A total of six Garcinia species of trees were planted in Taman Jurong Greens Neighbourhood Park on 23 November 2008, which was a Sunday. Garcinia is a large genus mainly occurring in the Old World tropics and species belong to the Clusiaceae family which used to be called Guttiferae. Many Garcinia species have been found to possess medicinal properties.
This genus has not yet been studied well and the total number of species given in the literature can range between 100 and 400. Garcinia species are mostly second-storey forest trees that are adapted to shade, growing mostly in the humid tropics of Southeast Asia.
Entrance of the Taman Jurong Greens Neighbourhood Park
As stated in the Plant Resources of South East Asia (PROSEA), about 30 species in South-East Asia produce edible fruit, most of them rather sour because they contain citric acid. The true mangosteen, Garcinia mangostana is the most well known while the mostly acidic fruits of minor species, such as the asam gelugor are used as substitutes for tamarind and to fix dyes. The wood of several Garcinia species make hard and valuable timber.
After the introduction by Mr Ganesan from the National Parks Board (NParks), I got interested and wanted to know more about the six Garcinia species of trees planted at Taman Jurong Greens Neighbourhood Park. I did some reading on the reference I have, which is the PROSEA publication and performed a web search as well. Information on the minor Garcinia species is actually quite scarce. In this blog post, I share some of the interesting facts I have come across in my readings.
1. Mangosteen Tree (Garcinia mangostana)
Mangosteen Tree (Garcinia mangostana)
The mangosteen is only known as a cultivated species, although there have been occasional reports of wild specimens in Malaysia. The height of a tree can range from 6 to 25 m tall with a straight trunk and symmetrically branched to form a regular pyramidal crown. The symmetry in the architecture of the young tree is striking. The oblong-shaped, thick, leathery leaves are opposite, with short petioles clasping the shoot blades.
Its sweet fruits are eaten fresh and often referred to as “Queen of Tropical Fruits”. I have always been warned when I was young not to allow the sap from the fruit rind to get onto my clothes as it stains fabric permanently. The dye from the rind is in fact used to tan leather and to dye black. Both the rind and the bark have several applications in traditional medicine. The mangosteen tree yields a dark red wood that is heavy and very strong that is used in carpentry and make rice pounders.
Leaves of the Mangosteen Tree (Garcinia mangostana)
The mangosteen tree requires shade and shelter for growth as its leaves and fruit are susceptible to sunburn. Abiotic stress during growth should be avoided as a damaged tree seldom recovers. It is an extremely slow-growing plant and it can take 10 to 15 years for trees to start to bear fruit.
Interestingly, it was published on PROSEA that no functionally male flowers have since been found on mangosteen trees. Flowering of mangosteen is seasonal, usually after pronounced dry weather, often twice a year and about the same time as the durian and rambutan trees flower. The flowers are borne at the tip of mature shoots.
2. Asam Gelugor Tree (Garcinia atroviridis)
The asam gelugor tree (Garcinia atroviridis) is another tree that produces fruit that is used in food. The tree is cultivated and native to Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Burma and India.
Asam Gelugor Tree (Garcinia atroviridis)
The asam gelugur tree grows to a height of 20 m and has long trunk with characteristic drooping branches arranged in a tiered fashion around the central trunk. The leaves are dark green, shiny, long narrow with a pointed tand upturneded. Its flowers are dark red and the round yellow to orange and interestingly, Garcinia atroviridis usually bears female flowers only. Fruits are borne singly on twig ends.
Leaves of Asam Gelugor Tree (Garcinia atroviridis)
Unlike the fruits of the mangosteen, the fruits of assam gelugor are flattened at the apex which are longitudinally grooved into 12 to 16 segments. Ripe fruits are orange in colour and look somewhat like miniature pumpkins. Full-grown but green fruits are dried, whole or sliced, and used as seasoning or sour relish. Stewed with much sugar the fruit is excellent to eat. Medicinally, the fruit and leaves are applied to women after childbirth and a decoction of leaves and roots is used against earache. Dried fruits are used as a fixative for dyes. The fruit has purported weight-reducing properties.
3. Garcinia eugeniaefolia
Information about Garcinia eugeniaefolia is very scarce. It is a tree that is native to Malaysia and occurs in lowland and submontane forest. According to the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Garcinia eugeniaefolia may be synonymous with Garcinia rostrata. Populations are conserved in production and protected forests throughout Malaysia.
From afar, Garcinia eugeniaefolia can be mistakened not to be a Garcinia species. Most Garcinia trees produce leaves that are oblong to elliptical in shape and are thick. The leaves of Garcinia eugeniaefolia are much smaller and they closely resemble those of plants belong to another unrelated genus Eugenia or Syzygium.
Leaves of Garcinia eugeniaefolia
4. Garcinia griffithii
Like all other Garcinia trees mentioned so far, Garcinia griffithii can also native to this region. It originates from Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore and is common in the lowland forest. It has no common English common name. Instead, it is called apple kandis or kandis gajah, in Peninsula Malaysia.
Leaves of Garcinia griffithii
The fruits the mature tree produces are edible and are consumed usually when they are cooked. They are sour to taste due to the organic acids they contain. It is a large-growing tree that can attain a height of 12 to 18 m. Leaves are leathery and broadly elliptical in shape. They are rather large (length 22—40 cm and width 10—20 cm). Garcinia griffithii produces unisexual flowers and fruits resemble round apples with a diameter of about 5 to 8 cm diameter that turn brown-yellow when ripe.
5. Button Mangosteen Tree (Garcinia prainiana)
Button Mangosteen Tree (Garcinia prainiana)
Garcinia prainiana, is known as the button mangosteen or the cherapu. The fruits it produces are flattened at the apex, with a diameter of about 5 cm, which turn into an attractive orange colour when ripe. They are edible and possess a sweet-tart flavour. Its skin is tissue-thin instead of a hard rind and is said that the fruit can be eaten as a whole.
Leaves of Button Mangosteen Tree (Garcinia prainiana)
Like its relatives, the button mangosteen tree is very slow-growing. It can grow into a large tree with a height of about 10m, with a narrow and dense crown. It fruits when it is young when it is about 2 to 3 feet tall and hence makes a container plant.
6. Seashore Mangosteen (Garcinia hombroniana)
Common on sandy and rocky coasts in its native habitat, the seashore mangosteen is perhaps the most intriguing member among the Garcinia species because it prefers a life near the sea which extreme and fluctuating environmental conditions. It is a native to Peninsular Malaysia and Nicobar Islands.
Seashore Mangosteen Tree (Garcinia hombroniana)
The densely-branched tree can grow from 9 to 18 m in height, with a stately tiered architecture of contrasting light and dark green leaves. Its leaves oblong to elliptic and produces unisexual flowers that are rose-red on the outside and cream-yellow on the inside.
The edible fruits the seashore mangosteen produces are round but small, with a diameter of about 5 cm, with a distinctive pointed end. They turn bright rose red when ripe and emit the scent reminiscent of apples. The rind of the fruit is leathery and contains a white or transluscent flesh with a crisp, tart flavour.
Leaves of Seashore Mangosteen Tree (Garcinia hombroniana)
The plant has medicinal uses – a decoction of its root may be administered after childbirth as a preventive medicine. The roots and leaves are used to relieve itching. The tree possesses a potential rootstock for grafting to extend adaptability of the true mangosteen.