Singapore Government Logo

A Singapore Government Agency Website

Brucea javanica


Brucea javanica (L.) Merr.

Family Name: Simaroubaceae
Synonyms: Brucea sumatrana Roxb., Brucea amarissima (Lour.) Desv. ex Gomes, Rhus javanica L., Brucea sumatrensis Spreng., Lussa radja Rumph.
Common Name: Lada Pahit, Embalau Padang, Kusum, Melada Pahit, 鸦胆子


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Shrub, Tree
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 10 m


Native Distribution From India, Sri Lanka, Southern China, Southeast Asia and Northern Australia.
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Endangered (EN))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a shrub or small tree, up to 10 m tall.
Foliage Leaves are spirally arranged and imparipinnate. Each leaf about 20 – 50 cm long and comprises of 3 – 15 leaflets. Leaflet is ovate-oblong to ovate-lanceolate (3.5 – 11 cm long and 1.5 – 5 cm wide) with toothed margin. Young leaves have dense hairs on the leaf blade and petiole.
Flowers Flowers occurs as an axillary raceme-like inflorescence. They are small, green-white to green red or purple. Flower is unisexual and each has 4 sepals joined at the base, 4 petals and a thick disc with 4 lobes.
Fruit Fruit is a drupe that occurs in cluster of 1 – 4. It is oval to elliptical shaped (0.4 – 0.7 cm long), slightly 2-ribbed and turns purplish black when ripe. Each fruit bears one seed that is yellow-white.
Habitat It is found in secondary forest, sandy dunes and limestone, up to 900 m altitude.
Associated Fauna The flowers are likely pollinated by insects.
Etymology The genus Brucea commemorates James Bruce (1730 – 1794) a Scottish scholar and explorer. The specific epithet javanica, is named after the island Java, in Indonesia, referring to one of the natural geographical distributions of this species.
Ethnobotanical Uses Medicinal: The seeds and roots are used in traditional Chinese medicine as a bitter concoction to treat dysentery, diarrhoea and fever.  It can also be applied externally as a remedy for warts and corns. In Australia, indigenous people used bark and roots to treat toothache. The plant is rich in naturally occurring quassinoid, which has promising medicinal properties in preliminary studies, ranging from anti-amoebic, antitumor, antimalarial to anti-inflammatory. 

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate


References de Padua, L.S., Bunyapraphatsara, N. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). 1999. Plant Resources of South-East Asia Volume 5 (2). Timber Trees: Minor commercial timbers. Indonesia Prosea Foundation. 655 pages. Leiden: Backhuys Publishers. 

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

Kulip, J. & Wong, K.M. (1995). Simaroubaceae. In: Soepadmo, E. & Wong, K.M. (eds). Tree Flora of Sabah Sarawak, vol. 1, pp. 421–442. Malaysia: Sabah Forestry Department, Forest Research Institute Malaysia, & Sarawak Forestry Department. 

Nooteboom, H.P. (1962) Simaroubaceae. In: Steenis, C.G.G.J. van (ed.), Flora Malesiana. Series 1 Vol. 6. Pp. 193–226.G roningen: Wolters-Noordhoff Publishing.

Image Repository



Master ID 33932
Species ID 8348
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: 18 July 2023.