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Sonneratia caseolaris


Sonneratia caseolaris (L.) Engl.

Family Name: Lythraceae
Synonyms: Sonneratia acida, Ammania caseolaris
Common Name: Crabapple Mangrove, Mangrove Apple, Firefly Mangrove, Berembang


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 (Medium (16m-30m)), Aquatic & Hydrophyte (Waterside / Marginal)
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Irregular, Weeping / Pendulous, Open
Maximum Height 5 m to 20 m


Native Distribution From the west coast of India to southern China, tropical Southeast Asia, through the western islands of the Pacific Ocean to New Guinea, and northern Australia
Native Habitat Shoreline (Mangrove Forest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Critically Endangered (CR))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a tree usually up to 15 m tall, occasionally reaching 20 m.
Crown Its branches droop so the crown resembles that of a weeping willow (Salix species).
Trunk Brown to grey and slightly fissured on trunk, Young bark on stems and branches smooth waxy brown.
Roots It has underground roots as well as up to 1.5 m-tall upright, breathing roots (pneumatophores) at its base. 
Foliage Its opposite, shortly-stalked leaves possess leathery leaf blades that vary from oval to drop-shaped. The deep green leaf blades are 4.5–13 by 1.5–7 cm.
Flowers Its flowering shoots bear dark red-petalled flowers that are 1.5 cm wide,  with numerous prominent pinkish-white stamens, filamentous and powderpuff-like when fully open. The flowering shoots are found at leaf angles, or develop at the ends of leafy branches. The flowers open at dusk and last only for 1 night, scented like butter or sour milk, nectar-rich, which attracts and are pollinated by bats. During dawn, it may be be visited by bees and nectivorous birds. 
Fruit Its green fruits are round, leathery berries that are up to 7.5 cm wide. They are seated on a flattened, cup-like structure formed by the persistent sepals. Its buoyant, water-dispersed seeds are irregularly shaped, up to 7 mm long, and embedded in fruit’s fleshy pulp.
Habitat Usually found in deep muddy soils at brackish backwaters of mangroves and upper reaches of tidal rivers with slow-moving water. One of the first mangrove species to colonize riverbank and mudflats in new habitats.
Associated Fauna Host plant for Pteroptyx tener beetle (Malaysian Firefly) which flocks to tree and flashes synchronously at night. Tree's exact relationship with firefly unknown, but Pteroptyx tener is thought to be attracted to the open crown (where the males' mating flashes can be easily seen), and adults apparently feed on either the tree's sap, young leaves, flower nectar or scale insects specific to the tree, while the amphibious carnivorous larvae nest in the undergrowth vegetation below tree, feeding on aquatic snails (Cyclotropis carinata) and nematodes. Tree's leaves form main source of food for Nasalis larvatus (Proboscis Monkey). Its flowers are visited by fruit bats, honeybirds, and large night-moths. It is the preferred local food plant for caterpillars of the moths Indarbela quadrinotata, Lymantria lepcha, Suana concolor, Trabala irrorata, and Trabala vishnou.
Cultivation It is propagated by seed.
Etymology Latin Sonneratia, after Pierre Sonnerat (1749–1841), French botanist and explorer; Latin caseolaris, small cheese, referring to this species’ distinctive rounded shape of the fruit
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Fruits, Edible Leaves, Edible Flowers
Food (Fruit & Vegetable): Young leaves eaten raw or cooked. Sour young fruits used to make vinegar, and as flavouring in chutneys and curries. Mature fruits eaten raw or cooked, said to taste like cheese. Fruit pectin extracted to make clear jelly. (Herb and Spice)
Medicinal: Varrious folk remedies. Fermented fruit juice used to arrest haemorrhage. Juice from flowers treats blood in urine. Wall of old fruit given as vermifuge against intestinal worms. Juice of semi-ripe fruit used to treat coughs. Poultices made from fruits treat sprains and swellings. Pounded leaves used to treat smallpox.
Timber & Products: Pest-resistant heavy timber used in construction, boat-building, for bridges, posts and poles. But wood tends to corrode metal due to naturally high mineral content. Pneumatophore roots dried and used as corks and fishing-floats.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping The tree is rather attractive with a crown of drooping branches that resemble the crown of a weeping willow. Its tolerance for waterlogged conditions, both freshwater or brackish means that it can also be grown along tidal river banks, ponds, or reservoirs like a weeping willow, so is a good native-plant substitute for the latter. It has attractive red flowers that open at dusk, giving off a smell of sour milk that lasts for one night.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Fragrant (Flowers) (Day, Night, Dawn / Dusk), Ornamental Form
Landscape Uses Coastal, Riverine, Beachfront / Shoreline, Pond / Lake / River, Marsh / Bog
Thematic Landscaping Water Garden, Naturalistic Garden
SGMP Treatment
Plant & Rootzone Preference or Tolerance Remarks Plant is native to brackish backwaters of mangroves and upper sections of tidal rivers.

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bird Attracting (Flowers), Caterpillar Moth Food Plant (Leaves)
Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Vertebrates (Bat), Associated with: Pollinators: Dawn Bat (Eonycteris spelaea), Common Long-tailed Bat (Macroglossus minimus), Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bat (Cynopterus brachyotis) -- same pollinators for durians, bananas and papayas., Insects (Butterfly, Moth), Insects (Bee))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Lots of Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Waterlogged Soils (Drains Site, Does not Drain Site), Saline Soils / Salt Spray, Fertile Loamy Soils
Maintenance Requirements Low
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery
Foliar Modification Salt Excreting
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Obovate, Elliptical, Oval)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Acute
Typical Foliar Area Notophyll ( 20.25cm2 - 45 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.0 (Tree - Intermediate Canopy)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Branch Angle (wrt vertical) Horizontal
Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Bark Colour(s) Gray
Mature Bark Texture Cracked, Plated
Stem Type & Modification Woody
Root Type Aboveground (Pneumatophore / Pencil Root), Underground
Mature Bark Texture Remarks Young bark is waxy and smooth.

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Pink, Red, White
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Axillary, Terminal
Flowering Period Free-Flowering
Flowering Opening Time Night (dusk to dawn)
Flower Lifespan on Plant 1 Night
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Brown, Green
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Fleshy Fruit , Berry
Seed Description Irregularly shaped, buoyant.
Seed Quantity Per Fruit Numerous (>20)

Image Repository



Master ID 17791
Species ID 3343
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: 17 August 2022.