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Elaeocarpus angustifolius Blume
by Phoon Sook Ngoh

Newsletter

Elaeocarpus angustifolius Blume

by Phoon Sook Ngoh

Elaeocarpus angustifolius is a common species that is widely distributed from NE India to SE Asia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and the Pacific islands.

In Peninsular Malaysia, E. angustifolius is a medium-sized tree to 40 m tall. The species grows in secondary forest and is commonly found on the east coast, particularly along the Jemaluang-Kuala Terengganu road.

The leaves of E. angustifolius are lanceolate and its name reflects the leaf shape, where angustifolius in Latin means narrow-leaved. The leaves are hairy when young, glabrescent when mature and often turn red when senescing. Domatia can be found on the underside of the leaves, along the midrib and occasionally on the secondary veins. The petioles are short (0.5–2 cm long) and are not kneed. The racemose inflorescences are about 3–8 cm long, bear 10–30 cream-coloured or white flowers. The sepals are ovate and entire, whereas the petals are spathulate and fimbriate in the distal half. The stamens are numerous, up to 53 in each flower. The ovary is globose, densely covered with short brown hairs, consists of 4–5(–6)-locules, and contains four ovules in each locule. The drupes are iridescently blue, due to surface diffraction instead of pigmentation (Lee 1991). The pulp is edible, but tastes sour or astringent. The fruit stones are shallowly or deeply sculptured. In Sanskrit, the fruit stones are called rudrak or rudraksha and have religious significance in Hinduism and Buddhism, where they are used as prayer beads.

Elaeocarpus angustifolius is known locally as mendong (Malay), but this common name applies to all Eleaocarpus species.

Taxonomically, E. angustifolius is a complex and poorly-understood species. Its morphology is highly variable across its wide geographical and ecological range. In addition, there is some confusion between the wild species and the cultivars in Malesia because botanical records are inadequate (Coode 2010). The species is cultivated for its fruit stones in Indonesia and the smaller stones that contain higher number of locules are highly favoured by Hindus and Buddhists, therefore those stones are produced artificially to meet the demand in prayer-bead making industry (Burkill 1966).

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