Southeast Asia lies east of the Indian subcontinent and south of China. The area encompasses Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. Southeast Asia consists of tropical and subtropical climates, a natural environment for lush plant growth. Some southeastern Asia plants occur naturally only in their native climate, while others have become naturalized in the United States.
Tacca chantrieri is a Southeast Asia native that develops distinctive flowers. Also known as bat glower, tiger's whisker and devil flower, the flower has wing-shaped bracts (the leaves originating from the flower's axis) on groups of petals with long white tendrils. The flower occurs in white and black varieties, and to many, resembles the wings of a flying bad.
Ceiba pentandra (Kapok tree) is a deciduous tree that grows to 150 feet tall with a spiny, 9-foot-wide trunk. The tree develops in an umbrella shape, shading the shorter rainforest understory plants. A South American native, the Ceiba pentandra has spread to Southeast Asian rainforests. The tree's white or pale pink blooms have an unpleasant odor, and the seed pods contain a white fibrous material used for padding, floatation devices, mattresses and pillows.
Jambu ayer (watery rose apple) grows from eastern Malaysia to southern India. The young leaves of the plant are pink, turning to light green as they mature. Jambu ayer develops small, lightly scented flowers in pink, yellow and yellow-white. This small tree grows to 20 feet tall, producing fruit in August and November. The small fruits are 1 inch long with white or light red skin. The fruit is mildly sweet and contains up to three poisonous seeds.
Terminalia catappa (tropical almond) is common in the tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia and is valued for its roots, fruit and wood. This tree is commonly planted along the coasts, where its extensive root system helps prevent soil erosion. The fruit of the tree is edible, and the wood is suitable for building furniture and structures. Terminalia catappa is a hardy tree that is both salt- and wind-tolerant. The tree has been known to have its leaves stripped by high winds, only to grow new leaves and blooms six weeks later. This large tree grows to 130 feet tall, with a spreading canopy almost as wide. A mature trunk grows up to 5 feet wide. Terminalia catappa is naturalized in Puerto Rico and Florida.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Southeast Asia
- Southeast Asian Rainforest Plants: Jambu
- "A Field Guide to Tropical Plants of Asia"; David Harris Engel, Suchart Phummai; 2000
- Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry: Terminallia catappa (tropical almond)
- PlantCare.com: Bat Flower
- UBC Botanical Garden: Botany Photo of the Day -- Tacca chantrieri
- Photo Credit EIGHTFISH/Photodisc/Getty Images
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