The elephant apple tree is one stately tree that I am very fond of. Initially I wasn’t aware what this tree was and only got to know its identity as well as more information about it from a book published by NParks – Trees of our Garden City: A Guide to the Common Trees of Singapore.
Botanically known as Dillenia indica, it is a tree that is native to this part of the world. The origin of this tree’s common name is derived from the belief that elephants eat its fruits. It is a medium-sized tree that grows up to 8 m tall. If you can afford the space, grow one elephant apple tree! Let me tell you why you should do that…
The leaves of this tree are quite interesting – they are quite large and have a rib-like appearance with toothed margins. In my opinion, all these characteristics make the leaves of this tree somewhat resemble ruffled potato chips although their shapes differ quite a bit!
I took the pictures below in my university’s grounds. Several elephant apple trees are planted next to the University Hall and coincidentally, they are all fruiting and this was the first time that I witnessed this!
The yellowish green fruits are quite big and larger than those of our edible apples. In the book – Trees of our Garden City: A Guide to the Common Trees of Singapore – it was stated that the elephant apple trees are not planted near the roadside because of the sheer size of the fruits. You can imagine how a falling fruit can make a dent on the roof of the car! That probably explains why it is also not planted in our open carparks, though it can provide some form of shade.
The fruits are unique and interesting to look at. They have a cover over them (technically, it is the calyx) and because there are two of such covers on opposite sides of each fruit, it looks as if they are putting on ear muffles or wearing some form of a head-dress!
These fruits are, in fact, edible (to my surprise!) but are said to be acidic and hence sour. They are usually pickled or cooked before consumption.
The elephant apple tree makes a good specimen tree in any garden.
Don’t the ribbed appearance of the leaves make them look like the Cottage Fries brand of ruffled potato chips?
What a bumper crop of elephant apples!
The persistent calyx makes the fruit look as if it is wearing ear muffles or a hat – I leave it up to your own imagination!