Meliosma sumatrana (Jack) Walpers
by Nadiah Idris


Meliosma sumatrana (Jack) Walpers

by Nadiah Idris

Meliosma is a genus of flowering plants in the family Sabiaceae, native to tropical and warm temperate regions of southern and eastern Asia and the Americas. This genus is quite complicated and taxonomic revision by van Beusekom (1971) and van Beusekom & van der Water (1989) described six species which occur in Peninsular Malaysia and seven species in Borneo, including M. sumatrana. According to taxonomic revision and research carried out, species in the genus can be distinguished by differences in some important macromorphological and micromorphological characters. These include either having simple or compound leaves, type of inner petal, ovary either glabrous or densely covered with simple hairs, and small or large fruits (less or more than 10 mm in diameter).

The genus was named from the Greek word, "meli" meaning honey and "osme" meaning odour, referring to the fragrant or honey-scented flowers. The epithet name, sumatrana, refers to Pulo Nias (sic) (Pulau Nias), Sumatra, the locality where this plant was first discovered (Walpers, 1848). Other than Sumatra, this species is widely distributed in Peninsular Malaysia, West Java, Borneo, Sulawesi and the Philippines. This species can be found growing in primary and secondary forest, from lowlands to mountains up to 1500 m altitude. It usually grows on clay soils along rivers and streams, on hillsides and ridges.

Meliosma sumatrana is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree, reaching heights of up to 20 m and 62 cm diameter. This species can be easily differentiated from other species in the genus by having petiolules with a distinct swelling at the base, especially in older leaves. Other diagnostic characters of this species are compound leaves, and lower leaf surface covered by unbranched simple hairs, especially on the midrib and veins. Besides that, the flowers are whitish yellow in colour; the inner petals are elliptic to lanceolate or strap-shaped with wide truncate tip; the ovary is glabrous and the ripe fruits are about 1–3 cm in diameter and red-brownish in colour.

Locally this species is known as mengading besar in Peninsular Malaysia, bulu manok in Sarawak and gapas-gapas in Sabah. The tree is harvested from the wild for local use, such as for food and medicine. It has also been recommended for use in reforestation projects as it is a fast-growing pioneer species. The wood is sometimes used for firewood and the fruits are frequently reported as edible. In Mindanao (Philippines), the leaves and bark are used to treat itchy skin and to clean wounds, or charred and put into water to treat tympanites (Boer & Sosef, 1998).

Taxonomic study of the Sabiaceae family in Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo is still in progress. As M. sumatrana has a widespread distribution and can be easily found in Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia (in all states except Perlis, Kedah and Kuala Lumpur), the provisional conservation assessment for this species is Least Concern (LC).


  1. Boer E. & Sosef M.S.M. 1998. Meliosma Blume. Pp. 366-368 in Sosef M.S.M., Soerianegara I. & Wong W.C. (eds.) Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA): Timber trees: Lesser-known timbers. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden.
  2. Van Beusekom C.F. & Van de Water P.M. 1989. Sabiaceae. Pp. 679-715 in Van Steenis C.G.G.J. & de Wilde W.J.J.O. (eds.) Flora Malesiana. Series 1 - Spermatophyta. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  3. Van Beusekom C.F. (1971). Revision of Meliosma (Sabiaceae), section Lorenzanea excepted, living and fossil, geography and phylogeny. BLUMEA 19 (3): pp. 355-524
  4. Walpers W.G. (1848). Meliosma Blume. Annales Botanices Systematicae , volume 1. pp. 135

Species Profile

QR Code
Scan QR code for mobile experience

Other articles

Hylarana erythraea (Schlegel, 1837)

Nurfarhana Hizan Binti Hijas   •   30 Mar 2018   •   192 views

Siebenrockiella crassicollis Gray, 1831

Tan Kok Kiat & Kaviarasu Munian   •   16 Mar 2018   •   255 views

Rhodomyrtus tomentosa (Aiton) Hassk.

Nadiah Idris   •   28 Feb 2018   •   245 views

Muntingia calabura (Muntingiaceae)

Cheah Yih Horng   •   14 Feb 2018   •   415 views

Symphalangus syndactylus (Raffles,1821)

Nurfarhana Hizan Binti Hijas & Nor Hazwani Binti Ahmad Ruzman   •   30 Jan 2018   •   482 views
Get updates and an exclusive news when you sign up to our free newsletter.
Malaysia Biodiversity Information System (MyBIS)
Copyright © 2018, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE). All rights reserved. DISCLAIMER - The Malaysian Government, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) 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