Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Ploiarium alternifolium (Vahl) Melch.

Species:P. alternifolium
Common Names:Cicada Tree, Riang Riang


A shrub or small tree, mostly growing not more than 15 m. In swampy forests with peaty soil however, old trees can reach up to 30 m. Stilt roots will develop from the trunk and can sometimes grow from about 2 m, descending perpendicularly and surrounding the trunk. Leaves are narrow, obovate-oblong, about 7–9 cm, crowding alternately at the tip of the twigs. They are pointed at the tip and are fleshy and shiny. Leaves are yellowish green with pink minutely toothed edges and will wither yellow to orange or red. Bark of this tree is warm brown to greyish brown, narrowly and deeply ridged and fissured.

Flowers are about 2.5 cm wide; white with pink edges and have numerous stamens. Fruits are 5-valved capsules, about 1.5–2 cm long with the opening at the base, and are a dark purple.

This is a versatile plant that can be found in dry secondary forests and swampy areas. They can grow on rocks in rivers but barely reach 30 cm in height. It grows into a small tree in riverine tidal mudflats and will grow much larger in peat-swamp forests.

Read more about the Malpighiales order.
Read more about the Bonnetiaceae family.


MacRitchie, Nee Soon Swamp Forest

Life Cycle

The fruits splits open at the base and releases numerous, wind-dispersed seeds.

Human Uses

The wood from this plant is hard and heavy, and is thus valued for house construction. It has also been cultivated for its attractive flowers and foliage.


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.

Corner, E.J.H., 1988. Wayside trees of Malaya. Third edition. Volumes 1-2. Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. 861 pp.

Keng, H., 1990. The Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Singapore University Press, Singapore. 222 pp.

Tan, H.T.W., 2011. Bonnetiaceae. Pp. 477-478. 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.

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