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Rhodamnia cinerea Jack

Family Name: Myrtaceae
Synonyms: Monoxora spectabilis (Blume) Wight, Myrtus globosa Korth., Myrtus smilacifolia Wall., Rhodamnia concolor (Blume) Miq., Rhodamnia spectabilis (Blume) Blume, Rhodamnia subtriflora BlumeRhodamnia trinervia auct. pro parte, Rhodamnia cinerea var. caudata Ridl. 
Common Name: Silver Back Tree, Mempoyan, Poyan, Empoyan, Mengkoyan, Tempoyan, Lidah Katak Bukit

Rhodamnia cinerea, also known as Silver Back Tree, is a native tree in Singapore. It can reach up to 20 m tall and the leaves have characteristically silvery or grey undersides owing to the minute silky hairs. The wood is used to make firewood, good quality charcoal and for constructing houses.

Full Sun Moderate Water Bird-Attracting Plant Native to Singapore Fruit or Vegetable Suitable for Roadsides Ornamental Flowers Ornamental Leaves Tree


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
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Rounded
Maximum Height 20 m


Native Distribution Myanmar, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Borneo
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Secondary Rainforest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Common)

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a tree, up to 20 m tall with mauve-brown smooth bark.
Foliage Leaves are thin and in opposite arrangement. Each leaf is wedge-shaped (7 – 20 cm long and 2 – 6 cm wide). The leaf has 3 distinct longitudinal veins, and characteristically silvery or grey undersides owing to the minute silky hairs. In some individuals, the leaf blades are green below. The leaf stalk is about 0.7 cm long.
Flowers Flowers are bisexual and occur as clusters of up to 6 at each leaf axils (dichasial). Each flower is small (about 1 cm wide) and comprises of 4 white petals and numerous stamens. It also has hemispherical calyx lobes and a cup-shaped hypanthium (floral receptacle).
Fruits Fruit is round and berry-like (up to 0.8 cm diameter). It turns from green to red, then purple and finally black when ripe. The top of the fruit is crowned by remnants of the sepals. Each fruit contains 4 – 10 (- 25) angular seeds. The seeds are hard and are embedded in the fleshy fruit pulp.
Habitat It is found in secondary forest, on infertile or degraded soil, up to 1000m altitude.
Associated Fauna Its flowers attract many bees. Its seeds are dispersed by bats, birds, squirrels, and monkeys.
Cultivation It can be propagated by seeds, cuttings, and air-layering.
Etymology Greek rhodon, means red; Greek amnion, means the foetal membrane in mammals. The genus epithet Rhodamnia refers to the viscous fluid around the ovules. Latin cinereus, grey-coloured, referring to the colour of the underside of the leaf blade
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts (Edible Fruits)
Food (Fruit & Vegetable : The fresh fruit is edible but astringent. )
Medicinal (

Traditional Medicinal Uses

In Southeast Asia, a poultice of the shoots is used in traditional medicine to treat burn wounds. In Myanmar and Thailand, a decoction of the fruit is also traditionally used to treat ulcers and bleeding gums (Gardner et al. 2018)

It is important to note that some therapeutic effects from traditional medicinal uses of plants are not currently supported or verified by scientific research.

Timber & Products ( The wood is hard and durable. It is used to make firewood, good quality charcoal and also used to build houses and fence posts. The branches are reportedly good for the cultivation of epiphytic orchids. )
[Others]: The bark contains tanning which is used as a black dye and also to strengthen fishing nets.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping It is suitable for parks and streetscapes.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Foliage, Ornamental Flowers
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Poor Infertile Soils, Fertile Loamy Soils
Landscape Uses General, Roadside Tree / Palm, Parks & Gardens, Reforestation

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bird Attracting (Fruits), Bat Food (Fruits)
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 Fast to Moderate
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green, Silver / Grey
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Thin
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Silver / Grey
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Elliptical, Lanceolate)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net, Parallel
Foliar Margin Entire
Foliar Apex - Tip Acuminate
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.0 (Tree - Dense Canopy)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Mature Bark Texture Smooth
Root Type Underground

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality 1 Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) White
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Axillary
Flower Symmetry Radial
Flowering Period A Few Times Yearly
Flowering Opening Time Daytime
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Black
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type 1 Fleshy Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Non-Accessory Fruit
Seed Quantity Per Fruit Moderate (6-10)



Ashton, P.S. (2011). Myrtaceae s.l. In: Soepadmo, E., Saw, L.G., Chung, R.C.K. & Kiew, R. (eds) Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak 7: 87–330. Malaysia: Sabah Forestry Department, Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Sarawak Forestry Department. 

Gardner, S., Sidisunthorn, P., & Chayamarit, K. (2018). Forest Trees of Southern Thailand. Volume 3 (Mo – Z). The Forest Herbarium, Bangkok, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Pp. 1532−2401. Bangkok: Amarin Printing and Publishing Plc. 

Keng, H. (1990). The Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Singapore: Singapore University Press.

Parnell, J.A.N., & Chantaranothai, P. (2002). Myrtaceae. In: Larsen, K. & Santisuk, T. (eds.) Flora of Thailand, vol. 7 (4), pp. 778–914. Bangkok: Prachachon Co. Ltd. 

Image Repository



Master ID 1809
Species ID 3102
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: 25 May 2022.