Dillenia indica L.

Etymology Genus After Johann Jacob Dillen, an 18th century German botanist
Species India
Family Dilleniaceae
Synonyms -
Common Names Elephant Apple, Indian Simpoh
Status Native: Presumed Extinct
Form Tree
Native Distribution India, South China to Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, and Java


The leaves are corrugated because of the impressed veins and the margins are serrated. The bark is slightly flaky. The cultivated ones flower and fruit frequently, giving rise to the unmistakeable large green fruits.

Interesting Facts:

While Dillenia indica is extinct in Singapore, they are commonly cultivated around the city. However, because of their large and heavy fruits, planting along roadsides are usually avoided.

The flowers with white petals droop downwards. Their inconspicuousness probably meant that they attract the pollinators by emitting scent. I have never attempted to smell them before, less I offend the bees they attract. The Elephant Apple's fruits are interesting because the sepals thicken and overlap each other, protecting the green flesh embedded with numerous seeds. The fruits are said to be eaten by elephants, but according to Corner (1997), the species, which grow along streams and rivers, are water-dispersed. The seeds will germinated when washed ashore.

The fruit pulp is rich in saponin, a chemical that foams readily when mixed with water, and therefore used as a form of soap (Wee, 2003).

Form of Dillenia indica.

The leaves have the appearance of a corrugated cardboard.

Flower of the Elephant Apple, taken from bottom up.

Fruits are formed from thicken sepals.

This explains the inclusion of "Apple" in its common name.

Sliced fruit. Note the overlapping sepals in white and the flesh at the centre.


Corner EJH. (1997) Wayside Trees of Malaya. Volume 1. 4th edition. The Malaysian Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. 476 pp.
Wee YC. (2003) Tropical Trees and Shrubs: A Selection for Urban Planting. Sun Tree Publishing, USA. 392 pp.

Author: Jake
Posted: 2012-11-11 / Modified: 2017-12-25