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Xylocarpus moluccensis

Xylocarpus moluccensis fruit.jpg
Fruit of Xylocarpus moluccensis, Singapore Photo: John Yong

Common Names

Cedar Mangrove[1], Mangrove Cedar, Apple Mangrove [2].
Xylocarpus moluccensis deciduous.jpg
Deciduous leaves of Xylocarpus moluccensis, Singapore Photo: John Yong



Name Reference

Xylocarpus moluccensis (Lam.) M.Roem.

Origin of Name

‘Xylo-carpus’ means woody fruit(in Latin), and refers to the large and distinctly woody fruit and seeds of this genus.

Named for the Moluccas region, also known as the Spice Islands, of eastern Indonesia where this species is also common. This description includes all Australian occurrences previously identified as X. mekongensis Pierre and X. australasicus Ridl ([1]).


Xylocarpus moluccensis (Cedar Mangrove) is a small to medium sized deciduous tree with a reatively sparse canopy. It has peg-like conical air-breathing roots (pneumatophores) and a woody orange-shaped fruit. During its winter deciduous phase the normally bright green foliage turns orange, yellow and red before falling from the tree.


Xylocarpus moluccensis (Cedar Mangrove) is a deciduous, columnar tree growing up to 22 m high. It has light brown bark, peeling in longitudinal flakes and pencil-like, stout, air-breathing roots (pneumatophores).

The leaves are compound, 20 cm long and consist of 2-6 pairs of opposite leaflets. Juveniles may have simple leaves. The leaflets are elliptic to ovate (egg-shaped), 4-12 cm long, 2-8 cm wide, with a blunt or pointed tip.

The inflorescence is 4-8 cm long with 9-35 flowers. The flowers are small and creamy-white.

The fruit is a globular, woody capsule, about the size of an orange (5 -10 cm diameter). Each fruit contains 4-16 tightly packed, tetrahedral seeds which are 4-7cm long [3], [4], [5], [1], [6].

Botanical Description


Tree to 15 m, columnar, deciduous; bark light brown to grey, lightly fissured or coarsely flaky, lenticels pale brown; stem base columnar, occasional small fin-like buttresses; roots conical pneumatophores, stout, erect, to 20 cm L, 2-4 cm W, apex blunt.


Leaves alternate, compound, smooth, 8-15 cm L; leaflets 4-6, bright green, often papery, elliptic to ovate, 3-10 cm L, 2.5-7 cm W, margins entire, apices obtuse, base cuneate, <5mm L; petioles slender, ~2 cm L.


Inflorescence axillary, many-flowered panicle to 8 cm L, slender, main axis distinct, monoecious, male and female flowers in same inflorescence, few differences; pedicel clavate, 2-4 mm L; bracteoles minute; flowers tetramerous, glabrous, 3-5 mm W; calyx lobes 4, green, valvate, shortly united below, ~1 mm L; petals 4, creamy white, oblong, ~3 mm L, ~1.5 mm W; stamens united as staminal tube, spherical, creamy white, ~2 mm L, upper margin bears 8 erect apiculate lobes; anthers sessile, orange, oblong on inner tube surface, 0.5-1 mm L; ovary globose, nearly filling staminal tube; stigma disc-like, broad, yellow to orange-red, level with staminal lobes, 0.5 mm W; male flower with non-functional slender ovary; female flower with non-functional stamens; fruit woody capsule with 4 indistinct valves, globose, green, coriaceous, shiny, 8-9 cm W, splits naturally after falling to reveal 8-16 seeds.


Seeds angular, more or less tetrahedral, dull pale brown, smooth, buoyant, 4-5 cm L, testa corky; germination hypogeal, radicle developing as taproot.


Xylocarpus moluccensis AVH.JPG
Distribution of Xylocarpus moluccensis in Australia.
Image: Australia's Virtual Herbarium, 2010

Xylocarpus moluccensis occurs through Asia and Indonesia to New Guinea, the south-western Pacific Islands and northern Australia. In Australia, the species occurs in estuaries and embayments along the northern coast from King Sound, Western Australia (17° 19' S, 123° 38’ E) in the west, across the Northern Territory, to South Trees Inlet, Queensland (23° 52' S, 151° 18’ E) in the east [1].

Localities (not complete):


Commonly found at the mid to upper tidal limit in the middle reaches of tidal waterways, at the landward margin of marine mangroves and in swales behind coastal dunes. It prefers habitats with some freshwater input. The species is commonly found in a variety of substrates from soft oozy mud to sand and coarse gravel [1], [6].

High-mid intertidal, intermediate estuarine position ([1]).


In Australia, flowers can be found from June to October, with mature fruits found from November to February. The deciduous foliage turns yellow, red and orange from June to October [5], [6].

In the Northern Territory flowers are produced during June and July. Leaves also fall during this period, with new leaves appearing from August to September. Fruit mature during November and December [6].

Xylocarpus moluccensis is deciduous, with leaves falling from June to July in the mid dry season and new leaves appearing in August to October [5], [6]. Pollination is probably by insects [14].

The seed is able to remain afloat for more than two months [6].

Other mangroves associated with this species include Bruguiera parviflora, Rhizophora apiculata, Ceriops zippeliana, Acanthus ilicifolius, and occasionally X. granatum.

Biological Interactions
Group Taxon
  30 taxa
Vascular Plants Acanthus ilicifolius
Vascular Plants Acrostichum speciosum
Vascular Plants Aegialitis annulata
Vascular Plants Aegiceras corniculatum
Vascular Plants Avicennia marina
Vascular Plants Bruguiera cylindrica
Vascular Plants Bruguiera exaristata
Vascular Plants Bruguiera gymnorhiza
Vascular Plants Bruguiera parviflora
Vascular Plants Camptostemon schultzii
Vascular Plants Ceriops pseudodecandra
Vascular Plants Ceriops tagal
Vascular Plants Cynometra iripa
Vascular Plants Diospyros littorea
Vascular Plants Excoecaria agallocha
Vascular Plants Heritiera littoralis
Vascular Plants Lumnitzera littorea
Vascular Plants Lumnitzera racemosa
Vascular Plants Nypa fruticans
Vascular Plants Osbornia octodonta
Vascular Plants Rhizophora apiculata
Vascular Plants Rhizophora X lamarckii
Vascular Plants Rhizophora mucronata
Vascular Plants Rhizophora stylosa
Vascular Plants Scyphiphora hydrophylacea
Vascular Plants Xylocarpus granatum
Vascular Plants Diospyros geminata
Vascular Plants Hibiscus tiliaceus
Insects Arhopara micale
Insects insects


Xylocarpus moluccensis roots.jpg
Peg-like pneumatophores of Xylocarpus moluccensis, Singapore Photo: John Yong

Some aboriginal people (Iwaidja speakers) use the trunks of large trees to make dugout canoes [15], while the Yolngu people use the inner part of the bark to treat any illness [16].

Further enthobotanical information can be found in [6].

Similar Species

Xylocarpus granatum (Cannonball Mangrove) is similar to X. moluccensis. X. granatum has larger fruit, smooth, patchy bark, buttresses and plank-like aerial roots. X. moluccensis has smaller fruit, conical pneumatophores (snorkel-like aerial roots) and is deciduous in winter [5].


This species is part of the Meliaceae family which is known for its timber species, such as Australian Red Cedar ( Toona australis) [5].

There has been some confusion over the name of this species and it has previously been called X. mekongensis and X. australasicus. Both these names are now considered synonyms of X. moluccensis [4], [6].

This species has been cultivated on a limited scale by collectors for its unusual large fruit. It can also be planted in beach reclamation projects. Propagate from fresh seed. It requires warm to hot tropical conditions and plenty of moisture. Seedlings are intolerant of dryness and plants can not cope with severe cold or frosts [2].

Peter K. L. Ng and N. Sivasothi (editors) (2001). Nyireh batu Xylocarpus moluccensis. Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore. Available online at: http://mangrove.nus.edu.sg/guidebooks/text/1078.htm

-- NormDuke and EmmaClifton - 2012-01-04 - 16:57


  1. Duke, N. (2011). Mangroves of Australia. Manuscript. Vers.: 27 Sept 2011. (more)
  2. Elliot, W.R. & Jones, D.L., (2010) Encyclopaedia of Australian plants suitable for cultivation Volume 9 Sp-Z. (more)
  3. Lovelock, C. (1993). Field Guide to the Mangroves of Queensland. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Qld. Available online: http://www.aims.gov.au/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c9dcfc2e-6018-4302-8818-5ab3fe01f91f&groupId=30301 (more)
  4. Mabberley, D.J., Pannell, C.M. and Sing, A.M. (1995). Meliaceae. Flora Malesiana Series 1 (12): 1-407. (more)
  5. Duke, N.C. (2006). Australia's Mangroves. The authoritative guide to Australia's mangrove plants. University of Queensland, Brisbane. (more)
  6. Wightman, G. (2006). Mangroves of the Northern Territory, Australia: identification and traditional use. Northern Territory. Dept. of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, Palmerston. (more)
  7. Bunt, J.S. (1982b). Mangrove Transect Data from Northern Queensland. Coastal Studies Series, Australian Institute of Marine Science AIMS-CS-82-1. Australian Institute of Marine Science. 41 p. Available online: http://data.aims.gov.au/extpubs/attachmentDownload?docID=2326 (more)
  8. Smith III, T.J. (1987). Seed predation in relation to tree dominance and distribution in mangrove forests. Ecology 68(2): 266-73. Available online: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/1939257.pdf (more)
  9. Robertson, A.I., Giddins, R. and Smith, T.J. (1990). Seed predation by insects in tropical mangrove forests: extent and effects on seed viability and the growth of seedlings. Oecologia 83: 213-219. Available online: http://www.springerlink.com/content/h6567208r2v14176/fulltext.pdf (more)
  10. Bunt, J.S. (1997). The Mangrove Floral and Vegetational Diversity of Hinchinbrook Island and the Adjacent Coast. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville. Available online: http://data.aims.gov.au/extpubs/attachmentDownload?docID=3018 (more)
  11. Semeniuk, V. (1980). Mangrove zonation along an eroding coastline in King Sound, north-western Australia. Journal of Ecology 68: 789-812. Available online: (more)
  12. Boto, K. G. and Wellington, J. T. (1983). Phosphorus and nitrogen nutritional status of a northern Australian mangrove forest. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 11: 63-69. Available online: http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps/11/m011p063.pdf (more)
  13. Thom, B.G., Wright, L.D. and Coleman, J.M. (1975). Mangrove ecology and deltaic-estuarine geomorphology: Cambridge Gulf-Ord River, Western Australia. J. Ecol. 63(1): 202-232. Available online: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/2258851.pdf (more)
  14. Tomlinson, P.B. (1986). The Botany of Mangroves. Cambridge Tropical Biology Series. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. (more)
  15. Blake, N.M., Williams, L.L.V.W and Wightman, G.M. (1998). Iwaidja ethnobotany: Aboriginal plant use from Gurig National Park, northern Australia. Northern Territory Botanical Bulletin 23. (more)
  16. Scarlett, N., White, N. and Reid, J. (1982). 'Bush medicines': the pharmacopoeia of the Yolngu of Arnhem Land. In Reid, J. (ed.), Body, land and spirit; health and healing in Aboriginal society. University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia. (more)

Biological Interactions
Relation Taxon GroupSorted ascending
PollinatedBy Insects AllOrganisms
PreyOf Arhopara_micale Lepidoptera
OccursWith Acanthus_ilicifolius Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Acrostichum_speciosum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Aegialitis_annulata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Aegiceras_corniculatum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Avicennia_marina Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_cylindrica Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_exaristata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_gymnorhiza Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_parviflora Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Camptostemon_schultzii Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Ceriops_pseudodecandra Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Ceriops_tagal Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Cynometra_iripa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Diospyros_geminata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Excoecaria_agallocha Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Heritiera_littoralis Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Hibiscus_tiliaceus Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Lumnitzera_littorea Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Lumnitzera_racemosa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Nypa_fruticans Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Osbornia_octodonta Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_X_lamarckii Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_apiculata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_mucronata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_stylosa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Scyphiphora_hydrophylacea Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Xylocarpus_granatum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Diospyros_littorea Vascular_Plants