Sindora wallichii Benth
by Mr. Tan Kok Kiat
Sindora wallichii Benth
by Mr. Tan Kok Kiat

Sindora wallichii is a tall deciduous tree from the family Leguminosae that can grow up to 35 m tall and 80 cm in diameter (Wong et al., 2002). This species is named after the Danish botanist, Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), a former Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden in India. Locally, it is commonly known as Sepetir or Sepetir Daun Tebal (Wong et al., 2002). It is native to Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, and Kalimantan. In Malaysia, this species is absent in the north-west of Peninsular Malaysia, which includes the states of Perlis and Kedah (Whitmore, 1983). Normally, S. wallichii can be found in lowland forests up to 300 m altitude, on well-drained sandy, sometimes clayey soils, or near mangrove swamps (Ding, 2000). It flowers and fruits all year round.

The leaves are alternate and compound, each with 3 or 4 pairs of oppositely arranged leaflets (Ding, 2000). The upper surface of leaflets is glabrous while the lower surface is hairy. The tip of each leaflet is slightly notched. The inflorescences are loosely branched (paniculate) and can grow up to 24 cm long. The yellow-brown flowers are quite small, measuring about 14 mm in diameter.

In order to differentiate this species from other species in the same genus, one needs to take note of the shape of the seed pod which looks like a flattened cactus, or a spiny castanet. The seed pod is 4 to 6 cm wide and covered with dense spines. Each pod can bear one to three circular seeds of about 2 cm in diameter. Sindora wallichii is closely related to S. echinocalyx, locally called Sepetir Daun Nipis, but the leaflets of the former have a smooth, non-reticulate upper surface (Whitmore, 1983).

The timber of S. wallichii is categorised as light hardwood and since it is as durable as teak and rosewood, it is used mainly in the furniture industry (Peters, 2002). The tree is harvested from the wild and is not cultivated in plantations as its growth is quite slow; about 1 cm in diameter per year (Shono et al., 2007). In addition, its seed can be used as traditional medicine after childbirth (Zakaria, 2010); it is one of the ingredients for jamu ratus, a mixture of various plant parts drunk by the Malay womenfolk of Johor. This jamu ratus is reputed to have benefits for blood rejuvenation and womb repositioning.

The conservation status of this species has not been evaluated in the IUCN Red List, but it is listed as Critically Endangered (CR) in Singapore (National Parks Board, Singapore, 2013).


  1. Adler, P.H. (2002). A Guide to Taman Botani Putrajaya: Tropical Roots. Perbadanan Putrajaya, Malaysia. pp. 13.
  2. Hou, D. (2000). Leguminosae-Caesalpinoideae. In Soepadmo, E. & Saw, L.G. (Eds.), Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak, volume 3. Sabah Forestry Department, Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Sarawak Forestry Department. pp. 119-180.
  3. National Parks Board, Singapore. 2013. Sindora wallichii. Retrieved May 17, 2018, from
  4. Shono, K., Davies, S.J. & Chua, Y.K. (2007). Performance of 45 native tree species on degraded lands in Singapore. Journal of Tropical Forest Science 19 (1): pp. 25-34
  5. Whitmore, T.C. (1972). Tree Flora of Malaya: A Manual for Foresters, Volume 1. Forest Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Malaysia. pp. 273.
  6. Wong, T.M., Lim, S.C. & Chung, R.C.K. (2002). A Dictionary of Malaysian Timbers . Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Malaysia
  7. Zakaria, M. & Ali Mohd, M. (2010). Traditional Malay Medicinal Plants. Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia (ITNM), Malaysia. pp. 185.
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