Fagraea cambagei (Gentianaceae)

Fagraea cambagei DSC_0406 (2)

It is hard to believe that trees in the tropics may be related to the diminutive gentians of temperate zone, but there you go – introducing the Porcelain Fruit, the gentian tree of the wet tropics.

Fagraea cambagei DSC_0021 (2)

The Porcelain Fruit is found in the understorey of lowland rainforest to upland forests, and it can be identified without flowers on the basis of the way the leaves are borne on the stem.

Every successive pair of opposite leaves comes out at a opposite angle to the preceeding pair (i.e. a decussate leaf arrangement), and appear like they split the bud open and burst out of it, thereby leaving a conspicuous scar on the branch.

I had an analogy to describe this but decorum does not permit me to. It’s rather graphic I say.

The unrelated genus Garcinia (where we get mangosteens) does the same thing, but these species will typically always bleed yellow sap when leaves are broken, whereas the Porcelain Fruit does not.

Fagraea cambagei DSC_0021 (1)

The leaves of the Porcelain fruit are rather thick and leathery, and so the veins are not extremely visible underneath.

Fagraea cambagei DSC_0021 (3)

Fagraea cambagei DSC_0021 (4)

Fagraea cambagei Kuranda 22Feb14 DSC_0098 (68)

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The flowers of the Porcelain fruit are gorgeous, and release a sweet aromatic scent but of course, the true reason why this species is so named the Porcelain fruit is because of the round shiny fruit, which ripens pink! Thus the species is also called the Pink Jitta.

Fagraea cambagei_DSC_0107

More like “Jitters” for me. I once made the mistake biting into one of these fruits, mistaking it for a Syzygium cormiflorum. That flavour gives me the jitters when I think about it. All I can say is do not make the same mistake…unless you are a Cassowary.

And be wary of those birds too.

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About David Tng

I am David Tng, a hedonistic botanizer who pursues plants with a fervour. I chase the opportunity to delve into various aspects of the study of plants. I have spent untold hours staring at mosses and allied plants, taking picture of pollen, culturing orchids in clean cabinets, counting tree rings, monitoring plant flowering times, etc. I am currently engrossed in the study of plant ecology (a grand excuse to see 'anything I can). Sometimes I think of myself as a shadow taxonomist, a sentimental ecologist, and a spiritual environmentalist - but at the very root of it all, a "plant whisperer"!
This entry was posted in Gentianaceae (Gentian family), Habitat - Rain forest, Lifeform - Trees & Shrubs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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