
by water. The smooth outer skin covers an inner layer of corky fibres which
surround the nut. This shell helps the fruit to float.
Indian/Tropical Almond, Ketapang/Lingtak
colourful Sea Almond Tree is among the most common trees in our region,
growing wild as well as cultivated as a popular wayside tree.
The tree has a characteristic pagoda shape because it sends out a
single stem from the top centre. When the single stem reaches a good
height, it sends out several horizontal branches. This fast-growing
tree grows on sandy shores.
The leaves form a rosette and are found only at the end of a branch.
During the dry season, the leaves turn into autumn colours of red,
copper, gold. The tree usually sheds all its leaves twice a year in
January-February and July-August. The tree first drops its leaves
when it reaches 3-4 years old.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Mangrove associate. Pagoda-shaped, grows
to 25-30m. Spreading, coarse-leafed crown.
Bark: Grey, fissured, flaky but not ridged.
Leaves: Large, simple; changes colours before they
Flowers: Small, greenish-white in short elongated
clusters, appearing on upper leaf axils. Described as
having a foetid smell. The 1-9 flowers on the tip are
female, the rest male. Or the whole spike male.
Fruits: Almond-shaped, green
turning brown fibrous shell surrounding an edible nut.
Status in Singapore: Common
wild and wayside tree.
World distribution: On rocky
or sandy coasts of the Indo-Pacific Oceans.
Classification: Family Combretaceae.
World 1 mangrove associated species.
Uses as food: The nuts are edible, taste
like almonds and are eaten, although the flesh is troublesome to separate
from the hard stone (Malays and some Pacific islanders). Unlike the commercial
almond, the Sea Almond can be eaten raw. Oil extracted from the dried nuts
is edible and used in cooking (South America).
Other uses: Its timber is not widely
used, but in some places where other suitable timber is lacking (e.g., islands),
it is made into heavy-duty items like carts, wheels and posts. Tannin and
a black dye can be extracted from the bark, leaves and fruit. In Singapore,
it is a common wayside tree, planted to provide colour and shade.
Traditional medicinal uses:
Leaves, bark and fruits: dysentery (Southeast
Asia); dressing of rheumatic joints (Indonesia, India).
Fruits and bark: coughs (Samoa), asthma
Fruits: leprosy, headaches (India),
Ripe fruits: travel nausea (Mexico)
Leaves: get rid of intestinal
parasites (Philippines); treat eye problems, rheumatism, wounds (Samoa);
stop bleeding during teeth extraction (Mexico), fallen leaves used to treat
liver diseases (Taiwan), young leaves for colic (South America).
Juice of leaves: scabies, skin diseases,
leprosy (India, Pakistan)
Bark: throat and mouth problems, stomach
upsets and diarrhoea (Samoa); fever, dysentery (Brazil).
Modern research has identified some properties which could be used to treat
high blood pressure.
in the habitat: Various species of biting and stinging ants have
been found inhabiting hollow twigs of the tree. While the tree provides
these creatures with a home, the ants in turn may protect the tree from
insect predators. Fruit bats eat the husk of the fruit.
- Ivan Polunin,
"Plants and Flowers of Singapore", Times Editions,
1987 (p. 116: description, habitat, distribution, photo).
- Wee Yeow Chin,
"A Guide to the Wayside Trees of Singapore", Singapore
Science Centre, 1989 (p. 86-87: description, habitat, photo).
- Wee Yeow Chin,
"A Guide to Medicinal Plants", Singapore Science Centre,
1992 (p. 146: description, chemical compounds, uses, photo).
- E J H Corner,
"Wayside Trees of Malaya: Vol 1", The Malayan Nature
Society, 4th ed., 1997 (p.217-218: description, habitat, distribution).
- Dr E Soepadmo
(ed.), "The Encyclopaedia of Malaysia: Plants", Editions
Didier Millet, 1998 (p. 16: seasonality).