Categories
Species Guide: Craft Plants

Kelapa

A coconut palm with its feather-like leaves and straight, upright trunk. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Coconut Palm

Malay name: Kelapa, Nyiur

Scientific name: Cocos nucifera

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A palm tree that reaches 30 m tall. It is crowned by large, feather-like leaves. Stem is straight, unbranched, have rings of scar. It bears small, clustered flowers and roundish fruits which turn from light green or yellow to brown when ripe.

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds

Ecological function: The flowers of this plant attract insect pollinators. It is host plant of many butterflies and moths e.g. Hidari irava (coconut skipper) and Tirathaba rufivena (coconut spike moth). As this plant produces flowers and fruits all year round, it provides a stable source of food for wildlife.

Pollinator: Wind, insects

Soil: Sand, loam, clay, organic soils

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils. It is drought-tolerant.

Shade: No shade

Use in crafting: The leaves of this plant are used as thatching materials or in making baskets and mats. Malay community uses the leaves to make ketupat, a traditional rice-based dish that is usually prepared for festive seasons.

A bunch of cooked ketupat wrapped in woven coconut leaves. Photo credit: Meutia Chaerani, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Other use: The coconut milk that is processed from the freshly grated flesh has been traditionally used in Asian culinary. Coconut husks can be used as mulch to fertilise soil and conserve moisture. Coconut oil can be used for cooking or in manufacture of margarine, confectioneries, soaps and cosmetics. Coconut palm wood is suitable for making furniture, household utensils and tool handles.

Categories
Species Guide: Craft Plants

Pandan

The long, shiny leaves of pandan. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Screwpine

Malay name: Pandan

Scientific name: Pandanus amaryllifolius

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A shrub or small tree with long, slightly pleated leaves. Leaves are fragrant and spirally arranged.

Habit: Perennial shrub

Cultivation: It is planted by stem cuttings & suckers (side shoots that emerge from the base of a plant)

Ecological function: It is a host plant for moth caterpillars. It provides shelter for small vertebrates.

Pollinator: No data

Soil: Fertile loamy soils

Moisture: Well-drained soils

Shade: Partial shade, no shade

Use in crafting: The leaves of this plant are chopped and mixed with flowers to make potpourris. People weave the leaves into baskets and sleeping mats.

Other use: The leaves are used as food containers. People also use them to colour and flavour dishes or beverages. An essential oil extracted from the leaves has insect-repellent activity.

Categories
Species Guide: Craft Plants

Inai

White flowers of inai plant. Dinesh Valke from Thane, India, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Common name: Henna Tree, Egyptian Privet

Malay name: Inai

Scientific nameLawsonia inermis

Conservation Status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A shrub or small tree that reaches 2-6 m in height. Stem is slender and much-branched. Old branches can be spiny. It bears small, white, fragrant, clustered flowers. Fruits are round and brown in colour.

Habit: Perennial shrub or tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds, cuttings or air-layering

Ecological function: The fruits of this plant are eaten by birds. It is used as a hedge plant. It provides shade. It is used for erosion control.

Pollinator: Self-pollinating

Soil: Sandy soils. It tolerates clay and stony soils.

Moisture: Fertile, well-drained or dry soil. Mature plants are drought-tolerant.

Shade: No shade

Use in crafting: The leaves of this plant are used to colour fingernails and to paint or decorate palms of hands and soles of feet. It is also used for hair-dyeing. The fibres of branches and stem bark are used to make baskets.

Other use: The flowers of this plant are used in perfumery. Its wood is used for fuel. This plant is used as an ornamental plant for its fragrant flowers.

Categories
Species Guide: Craft Plants Species Guide: Plants for Food

Jelai

A jelai plant. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Job’s Tears

Malay name: Jelai

Scientific name: Coix lacryma-jobi

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A grass that reaches 1-2 m tall. It produces tear-shaped false fruits that enclose the grains, giving the name of this plant. The false fruits turn from black to grayish white when mature. Leaves are linear or lance-shaped.

The black, bead-like false fruit of jelai plant. Photo by Siti Syuhada

Habit: Perennial grass

Cultivation: It is planted by seed-containing flowering bracts, cuttings or rhizomes.

Ecological function: It is a moth host plant. The moth caterpillar feed on leaves of this plant. The plant provides nesting material for birds. It is used in agroforestry system especially in highlands. It is used for wastewater treatment.

Pollinator: Wind

Soil: Fertile loamy soils

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils

Shade: No shade

Use in crafting: The hard-shelled false fruits are used as ornamental beads for jewelry, rosaries or decoration for clothing. In Africa, there is a musical instrument known as shaker gourd. It consists of a net of false fruits loosely wrapped around a hollow gourd. When the net is slapped against the gourd, it produces a rhythmic sound.

Other use: The seeds of this plant can be used as a rice substitute.

Categories
Species Guide: Common Fruit Trees

Limau Kasturi

An unripe fruit of limau kasturi. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Calamondin Orange

Malay name: Limau Kasturi

Scientific nameCitrus × microcarpa

Conservation Status: Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (China)

Description

A medium-sized shrub or small tree that grows up to 3-4 m tall. Leaves are egg-shaped and aromatic. The upperside of leaves is dark green while the underside of leaves is pale green. Stems are slightly thorny. Bear white, fragrant, five-petaled flowers. Fruits are small and round, turn from green to light orange when ripe.

A limau kasturi plant. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial shrub or tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds

Ecological function: The flowers of this plant attract pollinators. It is a caterpillar food plant.

Pollinator: Bees, insects

Soil: Sand, loam, clay, organic soils

Moisture: Moist, well-drained, fertile soils

Shade: No shade, partial shade

Use: Its fruits are eaten raw or cooked. The fruit peel is preserved and used as food flavouring.

Categories
Species Guide: Common Nitrogen-Fixing Plants

Sunn Hemp

Sunn hemp plants with their green, narrow leaves. Photo by Khim Joe

Common name: Sunn Hemp

Malay name: 

Scientific name: Crotalaria juncea

Conservation status: Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (India)

Description

An evergreen shrub that grows up to 2.5 m tall. It has a straight stem and hairy branches. Leaves are narrow and spirally arranged. It bears yellow, pea-like flowers and short, puffy seedpods.

A patch of leafy sunn hemp. Photo by Khim Joe
Note the yellow flowers of sunn hemp. Photo by Khim Joe

Habit: Annual shrub

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds

Ecological function:  This plant is used as green manure. It is planted as a cover crop to suppress weeds. It fixes nitrogen in soil. Its flowers attract pollinators.

Pollinator: Bees, insects

Soil: Sand, loam, clay

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils. Established plants are drought-tolerant

Shade: No shade

Use: Edible (leaf, flower), fibre (paper, string, fishing net)

Categories
Species Guide: Common Nitrogen-Fixing Plants

Gemunggai

A moringa plant with its spreading, pagoda-like crown.

Common name: Moringa, Drumstick Tree, Horseradish Tree

Malay name: Gemunggai, Kacang Kelor, Remunggai

Scientific name: Moringa oleifera Lam.

Conservation status: Least concern, Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (India)

Description

A small, fast-growing tree that grows 8-10 m tall. Tree crown is umbrella-shaped. Leaves are divided into many small leaflets that move in the slightest breeze. It bears white, sweet-scented flowers. Fruits are long, pointed and three-sided.

Habit: Perennial shrub or tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds or cuttings

Ecological function:  This plant is planted for erosion control and soil improvement. It is used as living fence, windbreak, shade tree and support for climbing plants. As it is fast growing, it is a good pioneer species for reforestation. Its flowers attract pollinators.

Pollinator: Bees, sunbirds

Soil: Sand, loam, clay

Moisture: Well-drained, fertile soils

Shade: No shade

Use: Edible (flower, seed, seedpod, leaf), seed oil (perfumery, soap-making, lubricant for watches and other fine machinery), ornamental

Categories
Species Guide: Common Nitrogen-Fixing Plants Uncategorized

Kacang Hias

Reinhart Sulaiman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Common name: Pinto Peanut, Yellow Peanut Plant

Malay name: Kacang hias, Kacang Pintoi

Scientific name: Arachis pintoi

Conservation status: Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (South America)

Description

A low, creeping plant that forms a dense, ground-hugging mat. Leaves are divided into egg-shaped leaflets. It bears yellow, pea-like flowers.

Habit: Perennial herbaceous plant

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds or cuttings

Ecological function: This plant can be used as a groundcover. It fixes nitrogen in soil. Its flowers attract pollinators.

Pollinator: Insects

Soil: Sand, loam, clay. It tolerates poor soils and high levels of aluminium and manganese.

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils

Shade: No shade, semi-shade, full shade

Use: Ornamental

Categories
Species Guide: Rare Fruit Trees

Kedondong

The egg-shaped fruits of Spondias dulcis. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Golden Apple, Ambarella, Jew Plum

Malay name: Kedondong

Scientific name: Spondias dulcis

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia

Description

A small tree of 9-12 m tall. Leaves are divided into pointed leaflets. It bears small, white, clustered flowers. Fruits are egg-shaped, turn from green to golden yellow when ripe.

Flower cluster of Spondias dulcis. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds, hardwood stem cuttings, stumps, air-layering or grafting

Ecological function: The flowers of this tree attract pollinators. It is planted as a living fence.

Pollinator: Bees

Soil: Sand, loam, clay

Moisture: Well-drained soils

Shade: No shade, semi-shade

Use: The fruits may be eaten raw, cooked or made into juice, jellies, pickles or flavorings. Young leaves are used as a seasoning or cooked as a vegetable. Mature leaves are used in salads.

Categories
Species Guide: Common Fruit Trees

Durian Belanda

The durian-like fruits of Annona muricata L. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Soursop

Malay name: Durian Belanda

Scientific name: Annona muricata L.

Conservation status: Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (tropical Americas)

Description

A shrub or small tree that grows 3-10 m tall. Stems are slender and low-branching. Leaves are glossy, alternately arranged and give an offensive smell. The upperside of leaves is darker than the underside. Flowers are borne on trunk and branches. Flowers comprise 3 outer petals and 3 inner petals. The outer petals are fleshy, spreading and yellow-green, while inner petals are pale yellow and close-set. Fruit is somewhat egg-shaped, dark green when ripe and covered with soft, short spines.

A durian belanda tree with its spreading, upright branches. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds or cuttings

Ecological function: The flowers of this tree attract pollinators. It is a caterpillar food plant.

Pollinator: Insects, flies, bees

Soil: Sand, loam, clay

Moisture: Moist, well-drained, fertile soils

Shade: No shade, semi-shade

Use: Fruits are eaten raw or cooked.