Sunday, November 06, 2011

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) is a rather rare mangrove associate from the family Apocynaceae. The genus was named after the famous naturalist George Finlayson, while the species name "obovata" means "reversed egg" in Latin. It is considered nationally critically endangered as it was estimated that there are less than 50 mature individuals left in the wild, with some evidence of decline or fragmentation in its habitat. I don't exactly agree with this though, as personally I have seen way too many Kalak Kambing growing in the wild.

The tidal canal at Sungei Kadut possibly has one of the largest population of Kalak Kambing in Singapore. This plant exhibits various growth forms - some may occur as climbers climbing on tall trees.

Others may creep and climb over each other, forming thick and extensive bush-like growths. It may sometimes be mistaken with Acanthus volubilis - another climber with opposite rounded leaves. To differentiate them, just break a leaf. The broken leaf that exudes a white sap belongs to the Kalak Kambing. The young leaves of this plant are apparently eaten by some as a vegetable.

Yet others may occur as small and low bush-like clumps. Apart from Sungei Kadut, I have seen a huge population of Kalak Kambing at Mandai Mangrove and Kranji Nature Trail Mangrove. I have also encountered several of this plant at Seletar Mangrove, Khatib Bongsu, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Pulau Ubin, Pasir Ris Park, Lim Chu Kang and Woodlands Town Garden. Understand that it can be found at a number of other mangroves, so I really don't think it's critically endangered.

The flowers can come in two colours - the more common one being the purplish one above.

Light-greenish ones can also be found in Singapore. In fact, I have seen flowers of both colours at Sungei Kadut, and sometimes different climbers with different coloured flowers can be climbing over the same tree.

The flowers form loose clusters, and do not bloom together. A small fruit can be seen in the above photo to the right.

The fruits appear like a pair of horns, and hence the common name "kalak kambing", which means goat's horn. The above shows the young fruits.

The more mature fruits appear more bloated.

The fruits eventually dry up and burst to reveal the flat seeds inside.

  • Ang, W. F., P. X. Ng, S. Teo, A. F. S. L. Lok & H. T. W. Tan, 2010. The status and distribution in Singapore of Finlaysonia obovata Wall. (Apocynaceae). Nature in Singapore, 3: 7–11.
  • Chong, K. Y., H. T. W. Tan & R. T. Corlett. 2009. A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore: Native, Naturalised and Cultivated Species. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore. Singapore. 273 pp.
  • Giesen, W., S. Wulffraat, M. Zieren & L. Scholten. 2006. Mangrove guidebook for Southeast Asia. RAP Publication 2006/07. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific & Wetlands International. Bangkok. 769 pp.

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