The Derum is native from southern China through western and central Malesia, including Singapore. It is a slow-growing deciduous tree that can reach up to 30 m tall, but in Singapore’s urban landscapes, it tends to stay below 10 m in height.
The crown is elegantly weeping and pendulous, and the pale brown to reddish brown bark is smooth to flaky in texture. Its opposite leaves are oval to lance-shaped, measuring 3 to 13 cm long by 1 to 4.4 cm wide. Newly emerged leaves are deep purple, and turn pinkish brown then green as they mature.
The faintly fragrant flowers are crimson to pink, sometimes pinkish yellow, and measure 1.3 to 2.5 cm across. The small fruits are dry capsules, up to 1.3 cm in length, and split open to release many small seeds when mature.
The Derum is a host plant for the caterpillars of the Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirteana), Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe contubernalis) and Short Banded Sailor (Phaedyma columella singa) butterflies.
The timber of the Derum is known commercially as derum, although it is not commonly available. The durable, hard wood is used in construction, and for making furniture, woodcuts and tool handles.
This beautiful Heritage Tree is located at Telok Blangah Hill Park, which was a gathering place for trading communities as far back as the early 19th century. This tree was thought to be more than 40 years old and had a girth of 1.6 m when endorsed in 2018.