Sonneratia caseolaris (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Sonneratia caseolaris (L.) Engl.

Protologue: Engler & Prantl, Nat. Pfl. Fam. Nachtr. 1: 261 (1897).
Family: Sonneratiaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 22, 24


  • Rhizophora caseolaris L. (1754),
  • Sonneratia acida L.f. (1781),
  • S. obovata Blume (1851).

Vernacular names

  • Brunei: pedada nasi
  • Indonesia: berembang (eastern Sumatra), bogem (Javanese, Sundanese), perepat merah (South Kalimantan), pidada
  • Malaysia: berembang (Peninsular), perepat laut (Sabah), pedada
  • Papua New Guinea: pagapate
  • Philippines: pagatpat (Tagalog), hikaw-hikawan (Tagalog), bunayon (Bisaya)
  • Burma (Myanmar): tamoo, tapoo
  • Cambodia: 'âm'-pië, lop ou
  • Thailand: lamphu (central)
  • Vietnam: bần chua, cây bần, lậu.

Origin and geographic distribution

S. caseolaris is native to South and South-East Asia and is distributed from India and Sri Lanka up to southern China, and throughout South-East Asia to northern Australia and the western Pacific islands.


The main use of S. caseolaris is as a fruit vegetable, although it is of minor importance. Young fruits have a sour taste and are used as a flavouring. Ripe fruits have a cheese-like taste and are eaten raw or cooked. Leaves are occasionally consumed, usually raw.

The fruits can be used medicinally, chiefly externally but also internally, in arresting haemorrhage, as a vermifuge and to soothe coughing. The leaves, pounded with salt, are used as a poultice and plaster on minor wounds. Pectin can be extracted from the fruits. The wood of S. caseolaris is of poor quality and is only occasionally used for pulp or fuel. The breathing roots (pneumatophores), after being boiled in water, yield an inferior substitute for cork. The bark contains 9-15% tannin (dry weight basis) and is locally used for tanning leather and nets.

Production and international trade

The tree is known and used almost exclusively by inhabitants of coastal areas. No statistics are available on production and use.


Data on the nutritional value are scarce. Ripe fruits are reported to contain per 100 g: water 80 g, protein 2.3 g, fat 1.0 g, carbohydrates 9.4 g, fibre 5.7 g, ash 1.6 g, P 50 mg, Ca 40 mg, Fe 0.9 mg. The corresponding energy value is 235 kJ/100 g.


  • Tree, 5-15(-20) m tall, trunk not buttressed, branches horizontal or drooping, crown lax.
  • Root system consisting of extended cable roots giving rise to descending anchor roots and numerous erect, often branched, cone-shaped pneumatophores (breathing roots) extending 0.2-2.5 m above the substrate, and of numerous narrow feeding roots developing horizontally in the substrate.
  • Bark flaky, greyish pale brown. Young branchlets quadrangular, occasionally 4-winged, with 2 pairs of glands.
  • Leaves simple, opposite, entire, glabrous, leathery; leaf-blade elliptical, ovate or obovate, 4-13 cm × 2-7 cm, apex rounded, often with recurved mucro, veins not prominent; petiole 2-9 mm long, reddish; stipules absent.
  • Flowers bisexual, terminal, either single or in groups of 2 or 3, 4-8-merous; pedicel short, often quadrangular; calyx tubular, 3-4.5 cm long, leathery, 5-8-lobed, persistent in fruit; petals always present, linear, 20-30 mm × 1-3 mm, red, early caducous; stamens numerous, inflexed in bud, early caducous, filaments reddish or rarely white, 2-3 cm long; ovary superior, sessile, 13-21-locular, style 4-6 mm long.
  • Fruit a depressed-globose berry, 5-7.5 cm in diameter, 3-4 cm long, with fleshy pulp and leathery green, glossy pericarp, crowned by the style base, indehiscent, resting on the persistent calyx which is spreading and not enclosing the fruit.
  • Seeds numerous, irregularly angular, ca. 7 mm long.

Growth and development

Germination is epigeal. It is a pioneer species of mangrove swamps, and seeds will not germinate easily in shade. Seedling leaves are narrowly lanceolate, 12-13 cm × 1-5 cm; adult tree leaves are elliptical. Flowering in South-East Asia is year-round, noctural, and pollination seems to be effected by nectar-drinking bats or large night-moths. Stamens and petals fall from the flowers within 12 hours of opening. At anthesis, the flower emits a sour, buttery odour. During the main flowering period in Vietnam (March - April) the plant attracts thousands of fireflies which illuminate areas of mangrove.

Other botanical information

Interspecific hybridization is fairly common in Sonneratia . S. × gulngai N.C. Duke is a presumed hybrid between S. alba J. Smith and S. caseolaris.


S. caseolaris is common in the inner parts of mangrove forests on deep muddy soils and extends inland along tidal creeks usually as far as the influence of salinity extends. Its characteristic habitat consists of river banks and tidal areas with mud banks, often in upstream estuarine positions of rivers subjected to large volumes of freshwater run-off. In some instances it has been found growing in fully fresh water without any connection with brackish water.


S. caseolaris is propagated by seed. These are small and tend to float. Reforestation is usually by means of seedlings, planted at a spacing of 1 m √ó 1 m. Threatening diseases and pests have not been reported except mangrove crabs, which feed on leaves and may destroy seedlings.

Genetic resources and breeding

No germplasm collections exist and no breeding programmes are being carried out.


S. caseolaris forms an element of mangrove forests, and that fact determines its greatest value. The biological basis for sustained use and management of such forests is still deficient. The safest policy minimizes direct utilization in order not to disturb this complex ecosystem. The use of S. caseolaris fruits as a vegetable is minor and should remain so until there is a safe management system for the sustained use of mangrove forests.


  • Backer, C.A. & van Steenis, C.G.G.J., 1951. Sonneratiaceae. In: van Steenis, C.G.G.J. et al. (Editors), 1950- . Flora Malesiana. Series 1. Vol. 4. Noordhoff-Kolff, Djakarta, Indonesia. pp. 280-289.
  • Duke, N.C. & Jackes, B.R., 1987. A systematic revision of the mangrove genus Sonneratia (Sonneratiaceae) in Australasia. Blumea 32(2): 277-302.
  • FAO, 1985. Mangrove management in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. FAO, Rome, Italy. pp. 29-39.
  • Tomlinson, P.B., 1986. The botany of mangroves. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. pp. 368-370.
  • Voon Boon Hoe, Patricia Sim & Chin Thian Hon, 1988. Sayur-sayuran dan buah-buahan hutan di Sarawak [Vegetables and fruits from the forest in Sarawak]. Department of Agriculture, Sarawak, Malaysia. p. 31.
  • Vu van Cuong, 1965. Sonneratiaceae. Sonneratia. In: Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam [Flora of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam]. Vol. 4. Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Laboratoire de Phanérogamie, Paris, France. pp. 194-203.


  • E.N. Sambas