Samanea saman : The umbrella-like rain tree
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Samanea saman or Rain Tree originated from South America and was brought into the Malay Peninsular in 1876. This species has been introduced for urban planting since early 1900s and until now it is still commonly planted in urban areas especially along roadsides and highways. In FRI Kepong, the species was first planted in 1927 as part of trial plantings. This tree has a unique habit of folding its compound leaves at dusk or when it rains, hence the name Rain Tree. Samanea saman is a fast growing and hardy species, which can grow well in harsh urban environment. An avenue of mature rain trees with crown wide spreading like an umbrella make them excellent shade trees which create green tunnel effects in the city centre. Old rain trees are majestic and impressive looking but somewhat creepy especially when they are heavily ‘infested’ with epiphytes such as bird nest fern, stag horn fern and pigeon orchid. Nevertheless, by being a good host to a variety of epiphytes, such trees contribute towards enriching the biodiversity especially in urban areas. Its flowers are small, in clusters, pinkish white and slightly fragrant.

“Yellow” Samanea saman is a genetic variation of the rain tree which produces golden yellow leaves. Owing to its beautiful golden foliage, the yellow rain tree is highly sought after and becoming more popular for urban planting. During dry periods, the golden colour appears to be more luminous and the contrast between their crimson flowers and golden hue leaves provides a striking look. In FRIM, an old rain tree reaching almost 180 cm trunk diameter can be found standing majestically adjacent to the Administration Building (D1). A few mature trees can also be seen near Takipp Building (G2) and by the roadside near the football field. A yellow rain tree was also planted in front of Rumah Arboreta (near H4 building) while another three stands of yellow rain tree can be found near FRIM entrance. These trees were preserved at site during the facelifting work of FRIM entrance that was completed in April 2013.

Written by Ahmad Azaruddin MN, May 2013. Uploaded on 4 June 2013. The weekly weather was 24° to 34°C, with average humidity of 60%.