A large evergreen tree that can grow up to 30 m in height. Crown is conical when the tree is young, and becomes lofty and irregular as the tree matures. Trunk has distinctive dark brown fissured bark. Leaves are simple, light green in colour, 5-8cm long. Flowers are creamy white, turning yellow with age, strongly fragrant especially in the late evenings. Fruits are tiny red berries. They take more than three months to mature. Native to Singapore, Northeast India to Southeast Asia.
It was recorded that in the past when they were numerous, the Malayan Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus) fed on the berries of the Tembusu in season. The skins and minute seeds were disgorged in red splashes. From these minute, ejected grains, the big trees slowly develop. Other than bats and birds, the berries were too bitter to be relished by other animals. The wood was extremely durable and resistant to termite attack, making it highly suitable for heavy construction, bridges and carving. In fact, the wood was so hard that the Malays in metaphor compare a hard heart to it. This Tembusu was recently reported to be more than 180 years old. It is featured on the back of our Portrait series, Singapore 5-dollar note. It has a unique lower lateral branch which makes it easily recognisable. Many visitors over the generations have taken pictures with this iconic Tembusu Heritage Tree.