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Cerbera manghas


Cerbera manghas L.

Family Name: Apocynaceae
Synonyms: Cerbera odollam auct. non Gaertn., Cerbera lactaria auct. non Buch.-Ham. ex Spreng. Odollamia manghas (L.) Raf., Tanghinia manghas (L.) G.Don. 
Common Name: Sea Mango, Pong pong Tree, Pokok Pong Pong, Sea Pong Pong, Pink-eyed Cerbera, Buta Buta, Nyan, Pink-eyed Pong Pong Tree, Tanghin Poison, 海杧果

Cerbera manghas, also known as the Sea Mango, is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 20 m in height. Its pure white flowers are accentuated with a pinkish-red centre and have a mild fragrance. This species is native to Singapore and can be found in the coastal forests of Pulau Semakau and St John’s Island


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

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Tree (Medium (16m-30m))
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Rounded, Oval
Maximum Height 20 m
Tree or Palm – Trunk Diameter 0.6 m


Native Distribution From the Seychelles through eastern Asia and throughout Malesia (including Singapore) to the Pacific islands and northern Australia.
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Coastal Forest), Shoreline (Mangrove Forest, Sandy 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 small evergreen tree with round to oval crown, up to 20 m tall. All parts of the plant exude white, milky latex when cut.
Crown Its crown is rounded or oval in shape.
Trunk Its bark is grey and fissured.
Foliage Its stalked, spirally arranged leaves are simple, elliptic to obovate in shape, 5 - 31 cm long and 1 - 7 cm wide, with a distinct drip tip.
Flowers Its fragrant flowers are salverform, about 6 cm wide, having 5 white lobes attached to a long tube that is 2.5 - 4.5 cm long. The lobes are perpendicular to the tube. The centre of the flower is initially orange-pink, but becomes red to purple with age. Several flowers are arranged together in terminal inflorescences known as cymes.
Fruits Its fruit is large and shaped like an egg or mango, about 5 - 12 cm long. It is hard, shiny and smooth, ripening to red at maturity. The outer part of the fruit is fleshy, while the inner part is fibrous. It is classified as a drupe, because it holds a hard stony pit that contains the seed.
Habitat It grows in coastal forests, and mangrove areas with freshwater input. It occurs locally at Pulau Semakau, Pulau Ubin and St. John's Island.
Similar It resembles another congeneric species, Cerbera odollam, and can be readily told apart by the yellow-centred flowers.
Associated Fauna Its flowers are pollinated by insects. It is the caterpillar host-plant of the King Crow butterfly (Euploea phaenareta castelnaui).
Cultivation It can be propagate by seed or stem cuttings. The plant should be cultivated in sandy soil with good drainage and high humus content. This species is tolerant of salt spray and saline soils.
Etymology Latin Cerbera, after Cerberus, a three-headed dog in Greek and Roman mythology that prevents spirits from escaping Hades, probably referring to the poisonous qualities of the plant. Latin manghas, derived from the Portugese word "manga" which means mango, referring to the mango-shaped fruit.
Ethnobotanical Uses Medicinal ( The leaves and fruits contain cerberin, a toxic chemical that can be fatal if consumed. Some individuals in Samoa use the fruit as a laxative and a component of medicines that are applied externally. The roots and bark can also be used to make a laxative.)
Timber & Products ( The wood may be burned to form a high quality charcoal. It can also be used for carvings and furniture.)
[Others]: In the past, hunters used the latex sap to poison animals. In the Philippines, the toxic seeds are used to stun fish, so they can be easily collected with a net. Oil extracted from the seeds can be used to make candles. 

Landscaping Features

Landscaping It is suitable for planting along streetscapes, parks, gardens and coastal areas for its attractive, white flowers. The compact, round to oval crown provides a neat structural form for formal gardens. The plant is hardy, and is tolerant of hot and high wind environments and saline soils.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Fruits, Fragrant (Flowers)
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Saline Soils / Salt Spray, Fertile Loamy Soils
Landscape Uses Coastal, General, Roadside Tree / Palm, Parks & Gardens, Small Gardens, Beachfront / Shoreline, Shade Providing Tree / Palm

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Caterpillar Food Plant (Leaves, Associated with: Euploea phaenareta castelnaui (C & R Felder, 1865))
Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Water)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery, Papery
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Spiral, Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire
Foliar Apex - Tip Caudate
Foliar Base Acute
Typical Foliar Area Macrophyll ( 182.25cm2 - 1640.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.0 (Tree - Dense Canopy)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality 1 Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) White, Red
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Flower Symmetry Radial
Individual Flower Shape Salverform
Inflorescence Type Cyme

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Red
Mature Fruit Texture(s) Glossy / Shiny
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type 1 Fleshy Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Non-Accessory Fruit

Image Repository



Master ID 1506
Species ID 2799
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: 20 August 2021.