Capparis micracantha DC.
by Dr. Avelinah Julius & Mrs. Rafidah Abdul Rahman

Capparis is the largest genus of the Capparaceae and includes about 250 tropical and subtropical species, half of which occur in the New World. Ten species and two subspecies are recorded from Peninsular Malaysia, most found in the lowlands and occasionally up to 1100 m altitude.

The two subspecies of Capparis micracantha DC. are subsp. micracantha and subsp. korthalsiana (Miq.) Jacobs. The former is found mainly in northern parts of the peninsula where it grows on limestone, in sandy spots or, rarely, beside rivers at low altitudes (below 500 m). The latter is mostly recorded from Pahang and Johor but with two collections from Perak. Its habitat preference is more to wetter forest than those preferred by subsp. micracantha.

The subspecies micracantha is a thorny shrub (1–6 m tall) or, rarely, a climber, and is quite common. It is easily recognized by its axillary inflorescence with a series of 2–6 flowers arranged in a row. The flowers have petals and stamens up to 1.6 cm and 3.4 cm long, respectively. It can also be differentiated from the other subspecies by its greenish sepals, 15–25 stamens, and globose to ellipsoid fruits versus the dull, greyish purple sepals, numerous (up to 100) stamens, and oblong fruits of subspecies korthalsiana. Like many members of the genus, this subspecies has upper petals that feature a yellow nectar-guide that turns to dark purple-red with age. Its showy flowers with their changing colour are quite attractive, giving the plant strong potential as an ornamental. From its many, long spreading stamens, it is locally named “Jambul merak” meaning “peacock’s crest” or “Melada” in Malay.

Minor worldwide economic importance of some Capparis is reported in Heywood et al. (2007) and Mabberley (2008). Capparis spinosa L., known in the culinary world as capers, is the most important one. The flower buds and fruits are pickled and eaten as a relish. In Peninsular Malaysia especially in Terengganu, subsp. micracantha has been recorded to have some medicinal value— the pounded leaves and fruits, mixed with salt and turmeric, are used for poulticing swellings or inflamations (Haniff 10470, SING). The unripe fruits are said to be poisonous, but when ripe they are edible and favoured by children (Holttum 15190, SING).


  1. Heywood, V.H., Brummitt, R.K., Culham, A. & Seberg, O. (2007). Flowering Plant Families of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. pp. 424.
QR Code
Scan QR code for mobile experience

Other articles

Davallia denticulata (Burm. f.) Mett. ex Kuhn var. denticulata

Ms. Yasmin Sarah Binti Abd. Majid   •   30 Apr 2024   •   183 views

Tragulus napu (F. Cuvier, 1822)

Mrs. Aziemah Binti Kinan   •   29 Mar 2024   •   994 views

Manilkara zapota (Sapotaceae)

Mrs. Syazwani Binti Azeman   •   29 Feb 2024   •   604 views

Sonerila griffithii C.B.Clarke (Melastomataceae)

Dr. Avelinah Julius   •   31 Jan 2024   •   978 views

Meistera lappacea (Ridl.) Škorničk. & M.F.Newman (Zingiberaceae)

Siti Eisya Nabiha Damahuri & Dr. Avelinah Julius   •   31 Dec 2023   •   1148 views
Get updates and an exclusive news when you sign up to our free newsletter.
Malaysia Biodiversity Information System (MyBIS)   by   Malaysia Biodiversity Centre (MBC)

Copyright © 2024, Malaysia Biodiversity Centre (MBC), Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability (NRES). All rights reserved. DISCLAIMER - The Malaysian Government, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability (NRES), Malaysia Biodiversity Centre (MBC) and Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) 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
Website Citation: MyBIS (2024). Malaysia Biodiversity Information System. Published on the Internet, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability, Malaysia Biodiversity Centre & Forest Research Institute Malaysia. [Retrieved 26 May 2024].