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Neonauclea pallida (Reinw. ex Havil.) Bakh.f. subsp. pallida

Family Name: Rubiaceae
Synonyms: Nauclea sumatrana, Nauclea lanceolata var. longifolia
Full Sun Moderate Water Herb or Spice Ornamental Flowers Ornamental Leaves Shrub Tree


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Infraspecific Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Tree (Small (6m-15m), Shrubby (1m-5m)), Shrub
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Shrubby
Maximum Height 2 m to 7 m


Native Distribution Andaman Islands, Myanmar, Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Borneo)
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Riverine)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Woody rheophytic shrub or small tree, typically 7m tall (when grown as tree), sometimes reaching 10m height in the wild. Atypically non-myrmecophytic (having symbiotic relations with ants), unlike other Neonauclea species.
Foliage Narrowly elliptical to lanceolate, 10-20cm long by 3-6cm wide, arranged in opposite pairs, with acuminate to cuspidate tips and cuneate bases, glabrous, medium green on adaxial (upper) surface, pale green on abaxial (lower) side, with 6-12 pairs of lateral veins. Terminal foliar-buds characteristically enclosed within a pair of ovate and strongly-flattened stipules. Young leaves glossy dark green, especially when viewed from underside. Petioles (leaf stalks) 1.0-2.5cm long, slightly winged.
Flowers Small, whitish to pale yellowish-to-greenish white, each with 5 joined petals, numerous and densely crowded into globose inflorescence heads, ovaries closely-spaced but not fused. Inflorescences terminal, solitary, 2.5 - 4.0cm acoss, lacking in interfloral bracteoles, with "hairy' appearance due to exserted stamens (6-12mm long). Young inflorescence heads green, resembling small spiky balls, enclosed within a pair of enlarged stipules modifled into conspicuous pubescent greenish (often tinged red) bracts that fall off quickly. Flowers primarily pollinated by pyralid moths, but also visited by various other moth, beetle and stingless bee species. Blooming appears to occur annually in Singapore, between the months of March and May.
Fruits Individual fruitlets capsular, small (8-10mm long), topped by persistent basal calyx remnants, closely clustered into globose fruiting heads 2.0-2.5cm across, ripening to brown and splitting to disperse numerous seeds. Seeds tiny, ellipsoidal, slightly flattened on lateral end, shortly-winged on both sides.
Others - Plant Morphology Bark: Greyish-brown to blackish-brown, smooth. Stipules: Prominent, ovate to elliptical, 15-25mm long by 6-10mm wide, pale green, keeled in the centre, pubescent at base, occuring on both sides of leaf petioles, transient and soon falling off, usually present on the 3 youngest nodes only.
Habitat Riparian, occuring along rivers, streams and near waterfalls, usually growing at lowland alluvial and rocky sites exposed to seasonal innudation.
Similar Resembles Neonauclea pallida (Hooded Bur-Flower) and Neonauclea pallida ssp. malaccensis, both of which are differentiated by the presence of bright green interfloral bracteoles in between their flowers. Also bears strong resemblance to various members from the Nauclea genus (eg. Nauclea subtida, whose ovaries are fused and whose 1cm-diameter inflorescences occur in heads of 2-3), Adina genus (eg. Adina pilulifera, which has branched inflorescence heads) and Cephalanthus genus -- of which Cephalanthus occidentalis (Common Buttonbush) is the most commonly used in temperate horticulture.
Cultivation If grown as hedge, prune periodically to maintain size and form. Tolerates waterlogged soils and occasional flooding. Propagate by seeds and air-layering of stems.
Etymology Genus epithet Neonauclea derived from Greek terms of 'neo' (new) and the genus Nauclea -- which in turn is derived from the Greek 'naus' (ship) and 'kleio' (to shut, confine), or alternatively from the Latin 'naucula' (a little ship) -- probably describing the boat-shaped halves of the plant's fruit capsules. 'New' in this case refers to taxonomic reclassifications in the Nauclea genus due to morphological and genetic reassessements. Species and subspecies epithet pallida means 'pale' or 'pallid', a reference to the colour of the inflorescences.
Ethnobotanical Uses Food (Herb and Spice)
[Others]: In Indonesia, leaves of species form are used externally to promote urination. Medicinal properties (if any) may also be present in this closely-related subspecies.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Foliage, Ornamental Flowers
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Waterlogged Soils (Drains Site)
Landscape Uses Riverine, Flowerbed / Border, Hedge / Screening
Thematic Landscaping Naturalistic Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Butterfly, Moth), Insects (Ant, Beetle, Fly, Thrip, Wasp))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Explosive Dehiscence)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Pruning if grown as hedge, prune periodically to maintain size.
Propagation Method Seed, Air-Layering


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth, Raised / Sunken Veins, Thin
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Ovate, Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire
Foliar Apex - Tip Cuspidate, Acuminate
Foliar Base Cuneate
Typical Foliar Area Notophyll ( 20.25cm2 - 45 cm2 )
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Remarks Glossy Dark Green

Non - Foliar and Storage

Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Bark Colour(s) Greyish-brown to blackish-brown
Mature Bark Texture Smooth
Stem Type & Modification Woody
Root Type Underground (Tap Root, Fibrous Root)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality 1 Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Cream / Off-White, White
Flower Symmetry Radial
Flower Size - Remarks Inflorescence heads 25-40mm in diameter
Inflorescence Type Head / Capitulum
Flowering Habit Polycarpic
Flowering Period Remarks Yearly, around April

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Brown
Fruit Classification Aggregate Fruit (Syncarp)
Fruit Type 1 Dehiscent Dry Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Capsule

Image Repository



Master ID 29441
Species ID 3750
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: 19 October 2022.