Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Albizia saman (Jacq.) Merr.

Kingdom:Plantae
Phylum/Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Eudicots
Order:Fabales
Family:Fabaceae
Genus:Albizia
Species:A. saman
Common Names:Rain Tree, Pukul Lima
Status:Casual

Description

Formerly known as Samanea saman.

Large, fast-growing, deciduous tree of up to 25 m tall, it has a very wide umbrella-shaped crown. Its trunk is short and fissured. Its compound leaves are twice-pinnate, 20-30 cm long and with 3-6 pairs if side-stalks. Leaflets are rather large, increasing in size from base to tip, the largest 4-5 x 2-3 cm, asymmetrical and almost rhombic. The leaves usually close up in dark conditions such as during cloudy or rainy days and at night. This could be the reason for its common name. Flowers are bisexual, 4 cm long, slightly fragrant, with long pinkish-white stamens, grouped in hemispherical heads. They produce non-dehiscent pods, 15-25 x 2 cm, flat, straight or slightly curved, and black in colour when ripe. The pods do not split open and the hard seeds remain inside embedded in the sticky, sugary, brownish pulp.

There is also a variant with yellow mature leaves, known as the Yellow Rain Tree. This variant was popularly planted in Singapore since the 1950s due to its attractive foliage.

Read more about the Fabales order.
Read more about the Fabaceae family.

Localities

In urban areas throughout Singapore

General Biology

A native of tropical America but cultivated in tropical countries around the world, the Rain Tree adapts to a wide range of soil types and pH levels. It can thrive in shallow soils and soils low in nutrients. The tree is sun-loving although it cannot tolerate long periods of drought.

Ecological Role

Due to the fissured barks that tend to retain water, the Rain Tree serve as hosts for epiphytic orchids, ferns and figs.

The sugary pods are also food for mammals such as squirrels, cattles and goats.

Human Uses

Commonly planted as street trees due to the 'tunelling effect' brought about by their umbrella-shaped canopy and well as the aesthetic value of its leaves. It has become the most commonly planted tree in Singapore with more than 26,000 individuals on road sides and more in gardens and parks.

Due to the wood's resistance to fungus and termites, the wood is also used in making fine furniture.

Other Resources

The Total Vascular Flora of Singapore Online. Albizia saman. http://floraofsingapore.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/albizia-saman/. (Accessed September 2011).

References

Chong, K. Y., H. T. W. Tan & R. T. Corlett, 2009. A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore: Native, Naturalised and Cultivated Species. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, Singapore. 273 pp.

Corlett, R. T.., 2011. Rain Tree. Pp. 427. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors), Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development, Editions Didier Millet, Singapore, 552 pp.

Tee, S. P. (ed.), 2009. Trees of Our Garden City: A Guide to the Common Trees of Singapore. 2nd Edition. National Parks Board, Singapore. 384 pp.

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