Didissandra frutescens
by Mrs. Rafidah Abdul Rahman
Didissandra frutescens
by Mrs. Rafidah Abdul Rahman

The shrub, Didissandra frutescens is a member of the family Gesneriaceae and occurs only in the north – western part of Peninsular Malaysia to which it is endemic. It has very limited area of distribution, officially recorded only in Penang and Perak (Bubu Forest Reserve). In Peninsular Malaysia, it is known as tarom hutan.

This shrubby herb can grow up to 1 meter tall; the woody stem is covered with soft brown felt. The leaves are opposite, in distant pairs and slightly unequal in position on the branch. The leaf margins are minutely crenulate, hairy above and with tawny silky hairs on the lower surface. The inflorescence of D. frutescens is an axillary cyme, in pairs or threes, commonly from both top and bottom of the stem. It has free, narrow sepals which are lilac to dark purple in colour. The corolla is 2-lipped, funnel-shaped, pubescent and white while the mouth of the corolla is yellowish but can sometimes be pale blue or pale yellow. The genus Didissandra is very similar to the genus Henckelia, but can be distinguished by its 4 fertile stamens, instead of 2 in Henckelia. Like Henckelia, however, the fruits are a slender cylindrical capsule with many longitudinal ribs.

D. frutescens is locally common on stream banks and also in damp ravines in the lowland and hill forest with about ten plants in each area. Unfortunately, it is a poorly known species and because of it diminutive habitat, it might easily become endangered in the future. The species is reported to be of medicinal use; the roots of this plant have been administered to women during and after childbirth.

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