Shorea hemsleyana (King) King ex Foxw. (Dipterocarpaceae)
by Siti Fariezza Khairi Thaw
Shorea hemsleyana (King) King ex Foxw. (Dipterocarpaceae)
by Siti Fariezza Khairi Thaw

Shorea hemsleyana is known by locals as cengal pasir daun besar or meranti daun besar. This local name reflects the characteristics of the leaf which is large and hairy on the underside. The leaf is elliptic-oblong to obovate-oblong and acuminate, measuring 35x15 cm. The flowers are pinkish-red and can be found in abundance on the forest floor during its flowering season. The fruit is large with an ovoid or cylindrical nut and has rudimentary wings. Shorea hemsleyana is a large tree with a dense, hemispherical crown and can grow up to 20 metres tall. The bole is cylindrical and straight with low, rounded buttresses and can reach 40 cm in diameter.

This species is classified into two subspecies, namely S. hemsleyana ssp. hemsleyana and S. hemsleyana ssp. grandiflora. The former occurs in peninsular Thailand, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, whereas the latter is endemic to Borneo and has only been recorded from Sarawak and West Kalimantan. In Peninsular Malaysia, S. hemsleyana can only be found in Perak, mainly in swampy forest areas. It is now classified as critically endangered (CR A4c, D2 for Malaysia) due to logging and land conversion activities which cause forest fragmentation and habitat shrinkage (Chua et al., 2010).

Currently, research for the conservation of this species together with a few other species of threatened dipterocarps, such as Shorea macrantha and Vatica flavida are being conducted at the campus of Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP), and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Sri Iskandar, Perak. The identified trees are tagged, measured, mapped and the data recorded in order to determine their population size and distribution. The data from these research activities will be used to support the proposal for the establishment of a conservation area in the habitat of this species as presently none of its natural habitats have been gazetted as Protection Areas.

Shorea hemsleyana produces timber which is graded as red-meranti sub-group 2. However, the timber is not processed as much as red-meranti timbers from other species even though it is harder and heavier as the tree is uncommon and rarely obtained. In the early 1990’s, Indonesia used to be the main producer and exporter of seeds collected from S. hemsleyana and other species of Shorea, such as S. stenoptera and S. robusta. These seeds, recognised as “false illipe nuts”, are a source of income for locals in its natural habitats except in Peninsular Malaysia (Symington et al., 2004). The edible fat from the illipe nuts is similar to cocoa butter and can easily blend with other vegetable fats. It can also serve as a potential substitute for cocoa butter in chocolate. In Borneo, the illipe nuts are used as a replacement for animal fat in cooking, traditional medicine, skincare, and animal and poultry feed.


  1. Chua, L.S.L., Suhaida, M., Hamidah, M. & Saw, L.G. (2010). Malaysia Plant Red List: Peninsular Malaysian Dipterocarpaceae. Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) & Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Malaysia, Malaysia. pp. 73, 146.
  2. Symington, C.F., Barlow, H.S., Ashton, P.S. & Appanah, S. (2004). Foresters' Manual of Dipterocarps. Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and Malayan Nature Society, Malaysia. pp. 340, 373-374.
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