Pometia pinnata J. R. Forst. & G. Forst. (Sapindaceae)
by Mrs. Syazwani Bt. Azeman

Known as Kasai in Malay, Pometia pinnata from the family Sapindaceae, is a large, fast-growing tree found commonly growing along riverbanks, in primary and secondary forest, up to an altitude of 1700 m above sea level. Pometia was named after P. Pomet, a French writer, while pinnata is the Latin word meaning 'feather-like', referring to the pinnate leaves of this species. This species is widespread, from South China and Sri Lanka, through Southeast Asia to the Pacific islands (Ng, 1989).

Pometia pinnata can grow up to 50 m tall with buttresses that can reach up to 5 m high and 15 cm thick, spreading up to 5 m wide. The compound leaves can be up to 1 m long, alternate, with 4 – 13 pairs of leaflets. The leaflets are leathery, ovate to obovate, 6 – 32 × 2 – 13 cm with toothed margins. When young, the leaflets are bright red in colour, turning dark green when mature. The inflorescences are erect to drooping, 15 – 70 cm long. The flowers are small, white to green-yellow in colour, with 5 petals. The fruits are ellipsoid to roundish, 1.5 – 5 × 1 – 3 cm, reddish in colour, turning black when ripe. The seeds are egg-shaped, brown in colour, 2.5 × 1.5 cm long (Adema et al., 1996).

Kasai is the standard Malaysian name for the timber, which is a medium hardwood. The wood from this tree is used for several purposes, such as for construction, furniture, flooring, and is well accepted for making boxes and crates. The fruits of P. pinnata are edible and a decoction of the bark is used medicinally to treat fever, sores and also colds (Adema et al., 1996). The conservation status for this species is Least Concern (van Welzen, 2017)


  1. Adema, F., Leenhouts, P.W. & van Welzen, P.C. (1996). Sapindaceae. In Soepadmo, E., Wong, K.M. & Saw, L.G. (eds.) Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak, volume 2. Sabah Forestry Department, Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Sarawak Forestry Department. pp. 356-359.
  2. Ng, F.S.P (1989). Tree Flora of Malaya, Volume 4. Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Ministry of Primary Industries, Malaysia. Longman Malaysia Sdn.Bhd., Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia. pp. 457-458.
  3. van Welzen, P.C. (2017). Sapindaceae. In Kiew, R., Chung, R.C.K., Saw, L.G. & Soepadmo, E. (eds.) Flora of Peninsular Malaysia Series II: Seed Plants, volume 6. Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM). pp. 63-191.
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