Limahlania crenulata Maingay ex C.B.Clarke Wong & Sugumaran

Etymology Genus After Jonas Theodor Fagraeus, an 18th century Swedish naturalist
Species Having small rounded teeth. This occurs along the leaf margins
Family Gentianaceae
Synonyms Fagraea crenulata Maingay ex C.B.Clarke
Common Names Cabbage Tree, Birah, Malabira
Status Exotic: Casual
Form Tree
Native Distribution Indochina, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo


Limahlania crenulata has a single dominant trunk, and the primary branching radiates at specific points like a pagoda. The leaves are large, fleshy, stalkless, and arranged in whorls. The form and foliage resembles very closely with Terminalia catappa, but L. crenulata have much larger and rounder leaves.The young trees are especially distinctive because the trunk is covered with small thorns which disappear upon maturity. Besides that, the disproportionally large leaves with a short and thin bole makes it an eye-catching species.

Interesting Facts:

In Peninsular Malaysia, the natural habitat of the Cabbage Tree lies in swampy land behind mangroves at the west coast (Corner, 1997). It was introduced to Singapore's streetscapes at about 1980 (The Straits Times, 1986). A good place to see them is along the Bukit Timah Expressway, where many towering individuals present now were planted there since 1986 (The Straits Times, 1986).

The flowers are cream-coloured, fragrant, and said to be pollinated by nocturnal moths (Rao & Wee, 1989). The fruits are oblong and green, and contain numerous seeds within.

Mature individuals of Limahlania crenulata.

A younger tree which seems to have disproportionally large leaves.

The trunks of young trees have numerous small thorns.

Fallen flowers. The fragrance is quite strong.

Cream-coloured inflorescences.

Oblong green fruits.


Corner EJH. (1997) Wayside Trees of Malaya. Volume 1. 4th edition. The Malaysian Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. 476 pp.
Rao, AN & WC Wee (1989) Singapore Trees. Singapore Institute of Biology, Singapore. 357 pp.
Teo S, KY Chong, YF Chung, BR Kurukulasuriya & HTW Tan, 2011. Casual establishment of some cultivated urban plants in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 4: 127-133.
The Straits Times, 1986. New trees for our highways. The Straits Times, 25 July 1986.

Author: Jake
Posted: 2012-12-23 / Modified: 2017-12-25