Singapore Government Logo

A Singapore Government Agency Website


Intsia palembanica Miq.

Family Name: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Common Name: Merbau, Malacca Teak, Borneo Teak
Full Sun: 6-8h Semi-Shade Moderate Water Native to Singapore Fruit & Vegetable Tree


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 50 m


Native Distribution India, Thailand, Sumatra, Malaysia, Singapore, and Borneo
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest, Secondary Rainforest, Coastal Forest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Critically Endangered (CR))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a tree up to 50 m tall, with pinkish-grey bark that is shallowly marked with small, thin, roundish scaling pieces. 
Roots Its buttresses, when present, can be up to 4 m tall.
Foliage Its alternate, stalked, pinnate leaves usually have 4 pairs of opposite leaflets. Its leaflets have thickly leathery blades that are usually egg-shaped or oval and 3–19 by 3–11 cm. The blade tips are sometimes slightly notched.
Flowers Its flowering shoot is up to 10 cm long, with pale yellowish flowers.
Fruits Its smooth fruits are brown or black when ripe, 15–40 by 5.5–9 cm, and contain several seeds. Its flat seeds are thick and 3–4.5 by 1.5–3 cm.
Habitat It grows in coastal regions, and inland lowland forests, up to 850 m altitude. It occurs locally in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
Associated Fauna Its flowers are insect-pollinated. It is also the preferred local food plant for caterpillars of the moth, Cossus chloratus.
Cultivation It can be propagated by seed.
Etymology Latin intsia, from the Indian name for Acacia intsia; Latin palembanica, from Palembang, Sumatra, referring to one locality in the natural distribution of this species
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts (Edible Seeds)
Food (Fruit & Vegetable : The young seeds are edible.)
Medicinal ( The bark and leaves are used medicinally. )
Timber & Products ( The wood is the main source of the commercial timber known as merbau. )
[Others]: The wood and bark produces various brown and yellow dyes. 

Landscaping Features

Landscaping It is suitable for planting in parks.
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Fertile Loamy Soils
Landscape Uses General, Parks & Gardens

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun, Semi-Shade
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Propagation Method Seed


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery, Thick
Foliar Type Compound (Even-Pinnate)
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage
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 1 Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Cream / Off-White, Yellow / Golden
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Axillary

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Black, Brown
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type 1 Dehiscent Dry Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Legume / Pod

Image Repository



Master ID 1679
Species ID 2972
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: 26 August 2021.