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Pemphis acidula


Pemphis acidula J.R. Forst. & G. Forst.

Family Name: Lythraceae
Synonyms: Melanium fruticosum, Lythrum pemphis
Common Name: Pemphis, Shrubby Coral Pemphis, Small-leaved Mangrove, Mentigi, Mentigi Laut, Kabantigi, 水芫花


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Shrub, Tree (Small (6m-15m), Shrubby (1m-5m))
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Shrubby, Irregular
Maximum Height 4 m to 11 m
Tree or Palm – Trunk Diameter 1


Native Distribution East Africa, Indian Ocean islands, Southern China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malesia, Northern Australia, Pacific Ocean islands.
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Coastal Forest), Shoreline (Mangrove Forest, Sandy Beach, Rocky Beach)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Critically Endangered (CR))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a shrub or tree up to 10 m tall, often forming dense thickets along rocky or sandy coasts and fringes of mangroves, and are semi-submerged during high tide.
Foliage Its opposite, shortly-stalked, silvery-green leaves have velvety, fleshy leaf blades that are elliptic-oblong, and 1–3 by 0.3–1 cm.
Flowers Its white or pale-pinked petalled flowers are 1-1.5 cm wide, developing singly or 2–3 in the angles of the leaves.
Fruit Its obovoid fruits are capsules that turn reddish-green to brown when ripe, splitting to release the seeds.
Others - Plant Morphology Popular amongst bonsai enthusiasts for its rugged, gnarled twisted trunk. Species endangered in Sinagpore due to habitat loss. Last wild plant remaining on mainland Singapore is a 4m-tall tree at Changi Point Beach Park. However, it toppled over in a storm in 2006. 
Habitat It grows on rocky or sandy coasts and fringes of mangroves, often submerged during high tide.
Associated Fauna Its flowers are pollinated by insects such as bees.
Cultivation It can be propagated by seeds or stem cuttings.
Etymology Greek Pemphis, swelling, referring to the swollen mature fruits; Latin acidula, sour, which may refer to the taste of the leaves.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Fruits, Edible Leaves
Food (Herb and Spice): Bark and wood mixed with toddy palm and used as baby food in some Pacific Islands. (Fruit & Vegetable): The acidic leaves are edible. Fruits eaten or used as animal feed. 
Medicinal: Bark and flowers used medicinally in Micronesia and Tahiti.
Timber & Products: Extremely hard wood used for house construction, carved implements like tool handles, fish hooks and pounders. 
Others: Scrapped bark yields red dye.  

Landscaping Features

Landscaping Its small leaves look silvery, and the plant is used in bonsai. It is suitable for gardens, or parks as a border or hedge.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Foliage, Ornamental Form
Landscape Uses Coastal, Bonsai, Container Planting, Parks & Gardens, Small Gardens, Beachfront / Shoreline
Thematic Landscaping Rockery / Desert Garden, Naturalistic Garden, Silver Garden
SGMP Treatment

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Bee))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Water, Explosive Dehiscence)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water, Little Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Rootzone Tolerance Well-Drained Soils, Saline Soils / Salt Spray, Dry Soils / Drought
Pruning Prune and re-wire plant every few months if grown as bonsai.
Fertilizing Fertilize regularly to attain maximum growth potential.
Diseases Leaves prone to being attacked by caterpillars. Roots may be prone to nematode infestation, esp. if media used is completely inorganic. Mix crushed shrimp or crab shells into media to treat problem.
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting, Tissue Culture
Propagule Establishment Remarks Cuttings may be planted bare-rooted. Plant sends out new roots quickly when potted in moist growing media.
Maintenance Requirements Remarks If pruned and wired for bonsai purposes, retain some leaves at branch tips, or else branch may die back. For good health, plant prefers to be sprayed with seawater regularly.


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green, Silver / Grey
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery, Thick, Velvety / Furry / Tomentose
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Lanceolate, Elliptical, Oblong)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Cuneate
Typical Foliar Area Nanophyll ( 0.25cm2 - 2.25 cm2 ), Microphyll ( 2.25cm2 - 20.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Dicot)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Stem Type & Modification Woody
Root Type Underground (Tap Root, Fibrous Root)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) White
Flower Grouping Solitary, Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Axillary
Flower Symmetry Radial
Ovary Position Superior / Hypogynous
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Brown
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Dehiscent Dry Fruit , Capsule

Image Repository



Master ID 1018
Species ID 2312
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 15 February 2022.