The Binjai (Mangifera Caesia)
The Binjai is one of 12 species of mango recorded as native to Singapore but it rarely grows wild here, with fewer than 50 mature specimens island-wide. The Binjai (scientific name: Mangifera Caesia) can grow up to 30 metres tall, with a dense and dome-shaped crown, large and leathery leaves pointing upwards in rosettes at the end of massive twigs. The sap emitted by the Binjai tree is a known irritant, both on the skin and when ingested. In the past, its white latex has been used as poison by natives.
Binjai trees flower and fruit after five years, and when in bloom around April to June, it is covered in attractive flowers that are pinkish or lilac on the outside and purple on the inside. The fruit is generally oblong, with white flesh and large and with scurfy brown skin. Considered a delicacy by the Malay community, the fruit tastes sour and can be eaten raw or dipped in sambal belacan, a chilli and fermented prawn paste, and eaten with rice. It can also be eaten as a side dish with cut chilli, soy sauce and sugar.
Several locations have been inspired by the tree, which includes Binjai Park, Binjai Hill, Binjai Walk, Binjai Rise in Bukit Timah and Jalan Binjai, off Haig Road. But the Binjai trees are no longer abundant in Singapore.
Today, four specimens of this tree is listed as “Heritage Trees” by the National Parks Board (@nparksbuzz) – one in the Istana, one opposite Spottiswoode Apartments, another at Jalan Naung next to Hougang MRT, and the last one in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
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