Maingaya malayana Oliv.
by Chew Ming Yee
Maingaya malayana Oliv.
by Chew Ming Yee

Maingaya malayana (family Hamamelidaceae) is named after Alexander Carroll Maingay, a magistrate stationed in Melaka around the middle of the 19th century. Although his official job was to manage the prison, he was very keen on botany and collected around 1,600 plant specimens from Peninsular Malaysia.

Maingaya is a monotypic genus endemic to Peninsular Malaysia. When first described, only small populations were known to occur on Penang Hill and in hill forest in Perak. Later, another population was also discovered in a pristine patch of riverine forest in Negeri Sembilan.

In the campus of FRIM, this medium-sized tree is planted along the way to the museum. Although in the natural forest its main stem can reach a height of more than 20 m, grown in wayside conditions, the fluted, reddish stem often begins to branch very close to the ground. The crown is graced with head-like inflorescences with yellow ribbon-like petals. The planted trees flower sporadically almost throughout the year. Despite its rarity, all the above mentioned features make it a suitable garden and wayside tree.

The fruit is a small woody capsule with two chambers and four valves. They persist on the crown long after all the seeds have fallen. Its simple, pinnately veined, hairless leaves with an entire margin and the medium length, weakly kneed stalk provide no specific features for easy identification, so the persistent fruits come in handy as a spot character in the field.

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