Xerospermum noronhianum

Xerospermum noronhianum is a common Asian tree species described by Carl Ludwig von Blume: it is the type species in the genus and belongs to the Family Sapindaceae. X. noronhianum Blume is the accepted name and there are no subspecies listed in the Catalog of Life. Morphologically, it is a very variable species, found in many kinds of tropical forests and soils, usually below 300 m altitude and rarely above 1000 m. Its light brown wood is hard and durable, often used in the construction of buildings.

Xerospermum noronhianum
Xerospermum noronhianum


Tree: 25–30 m high when fully grown, often with buttresses at the trunk base.

Leaves: Inflorescences up to 250 mm long if solitary, much shorter if tufted.

Flowers: tetramerous. Sepals free or slightly connate, the outer two usually slightly smaller than the inner one, ovate to obovate, 1-3 by 1-2.4 mm, outside and inside glabrous or hairy (nearly always inside at the base). Petals: obovate to broadly spathulate, 1-2.8 by 0.5-1.7 mm, short- to long-clawed with an ovate to transversely elliptic blade, variably woolly, almost always with the exception of the base outside, inside often sparsely hairy to glabrous. Stamens: 8 (sometimes 9).

Fruit: lobes ellipsoid to almost spherical: 17–50 by 12–50 mm, with a (very variable) rough, red or dark-brown surface.

There is considerable (but continuous) variation in this species: of leaves, flowers, and especially the fruits.

Xerospermum noronhianum
Xerospermum noronhianum


Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Tree
Maximum Height 30 m


Native Distribution Myanmar, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, and Borneo
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Critically Endangered (CR))
Xerospermum noronhianum
Xerospermum noronhianum

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a tree up to 30 m tall.
Foliage Its alternate, pinnate leaves bear 1–3 pairs of leaflets, with leaf stalks swollen at the base. The leaf stalk and main axis are hairless to densely covered with brownish or yellow hair. Its stalked leaflets have papery to leathery leaf blades that are oval, up to 30 by 50 cm, and with few to many glands.
Flowers Its male flowering shoot is up to 25 cm long when found singly, and shorter if tufted. The female flowering shoot is tufted. Its short-stalked flowers are white-yellow, with joined or free sepals.
Fruits Its fruits are red to dark brown, 3.5–7 mm wide, and with swollen stalks. They also have one to two lobes that are ellipsoid, almost round to obovoid, and 1.8–5 by 1.3–5 cm.
Habitat It grows in primary and secondary rainforests, peat swamp forests, and kerangas forests up to 1,500 m altitude on well-drained to water-logged soil. It occurs locally in the vicinity of MacRitchie Reservoir, the Mandai Road area, and along Chestnut Avenue.
Etymology Greek xeros, dry; Greek spermum, seed, referring to the seed that is without arillode; Latin noronhianum, commemorating Fernando Noronha, a 18th century Spanish biologist
Xerospermum noronhianum
Xerospermum noronhianum

Landscaping Features

Landscape Uses Roadside Tree / Palm, Parks & Gardens

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade
Water Preference Moderate Water


Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Papery, Leathery

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) Cream / Off-White, White

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) – Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Brown, Red

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