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Cerbera odollam


Cerbera odollam

Family Name: Apocynaceae
Common Name: Pong Pong, Pong-pong, Sea Pong Pong, Yellow-eyed Cerbera, Buta Buta


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

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Growth Form Tree


Native Distribution India to Pacific
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Coastal Forest), Shoreline (Mangrove Forest, Backshore, Sandy Beach)
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Vulnerable (VU))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form A medium-sized tree, up to 12m tall, with a rounded, bushy crown.
Trunk Often knobbly and buttressed, with rough greyish bark.
Foliage Glossy green, narrowly obovate to elliptic, with a short drip-tip. Dying leaves often turn orange before falling off the tree.
Flowers Prominent white flowers with five petals, typical of Apocynaceae family. Flowers have a yellow "eye" in the centre, and are fragrant.
Fruit Smooth, round, apple-like, containing a single large poisonous seeds, surrounded by thick fibrous husk and a papery outer pulp. Ripen from green to reddish purple to brownish-black, before dropping ofrom the tree. Buoyant husk enables fruits to float on water. The thin pulp is eaten by some birds.
Others - Plant Morphology Used extensively in Singapore in the past as a shade tree, but has been slowly phase out due to aggressive roots, and large fallen fruits. Nowadays, it can be found in parks and gardens as an ornamental shade tree.
Associated Fauna King Crow (Euploea phaenareta castelnaui)
Ethnobotanical Uses Cultural / Religious: The seeds contain a toxin called cerberin, which causes cardiac arrest. They have been used for murder or suicide in India (hence its sinister common name, Indian Suicide Tree), as well as in ordeal trials in Madagascar to 'prove' one's innocence.
Others: Seeds have been used as bio-pesticide, insect repellent and rat poison. Bark, leaves and seed oil are used in traditional folk medicine.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Fragrant
Landscape Uses Coastal, Suitable for Roadsides, Beachfront / Shoreline

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate


Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.0 (Tree - Dense Canopy)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) White, Yellow / Golden

Image Repository



Master ID 1507
Species ID 2800
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: 30 May 2023.