Hopea odorata: Spiralling two-winged seeds
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Hopea odorata or merawan siput jantan is also known locally by other interesting names such as cengal pasir, cengal kampung, cengal pulau and cengal mas. As implied in these local names, H. odorata belongs to the same family as the true cengal (Neobalanocarpus heimii) namely Dipterocarpaeae. Naturally, H. odorata is distributed from Indo-China, Myanmar, Thailand, Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia to the Andaman Islands. In Peninsular Malaysia, it commonly occurs in the northern part mainly in the state of Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu.

The tree is basically a riparian species and is normally found near river or streams. The timber from Hopea odorata is classified as medium heavy hardwood.This large-sized tree of up to 45 m in height is used for reforestation programmes and forest plantations besides being a popular shade tree. In the coastal area of central Terengganu, H. odorata was once planted as a multipurpose tree by local villagers for boundary marker, as shade tree and for timber for building houses. Many mature trees can still be seen in the rural areas.It finally found its way as an urban landscape tree during the earlier phase of Klang Valley’s greening program in the seventies.

The species is now widely used as ornamental and shade trees in urban areas. At FRIM, H. odorata was first planted in 1929 and one fine specimen of this species can be seen standing majestically near FRIM Club (building F2) which is now fruiting heavily. The dispersal of its attractive winged-seeds in the air, before touching down on the floor underneath is a sight to behold.

Article by Ahmad Azaruddin MN, uploaded on 20 February 2014. The weekly weather was cloudy, 24°C to 35°C.