Observation Series
Searching for the Seeds of Garcinia cymosa

Someone wrote to me on 15 July 2012 with a list of Garcinia species and requesting me to obtain some seeds of these plants. The most well-known species in the Garcinia genus is Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), which is readily available in fruit stalls or supermarkets. After running through the list, the only species that I might be able to get hold of some seeds is probably Garcinia cymosa since there were several of these trees planted at the edge of a park near my place. So far, this plant did not get much of my attention because it is not a native plant and no one had asked about it until now.

photoWith the enquiry, I started to search for more information on this tree. Surprisingly, there was very little information on this plant in the Internet. The only piece of decent information on this tree was a short paragraph found in a publication, Gardenwise (July 2000 issue, page 7), published by the Singapore Botanical Garden. The botanical name stated in the article was Garcinia cymosa forma pendula. No common name is available. The tree is native to New Guinea.

photo photoThis column-shape tree provide little shade and hence, unlikely to be widely planted. The plot near the park had at least 10 trees. They were doing well in this foreign land based on the fruits and young plants seen. I had found at least several young plants around the park, some as far as several hundred metres away from the parent trees. The seeds are likely to be dispersed by squirrels found in the park.

The young leaves are red in colour. They gradually turn greenish yellow before they matured to a leathery green colour.

photo photoOn 21 July 2012, I made a trip to visit the plot of Garcinia cymosa with the aim to find its seeds. Although I had seen the fruits which turn reddish when mature, I had yet to open one to view the seeds. The mature fruits are red in colour. photo

While searching for seeds around the trees, I had to be careful not to let the most notorious red weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) in Singapore get on to me. This ant is big compared to most other ants and the most unpleasant part is that it bites, plus the bite can be painful. They were patrolling all over the place ---- on the trees and on the grass patch around the tree.

I did discover some fruits on the ground by the side of the trees. When I tried opening one, it produced a sticky white sap that made the exercise rather messy. I did not pursue further with this fruit. photo photo photo After further search, I saw one half-consumed fruit that still had a seed in it. The creature that did this was likely to be a squirrel. I pried open the remaining of the fruit and finally got to see its mysterious seed. The seed is actually quite beautiful upon close examination. The grooves on its surface reminded me of human brain anatomy.

photoGarcinia cymosa is another of those exotic trees that was brought into Singapore although its use is relatively unknown except for landscaping purpose. A publication in 2009 (see reference below) reported that the plant contain anti-malaria compound. This report might increase the interest of this plant and its popularity. Nevertheless, the article was very technical and very little was said about the botanical aspect of the tree. In 2013, another article on this tree indicated that the bark contains compounds that have antioxidant and antibacterial activities. Still, nothing much was mentioned about the characteristics of the tree.

In case you are wondering about the hair-liked structures that were seen sticking out on the tree top, they were the remains of the parasitic plant, Malayan Mistletoe (Dendrophthoe pentandra). Some live specimens were seen on the trees but they were too high for me to get a decent picture, plus I was conscious of the notorious red ants around. Malayan Mistletoe is one of the two most common mistletoes in Singapore. The other counterpart is the Common Chinese Mistletoe (Macrosolen cochinchinensis).

photo photo photoOn 11 May 2013, I found another ripe fruit on one of the trees. The rest of the fruits were still green. Ripe fruits seem hard to come by probably they were being consumed by small animals before I could get to them. I brought the red fruit back, wrapped it with cotton wool, placed it in a sealed container and kept it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. A week later, I pried open the fruit. It was soft by then and produce a fragrant smell, though I was not sure whether the fruit is edible. The seed came out of the fruit easily. It had a layer of sticky coating. I wrapped the seed with cotton wool and put it back in the seal container and store it in the refrigerator. I had not decided what to do with it. photophoto

As for the seed found back in July 2012, I had kept it in a sealed container and stored at room temperature. By May 2013, the seed had shrunk due to the loss of water content (picture right). The fresh seed that I obtained in May 2013 was placed by the side for comparison (picture far right).

After having opened 2 fruits, I was quite certain that each fruit contains only a single seed.

Publications:

1. Yuliar, Yunazar Manjang, Sanusi Ibrahim, Sjamsul Arifin Achmad. Phenolic Constituents from the Tree Barks of Garcinia cf cymosa and their Antioxidant and Antibacterial Activities. Malaysian J Fundamental Appl Sci 2013;9(3):115-118. | Abstract | Article |

2. Elfita E, Muharni M, Latief M, Darwati D, Widiyantoro A, Supriyatna S, Bahti HH, Dachriyanus D, Cos P, Maes L, Foubert K, Apers S, Pieters L. Antiplasmodial and other constituents from four Indonesian Garcinia spp. Phytochemistry 2009;70(7):907-912. | Abstract |

Last updated: 26 May 2013

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