Embelia pergamacea A.DC.
by Ms. Nur Liyana Hazwani Shahdani & Dr. Avelinah Julius
© Avelinah Julius

Embelia Burm.f., with approximately 130 species of tropical climbers, is one of the big genera in the subfamily Myrsinoideae of Primulaceae (POWO, 2021). However, only 23 species and 2 subspecies are found and recorded for Peninsular Malaysia, including E. pergamacea A.DC. (Dubéarnès et al., 2015). Embelia pergamacea grows from the primary lowland to the upper montane forests in Pahang, Perak and Selangor (Dubéarnès et al., 2015).

Embelia pergamacea is closely related to E. coriacea Wall. ex A.DC. and often synonymised under the latter (e.g. Stone, 1989). However, E. pergamacea is accepted as a distinct species based on its pinkish-red flowers along with other consistent characters such as the leaves being ovate-lanceolate not exceeding 13 cm long with acute or cuneate base and the apex is acuminate (POWO, 2021; Dubéarnès et al., 2015). The leaves of this species have a smooth surface like a parchment paper, and this is how it gets the name ‘pergamacea’ that is derived from the Latin word pergamena meaning ‘parchment’.

Embelia pergamacea is classified as Endangered (EN) in Peninsular Malaysia based on the IUCN conservation criteria because it is rarely found and data about its current existence are scarce (Dubéarnès et al., 2015). In addition, few habitats are not totally protected such as Gn. Mengkuang and Fraser’s Hills.

In Peninsular Malaysia, the economic importance of this species is not documented but in Indonesia, the species is used medicinally as mouthwash. According to a study done by Arbiastutie et al., E. pergamecea also has potential as a cervix anticancer agent (Arbiastutie et al., 2017).

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