Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Baphia nitida Lodd.

Species:B. nitida
Common Names:Camwood


This is a fast-growing smallish tree that can be as tall as 5 m. Leaves are simple, alternately arranged, oblong-elliptic, 10-15 cm long and strongly tipped. Flowers are bisexual, white,  solitary or up to 4 grouped together on the main branch, faintly fragrant and inconspicuous. Fruits are straight pods, 10-15 cm long and 12-16 mm wide, sharply pointed at both ends and with 2-4 brown, flat seeds.

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


Native to tropical Africa, it is grown in many tropical countries.


Found throughout Singapore.

Human Uses

An excellent hedge plant used in screening off areas, the height can vary depending on pruning to keep the hedge in shape. It was formerly cultivated as a dyewood. The heartwood, known as camwood or barwood, contains santalin, used as a cotton dye. The dye is used by African natives to decorate their faces during ceremonial dances, also as a paint for religious objects. In traditional medicine the dye paste is used to treat sprains, swollen joints and skin diseases. The wood is the original camwood of commerce, now known as African sandlewood. It can be made into violin bows, umbrella handles, walking sticks and table legs. The leaves can be used as a fodder.


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.

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. 392pp.

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