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Derris trifoliata Lour.

Family Name: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Synonyms: Derris uliginosa (Roxb. ex Willd.) Benth.
Common Name: Common Derris, Ketui, Salang, Selang, Setui, 鱼藤
Full Sun: 6-8h Moderate Water Caterpillar Food Plant Native to Singapore Coastal Ornamental Flowers Climber, Vine and Liana


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
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Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Climber, Vine & Liana
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Irregular
Maximum Height 15 m


Native Distribution In coastal mangrove forests from east Africa to subtropical and tropical Asia (including Singapore), to Australia.
Native Habitat Shoreline (Mangrove Forest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Common)

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is an erect shrub up to 2 m tall, or a woody climber up to 15 m long.
Foliage Its stalked, pinnate leaves consist of 3–7 leaflets. Its opposite, stalked leaflets have leathery leaf blades that are egg- to lance-shaped or oval, and 3–18 by 1.5–9 cm, with gradually, narrowing tips.
Flowers Its flowers are about 9–12 mm long, with cream-white to lavender or pinkish petals. The few to numerous flowers are clustered on the side branches of its flowering shoots. These shoots develop from the leaf axils, or the ends of leafy twigs.
Fruits Its disc-like fruits are 1 or 2-seeded, 3–5.5 by 2–3.7 cm, rounded on the lower side, and narrowly winged on the upper side. Its brown seeds are compressed, wrinkled, kidney-shaped, and 1.5–2.4 by 1–2 cm.
Habitat It grows in mangrove forests. It occurs locally in Sembawang, the Western Catchment area, Pulau Ubin, and Pulau Tekong.
Associated Fauna Its flowers are insect-pollinated. It is also the preferred local food plant for caterpillars of the dark caerulean butterfly (Jamides bochus nabonassar), the adult of which lays its eggs in the space between the flower buds, or in the spaces between the flower stalks and the axis of the flowering shoot.
Cultivation It can be propagated by seed.
Etymology Greek derris, a leather covering, possibly referring to the tough seed pods; Latin trifoliata, with 3 leaves, referring to the species’ leaflets.
Ethnobotanical Uses [Others]: The plant has horticultural potential for its attractive pea-like flowers, and coin-like fruits. The leaves are sometimes fed to cattle and other livestock. The plant is used medicinally, and as fish poison.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping It may be suitable for parks, growing over trellises or pergolas.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Moist Soils, Waterlogged Soils
Landscape Uses General, Parks & Gardens, Small Gardens, Coastal, Beachfront / Shoreline, Vertical Greenery / Green Wall
Thematic Landscaping Butterfly Garden
Species record last updated on: 20 August 2021.