Singapore Government Logo

A Singapore Government Agency Website

Palaquium obovatum var. obovatum


Palaquium obovatum (Griff.) Engl. var. obovatum

Family Name: Sapotaceae
Common Name: Nyatoh Puteh, White Gutta, Nyatoh Putih, Nyatuh, Taban Puteh, Taban Balam Kuning


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Infraspecific 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 40 m


Native Distribution From India to Myanmar, Thailand, Indochina, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, and Borneo
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest, Secondary Rainforest, Coastal Forest, Freshwater Swamp Forest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Vulnerable (VU))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a tree up to 40 m tall with a rather cylindric crown. It produces sticky, copious latex.
Foliage Its spirally arranged, long-stalked leaves have almost leathery leaf blades that are usually drop-shaped, 14–30 by 6.4–15 cm, and characteristically dark brown when dried.
Flowers Its stalked flowers are 1–2 cm long, covered with brownish hairs, and found along the twigs behind the leaves. The flowers emit a strong smell of musang, sour milk and burnt sugar.
Fruit Its fruits are round, up to 2.5–3 cm wide, and contain 1–2 seeds. Its seeds are compressed oval and up to 2 by 1.8 cm.
Habitat It usually grows in limestone forests, and other types of lowland forests. It occurs locally along the Dragon Trail (Sentosa), in Nee Soon Swamp Forest, Lazarus Island, and Pulau Pawai.
Associated Fauna Its flowers are insect-pollinated. It is also the preferred local food plant for caterpillars of the butterfly, the Malay viscount (Tanaecia pelea pelea), the adult of which usually lays its eggs at the centre of the underside of the mature leaf blade.
Cultivation It can be propagated by seed.
Etymology Latin Palaquium, from the Filipino name of the plant, palak-palak; Latin obovatum, obovate or drop-shaped, referring to the shape of the leaf blades
Ethnobotanical Uses Timber & Products: The timber is durable under water, and so used in building houses and planking boats. 
Cultural / Religious: Heritage Tree :                                                                                                                            There are currently three individuals of Palaquium obovatum listed as Heritage Trees in Singapore. One can be found on Sentosa and two at Singapore Botanic Gardens. To find out more about these trees, please visit the Heritage Tree Register.
Others: A low quality form of natural rubber was also made using the latex produced.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping It may be suitable for parks and roadsides.
Desirable Plant Features Fragrant (Flowers)
Landscape Uses General, Roadside Tree / Palm, Parks & Gardens, Small Gardens, Coastal

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Caterpillar Food Plant (Leaves)
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, Fertile Loamy Soils


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate, Spiral
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Obovate)
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) Brown, Cream / Off-White
Flower Texture(s) Hairy / Hirsute
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Cauliflorous

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Fleshy Fruit

Image Repository



Master ID 1755
Species ID 3048
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: 03 November 2022.