Cratoxylum cochinchinense (Lour.) Blume (Hypericaceae)
by Mrs. Sarah Nabila Binti Rosli & Sarah Binti Haizam
Cratoxylum cochinchinense (Lour.) Blume (Hypericaceae)
by Mrs. Sarah Nabila Binti Rosli & Sarah Binti Haizam

The family Hypericaceae comprises eight genera and 400 species distributed in temperate and tropical regions. This family is characterized by the numerous numbers of stamens that are joined together into 3 or 5 groups/bundles. Only two genera are distributed in Malesia; these are Cratoxylum and Hypericum with seven and one species, respectively.

Cratoxylum cochinchinense is known as Derum Selunchor and Kemutong in Malay. The genus name Cratoxylum is a combination of the Greek word, “kratos” and “xylon”, meaning strong timber. The species name, cochinchinense refers to the natural distribution of the species, Cochin China which is known today as southern Vietnam.

Cratoxylum cochinchinense is a small to big-sized tree, reaching up to 33 m in height. It can be recognised from its orange-brown to brownish yellow bark which peels off in angular pieces or in long strips. Its bark is quite similar in texture to that of Tristania sp., commonly known as Pelawan locally. The young leaves are reddish, turning green with purplish leaf margins when mature. The flower which is usually found in pairs, is crimson in colour and faintly fragranced. This attracts wildlife such as bats and insects like hoverflies, butterflies and bees which act as a pollinators. The plant is a food source for caterpillars of the common butterflies, the Archduke and the Common Grass Yellow (National Parks Board Singapore, 2019). The fruit is a loculicidally dehiscing capsule which releases unilateral winged seeds. Among the seven species of Cratoxylum in Malaysia, C. cochinchinense can be distinguished by the faint appearance of the lateral veins on the underside of the leaves.

This species is widely distributed from China through mainland Southeast Asia (except Singapore), Borneo and Sumatra. It grows in lowland, hill and heath forest and can be found in both primary and secondary forest (Wong, 1995). Globally, the species is considered by the IUCN Red List (1998) as Least Concern (LC).

The wood of C. cochinchinense is used for making woodcuts, tool handles and wood pallets (Wong, 1995) and is also used for construction, cabinets, furniture, and inside fittings (National Parks Board Singapore, 2019). The tree is suitable as an ornamental plant due to desirable features such as attractive flowers and bark, tolerance to full sun exposure and moderate cost of maintenance (National Parks Board Singapore, 2019). During dry weather, the tree flowers after shedding its leaves showing off the vibrant colour of its flowers and attracting butterflies and others insects, providing a feast for the eyes. Corner (1952) recorded it as having been planted in Malacca and the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.


  1. Corner, E.J.H. (1952). St. John’s Wort Family. In Corner E., Wayside Trees of Malaya, Volume 1, Issue/No. . Government Printing Office, Singapore. pp. 324-326.
  2. National Parks Board Singapore, Flora Fauna Web. 2019. Cratoxylum cochinchinense (Lour.) Blume. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from
  3. Wong, K.M. (1995). Hypericaceae. In Soepadmo, E. & Wong, K.M. (Eds.), Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak, volume 1. Sabah Forestry Department, Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Sarawak Forestry Department. pp. 219-224.
  4. World Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1998. Cratoxylum cochinchinense. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1998: e. T33936A9823214. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from
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