Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Parkia speciosa Hassk.

Species:P. speciosa
Common Names:Petai
Status:Vulnerable. Cultivated.


A tall tree of up to 30 m or more, it has an umbrella-shaped crown. Leaves are alternately arranged, twice pinnate, 15-30 cm long, with 10-18 pairs of side stalks each bearing 20-35 pairs of leaflets. Leaflets are narrow, straight, asymmetric at the base and 5-11 x 1-2.5 mm. Flowers are small, about 1 cm long, crean-white, compacted onto a pear-shaped inflorescence head of 5-9 cm long and hanging from the branch on a 23-50 cm stalk. Flowers are unisexual - male or asexual at the base of the inflorescence head, bisexual at the apex. Fruits are long pods, 45–60 x 5-6.5 cm, straight or strongly twisted and swollen where the seeds are. They hang in bunches from the flowering heads. Bats help in the pollination of the flowers, attracted by the strong rancid smell of the flowers.

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


Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and peninsular Thailand.


Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve

Human Uses

The seeds are eaten as a vegetable, usually raw, cooked or roasted. Also eaten are the young leaves, immature pods and flower stalks. The seeds are used in traditional medicine to treat liver disease, oedema, kidney inflammation, diabetes and to expel intestinal worms. The leaves are used against jaundice. The timber can be used for the making of boxes and cabinets. The trees can be used as shade plants in coffee nurseries.


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.

Siemonsma, J. S. & K. Piluek (eds.) 1994.  Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 8. Vegetables. Pudoc-DLO, Wageningen, the Netherlands.  412 pp.

Wee, Y. C. 1990. A guide to the wayside trees of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. (2nd ed.) 160 pp.

Wee, Y. C. 1992.  A guide to medicinal plants. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.

Wee, Y. C. 2003. Tropical trees and shrubs - A selection for urban plantings. Sun Tree Pub., Singapore. 392 pp.

Wee, Y.C. 2005. Plants that heal, thrill and kill. SNP Reference, Singapore. 172 pp.

Wee, Y. C. & H. Keng, 1990.  An illustrated dictionary of Chinese medicinal herbs. Times Editions & Eu Yan Sang Holdings, Singapore. 184 pp.

Wee Y. C. & A. N. Rao, 1980.  Anthesis and variations in floral structure of Parkia javanica. Malay. Forester 43:493–499.

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