Pentaphylax euryoides
by Mr. Yao Tze Leong
Pentaphylax euryoides
by Mr. Yao Tze Leong

Pentaphylax euryoides a widely distributed species with a range extending from south east China to Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia and north and central Sumatra. In Peninsular Malaysia, it is strictly a montane species which can only be found above 900 meters elevation. It occurs throughout the Main Range and on most of the isolated mountains such as Gunung Jerai and Gunung Chabang Tiga. Interestingly, it is the sole member of the family Pentaphylacaceae.

Pentaphylax euryoides ranges in habit from a woody shrub to a tree of 10 m in height. Its crown is composed of shiny leaves with dark green veinlets, which contrast with the yellowish green undersides of the leaves. Its vivid bright red young leaves are a striking characteristic that cannot be missed, adding vibrant colour to the often misty, rocky mountain ridges. When flowering, it is a plant of great beauty! It flowers profusely, with little white flowers that open progressively from the base to the tip of the pseudo-spike. Although each little, five-petalled flower is just 2 mm across, its five-lobed star-shaped stigma surrounded by five bi-lobed anthers on the top of shouldered antenna present an amazing geometrical structure. The pseudo-spike later develops into leafy twigs, resulting in a charming mixture of white flowers and young red leaves. Its mature fruit, a dried dehiscing capsule, splits into five valves with a persistent central column. Each valve contains 1 to 2 winged seeds, which are soon released and blown away by wind.

Healthy populations of Pentaphylax euryoides have been observed on Gunung Ulu Kali on the Pahang-Selangor border, and on mountain top forests in the vicinity of Stong Forest Reserve in Kelantan. However, human activities on mountaintops, related to telecommunications and mountain resort construction certainly pose the greatest threat to its narrow, fragile upper montane niche.

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