A tall forest tree that can reach heights up to 30m or more. Crown is heavy and cylindrical with the lower branches often drooping. Trunk is massive with greyish-brown and fissured bark. Leaves are large, leathery and are set in close rosettes. Flowers are green with a strong smell, crowded along the twigs behind the leaves. Fruits are oblong (1.5cm long), green with one to two seeds. Native.
Processed latex from Palaquium trees, including the Nyatoh Puteh, is called gutta percha. As early as the 1820s, Malays in Singapore were using gutta percha for production of articles such as flexible whips and handles for machetes. In 1843, Dr William Montgomerie wrote to the Bengal Medical Board that gutta percha could potentially be used to make knife handles and for various medical devices. Gutta percha was known to be durable and have good elasticity when compared to leather and other types of rubber. When placed in temperature below boiling water, gutta percha becomes soft, making it easy to mould. When cooled, gutta percha becomes hard and retains its shape without any change by contraction or warping.
Gutta percha became a commodity and was popularly used for insulation of submarine cables. Singapore was a great entrepot for gutta percha trading as the world's supply came from the surrounding Malay Peninsula and Indonesia Archipelago. Nowadays, gutta percha is still used as dental fillings.