Rhodamnia cinerea Jack
by Mrs. Sarah Nabila Binti Rosli
Rhodamnia cinerea Jack
by Mrs. Sarah Nabila Binti Rosli

Rhodamnia cinerea, known locally as mempoyan, is a shrub to medium-sized tree. It grows in lowland areas to mountains and is sometimes found in coastal areas. It is common in secondary forest. Rhodamnia cinerea is widely distributed in South-East Asia from southern Myanmar, southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and south to Australia.

The genus name, Rhodamnia is derived from the Latin words rhodon, meaning rose-coloured, and amnion, meaning surrounded by liquid, and describes the red fleshy fruits where the seeds when young are surrounded by liquid. The species name cinerea, means ash-grey, and refers to the whitish lower surface of the leaves. Sometimes this tree is called ‘silverback’ because of this characteristic. However, in shaded environments, the leaves are green on both sides.

Mempoyan resembles species in the Melastomataceae family due to the opposite arrangement of leaves and the three conspicuous parallel veins arising from the base of the leaves. However, they have different stamens and fruits (Utteridge & Bramley, 2014). Members of the Melastomataceae have 8 to 10 stamens and a capsule while the flowers of mempoyan have very many stamens and the fruit is a berry. Sometimes, the mempoyan fruit is covered with silky hairs. Its inflorescence is axillary with clusters of 4 to 6 flowers. Mempoyan flowers have 4 – 5 white to cream petals and a fragrant odour. It has an inferior ovary.

Mempoyan plays an important role in our ecosystem. Its leaves are a source of food for the Malayan flying lemur, an endangered species (Jackson, 2012). Others animals like squirrels, bats, birds and monkeys eat the juicy mempoyan fruits and disperse the seeds. The timber is only used locally for minor construction. In Indonesia, the rich tannin of the bark is used to tan fishing nets and also for producing a black dye (Scott, 1979).


  1. Jackson, S. (2012). Gliding Mammals of the World. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia. pp. 54.
  2. Scott, A.J. (1979). A revision of Rhodamnia (Myrtaceae). Kew Bulletin 33 (3): pp. 429-459
  3. Utteridge, T.M.A. & Bramley, G. (2014). The Kew Tropical Plant Families Identification Handbook. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England. pp. 98, 250.
QR Code
Scan QR code for mobile experience

Other articles

Echinosorex gymnura (Raffles, 1822) (Moonrat)

Syaridzwan. M & Alwani. N. Z.   •   15 Jul 2020   •   91 views

Garcinia prainiana King. (Clusiaceae)

Mrs. Syazwani Bt. Azeman   •   30 Jun 2020   •   205 views

Naja sumatrana (Müller, 1890)

Ms. Noor Faradiana Binti Md Fauzi, Mr. Mohammad Shahfiz Azman, Mr. Kaviarasu Munian, Ms. Nor Hazwani Binti Ahmad Ruzman & Mrs. Nur Alwani Binti Zakaria   •   29 May 2020   •   393 views

Aglaia korthalsii Miq. (Meliaceae)

Mrs. Syazwani Bt. Azeman   •   30 Apr 2020   •   370 views

Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata J. Dransf.

Mr. Tan Kok Kiat   •   31 Mar 2020   •   373 views
Today, there are less than 200 Malayan tigers left in our country.
#SaveOurMalayanTiger. Visit
Malaysia Biodiversity Information System (MyBIS)
Copyright © 2020, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA). All rights reserved. DISCLAIMER - The Malaysian Government, and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA) shall not be liable for any loss or damage caused by the usage of any information obtained from this website. By entering this site, you acknowledge and agree that no portion of this site, including but not limited to names, logos, trademarks, patents, sound, graphics, charts, text, audio, video, information or images are either MyBIS property or the property permitted by third-party and shall not be used without prior written approval from the owner(s).
Best viewed using latest Mozila Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer 10 with Resolution 1024 x 768px or above. Version 2.0 / 2016