Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Dillenia suffruticosa (Griff.) Martelli

Species:D. suffruticosa
Common Names:Simpoh Ayer


This is a large evergreen shrub with sprawling branches that often take root when their tips touch the ground. With time, a single plant can develop into a thicket of 7 m high. Leaves are spirally arranged, large, 12-37 x 6-25 cm and with a 1-5 cm stalk that is broadly winged. Flowers are large, 10-13 cm wide, yellow and scentless. They are found on long stalks, facing downwards. Fruits are tightly covered by the fleshy sepals, splitting open to display the many red seeds.

Read more about the Dilleniales order.
Read more about the Dilleniaceae family.


Native to West Malesia.

General Biology

One flower opens at a time, beginning in the early morning, to fully open before sunrise. They last for a day, with the petals shedding by evening. The sepals then begin to fold back, covering the developing fruit, often looking like flower buds. Once the fruit is fully developed, it unfolds to display the 5-11 separate units of pink rays bordered by white and lined with pulpy scarlet seeds. Fruits unfold in the early morning, attracting hordes of birds that come for the succulent seeds.

Ecological Role

Numerous birds feast on the fruits - Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis), Purple-throated Sunbird (Nectariniua sperata) and Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans). Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) as well as Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) eat the developing fruits; while Pink-necked Green Pigeon feast on the flower petals. The large leaves, covered with dew or raindrops, provide Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis) and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) an opportunity for a bath.

Human Uses

The large leaves were once used to wrap food until plastic bage became fashionable. They are still used to wral tempeh. The plant can be grown urban areas to attract birds.


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

Related Images

Spot any errors? Have any questions? Something to contribute? Email us at dbsthh@nus.edu.sg!
Presented by

Sponsored by