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Cyrtophyllum fragrans


Cyrtophyllum fragrans (Roxb.) DC.

Family Name: Gentianaceae
Synonyms: Fagraea fragrans Roxb.
Common Name: Tembusu, Tembusu Hutan, Tembusu Tembaga, Common Tembusu, Temusu, Temensu, Temesu, Semesu, Anan, Tembusu-padang, Ironwood, 香灰莉


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 Tree (Big (>30m))
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Irregular
Maximum Height 30 m


Native Distribution Northeast India to Southeast Asia
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest, Secondary Rainforest, Monsoon Forest, Coastal Forest, Freshwater Swamp Forest, Disturbed Area / Open Ground)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Least Concern (LC))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a tree up to 30 m tall, with deeply fissured bark, and with buttress roots up to 2.5 m tall.
Foliage Its opposite, stalked leaves have thinly leathery to leathery leaf blades that are usually elliptic, distinctly tipped, and 5–13 by 2–5.5 cm.
Flowers Its flowers are bisexual, and develop in 4–12 cm wide flowering clusters (inflorescence) that develop at the leaf axils. Its flowers are cream-white turning yellow, fragrant, and about 2 cm across.
Fruit Its fruits are berries that are broadly ellipsoid or round, tipped, green turning orange or red, and are 4.5–10 mm across. Its seeds are 1–2 mm across.
Habitat It grows in evergreen or mixed deciduous forests, including secondary vegetation, and also in grass fields, open and swampy lowlands, along roads, and beaches, up to 800 m altitude. It is can be found locally in Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Kent Ridge, and Pulau Ubin.
Associated Fauna Its flowers are visited by butterflies of the Hesperidae family, and moths, such as the humming-bird hawk-moths (Macroglossa luteata and Macroglossa insipid). The fruits and seeds are eaten and dispersed by bats, Pteropus edulis and Cynopterus species, and birds, such as Asian Glossy Starling, Daurian Starling, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Jambu Fruit Dove, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Olive-winged Bulbul, Black-naped Oriole, Coppersmith Barbet, Asian Koel, Straw-headed Bulbul, Blue-winged Leafbird and Cinereous Bulbul
Cultivation This slow-growing species can live to be more than 100 years old. It is tolerant of waterlogged soils and usually resistant to pests and diseases.
Etymology Greek Cyrtophyllum, curved leaf. Latin fragrans, fragrant, referring to the plant’s flowers
Ethnobotanical Uses Medicinal: The bark can be made into a decoction to alleviate fever and to treat dysentery. The leaves and twigs can be made into a decoction to be drunk for treating severe diarrhoea.
Timber & Products: The strong timber is long-lasting and resistant to termites. It is used in various construction projects, such as bridges, boats and panelling. In Singapore, large wooden chopping boards used by hawkers are sometimes made from Tembusu timber.
Cultural / Religious: The back of the Singapore 5-dollar note features a Tembusu tree. This tree is located in Singapore Botanic Gardens in Lawn E near the Botany Centre. Heritage Tree :            There are 8 individuals of Cyrtophyllum fragrans listed as Heritage Trees in Singapore. They are found all over various parts of Singapore. To find out more about these trees, please visit the Heritage Tree Register.
Others: It is cultivated as an ornamental plant, and planted for shade along roads. The tree is used in reforestation.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping It can be planted along roads or in gardens for shade, its attractive fragrant flowers, and red berries that would attract bats and birds.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Fragrant (Flowers) (Night)
Landscape Uses Roadside Tree / Palm, General, Parks & Gardens, Riverine, Shade Providing Tree / Palm, Reforestation
Thematic Landscaping Fragrant / Aromatherapy Garden, Bird & Wildlife Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bird Attracting, Butterfly Food Plant, Bat Food
Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Biotic (Fauna)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Rootzone Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Poor Infertile Soils, Fertile Loamy Soils
Transplanting Tolerance Good
Maintenance Requirements Low
Propagation Method Seed


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery, Thin
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.0 (Tree - Intermediate Canopy)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) White, Orange, Cream / Off-White, Yellow / Golden
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Axillary
Flower Symmetry Radial
Flower Transitional Changes Colour
Flowering Period A Few Times Yearly
Flowering Calendar May, Jun, Oct, Nov

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Red
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Fleshy Fruit , Non-Accessory Fruit
Fruiting Calendar - Angiosperm and Higher Non-Angiosperm Jun, Jul, Nov, Dec

Image Repository



Master ID 1602
Species ID 2895
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: 18 February 2022.