The heavy timber is resistant to shipworm and pests and is used for building
boats, piling and posts for bridges and houses. However,
the wood corrodes metal, probably because of the timber's high mineral content.
The pneumatophores are made into floats for fishing nets. Because Sonneratia
species regenerate branches easily from their trunk, it is possible
to harvest branches without hurting the tree and maintain mangroves for
such harvests (called coppicing). Sonneratia is among the few used
in replanting mangroves to protect coastlines (the others are Avicennia
have thick cone-shaped pneumatophores. They use ultrafiltration at
the root level to exclude salt. Sonneratia alba can tolerate
wide fluctuations in salinity and often grow on exposed, soft but
stable mudbanks low on the tidal mudflats. It is believed that they
store excess salt in old leaves which they later shed.
The bark of young Sonneratia is covered with a layer of wax,
probably to protect it against water loss and attacks by creatures
great and small.
Uses as food: Leaves may be eaten raw or cooked. The ripe
fruit are eaten by people from Africa to the Malays and Javanese,
and are said to taste like cheese. In Eastern Africa the leaves are
used a camel fodder.
Other uses: Sonneratia
is used for firewood, but is not the preferred mangrove tree for this
purpose. Although it produces a lot of heat, it also produces a lot
of ash and salt.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Grows up to 15m tall.
Bark: Cream, grey to brown
bark, slight vertical fissures.
Roots: No buttresses or prop
roots. Has pneumatophores that are cone-shaped (unlike
the pencil-like ones of Avicennia).
Leaves: Rounded, leathery,
opposite, upper and underside of leaf similar.
Flower: White, pom-pom-like,
open only for one night.
Fruit: Large (4 cm) green,
leathery berries with a star-shaped base. Contains 100-150
tiny seeds that are white, flattened and buoyant.
Status in Singapore: More
common in suitable habitats than other Sonneratia
World distribution: S.
alba is the most widespread of the Sonneratia.
They are found from East Africa through the Indian subcontinent,
Southeast Asia, northern Australia, Borneo and Pacific
Classification: Family Sonneratiaceae.
World 6 mangrove species.
Traditional medicinal uses: Sonneratia
caseolaris is used in poultices for cuts, bruises (Burma) and sprains
and swellings. Ripe fruit are used to expel intestinal parasites (Malay)
and half-ripe fruit for coughs.
Durian flowers, like most
are also pom-pom shaped!
durians without Sonneratia? The fragrant, night-blooming
Sonneratia flowers are pollinated mainly by the Dawn Bat (Eonycteris
spelaea), the Common Long-tailed Bat (Macroglossus minimus),
and the Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bat (Cynopterus brachyotis).
These bats feed on nectar and pollen of flowers and rely mainly on
Sonneratia for sustenance. The Dawn Bat in particular,
prefers Sonneratia. They
are the same bats that pollinate commercially important crops such
as durians, bananas and papayas. Thus, without the Sonneratia,
there would be less of these favourite fruits!
Role in the habitat: Many mangrove creatures
and plants depend on Sonneratia. They are the host trees of the fireflies
(Pteroptyx tener) that perform spectacular synchronised flashing
along the Selangor River in Malaysia. Sonneratia leaves make up the
bulk of the food eaten by the fascinating Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus)
of Borneo. Other insects and small creatures also feed on their leaves and
other parts. Being among the first trees to grow low on the tidal mudflats,
Sonneratia stabilise the riverbanks and coasts, providing more favourable
ground for other types of trees and plants. For more on the general role,
see mangrove trees.
between bats, durians and Sonneratia ...
- 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. 136-137:
description, habit, photo, uses).
- Colin Field, "Journey
among Mangroves", International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems,
1995 (p.116: use in replanting mangroves).
- Michael Mastaller,
"Mangroves: The Forgotten Forest Between Land and Sea",
Tropical Press, 1997 (p. 25: about bark of young Sonneratia;
p. 102: uses of the wood; p. 73: fireflies; p. 79: Proboscis Monkey;
p. 80-81: pollination by bats).