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Plant Species in the Taman sari

>>Read more about the history and philosophy of the Taman Sari.

A Balinese garuda overlooks the northwest corner of the Taman Sari.

This Balinese statue of a mythical winged lion is one of two guarding the entrance to the Taman Sari.

The herb garden, or Taman Sari, at Rimbun Dahan contains over 100 species of plants, many of them with traditional medicinal properties in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

The Latin names, family names, common names and brief descriptions of some of plants found in the herb garden at Rimbun Dahan are listed below in alphabetical order by Latin name.

Please email Angela Hijjas at with questions or comments about the plant lists.

Plants marked NEW are additions planted from May to July 2008.

Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images. All photographs by Angela Hijjas.

Acalypha siamensis
Indochina, Burma, Thailand.
Poultice of leaves used for fever.
Acorus calamus
Europe, Asia, N. America. 'Sweet flag'. Creeping rhizome w/aromatic cells, leaves arranged in flat fans, minute yellowish flowers. Candied rhizome an old time confection. Powdered dry root said to kill white ants. Malays use it for rheumatism.

Acrotrema costata
Yellow jungle star

Acrotrema costata.
Aglaonema simplex
sumpuh bulan
India, through Malay archipelago. Herb, up to 2' high, found in lowland forest in the peninsula. Decoction of roots for fever and dropsy.
Alocasia lowia
ARACEAE, Arum family
Alocasia lowia.
Alocasia macrorrhiza
ARACEAE, Arum family
birah, senteh
Sri Lanka? Naturalized through the tropics. Toxic & must be cooked to remove poison. Treats TB, fever, typhoid, snake & insect bites. Stems famine food. Gimlette: the juice relieves stings of giant nettle (Laportia), & Skeat: leaves for magic cure. Ornamental, but Burkill says 'it is scarcely this'.

Alocasia perakensis

This from Gunung Bunga Buah, Genting.


Alocasia perakensis.
Alocasia sanderana
kris plant, bireh
Philippines. Graceful sagittate leaf of shining metallic sheen, silver green with grey ribs, margins deeply lobed and white, reverse purple.
Aloe vera
lidah buaya
Tropical America. Used for hair and cosmetics, but contains a purgative. Treats scalds and insect bites. Not for pregnant women or patients with weak gasto-intestinal condition.
Alpinia conchigera
lengkuas ranting
India to Malay peninsula. Leaves and rhizomes are soaked and boiled together for bath water to treat post natal rheumatism. Stimulates blood circulation under the skin.
Alpinia galanga
Tropical Asia. Cult. Cooking herb. Leaves also boiled and used as a body lotion, or jamu. Essential oil has antiseptic properties.
Alpinia mutica
Stems slender, up to 2 meters. Inflorescence of up to 12 flowers. Orange fruits break into 3 parts when squeezed. These from Rimba Ilmu, Universiti Malaya. Documented in 1880 by Hunter that Penang Malays used rhizome for stomach ache.
Amorphophalus sp.
loki, lokai
Genus of c. 80 tuberous herbs found in Old World tropics, two are significant food crops. Poisonous (needle crystals of oxalate of lime) until pounded, grated, boiled. Tuber contains high % starch. Flowers smell of carrion.
Anacardium occidentale
Tropical America. Decoction of bark for diabetes, diarrhoea and mouth ulcers. Decoction of leaf and root for tooth ache and washing the eyes. Young leaves eaten as ulam, but older ones and fruit poisonous unless cooked.
Andrographis paniculata
hempedu bumi, bidara
India. Used to treat dysentry, gastroenteritis. Tonsillitis, pneumonia, infected wounds, pulmonary TB. Pain killer for snake bites.
Angiopterus evecta
paku gajah
Big stemless fern found in moist tropical Africa, Asia and eastwards through the Pacific. In Malaya a decoction of roots is used to arrest the discharge of blood after miscarriage, and the pounded plant is applied for coughs.
Archidendron jiringa / Pithecelobium jiringa
LEGUMINOSAE subfamily Mimosoideae
Burma, Thailand, W. Malesia. Fruit eaten raw or blanched. Pounded with ginger and boiled, to eliminate bladder stones. Purple dye from pods.
Areca catechu
pinang sireh, betel
SE Asia. Widely cultivated. Seed treats diarrhea, half-ripe seed pounded for skin ointment. Mild narcotic, sliced endosperm of the seed eaten with betel leaves, lime, gambier or cutch.
Areca catechu var. alba
pinang putih
This specimen from Dato Lim Chong Keat 6/05
Averrhoa belimbi
belimbing buluh
Moluku? Widely cultivated throughout SE Asia. Edible sour fruit, eaten raw as ulam, & in curries to give sour taste. Leaf infusion treats cough, & as tonic after childbirth; flower infusion for cough and thrush. Leaves treat venereal and rectal disease.

NEWBegonia equilateralis

Begonia equilateralis

NEWBegonia kingiana.Begonia kingiana

Begonia kingiana.

NEWBegonia lengguanii

Begonia lengguanii.
Belamcanda chinensis
leopard flower
China. Bitter, cool, antipyretic, antitoxic, liquifies sputum. For cough and wheezing, sore throat, rice field dermatitis.

NEWBoesenbergia plicata var. lurida

Boesenbergia plicata var. lurida.
Boesenbergia rotunda
temu kunci
India and S. China (Yunnan)? Widely cultivated sp. for its key-like rhizomes that are used in Thai & Malaysian cooking. Inflorescence covered by leaf sheaths. Flowers, uniformly pink, appear one by one.

NEWBromheadia finlaysoniana

Bromheadia finlaysoniana.
Burkillanthus malaccensis
I H Burkill, 1870- 1965, director Singapore Botanic Gardens. Small tree to 12m, one sp in Malaya & Sumatra. Large fruits, thin peel rough with oil glands. Fr Rimba Ilmu 2011.
Cananga odorata
Tropical Asia to N. Australia. Cult. Ornamental. Flowers give ylang-ylang oil for hair, leaves a poultice for itch.
Carica papaya
betik, papaya
Tropical America. Shoots can be blanched and eaten as vegetable, flowers eaten as kerabu. Treats stomachache, warts (apply sap twice a day) and high fever.
Catharanthus roseus
kemunting cina, Madagascar periwinkle
Madagascar. Contains vincristine and other alkaloids with retarding effect on leukemia. Decoction of leaves drunk to relieve menstrual pain & applied for insect bites.
Centella asiatica
Pan tropical. Salad or ulam. To stimulate appetite, aid digestion, used to treat bowel complaints in children, sores, ulcers and skin problems.
Cinnamomum verum
kayu manis, cinnamon
India. Cooking spice. Roots treat rheumatism and fever. Tree bark used in many medicinal powders and tinctures, tonics for diarrhea and colic.
Citrus aurantifolia var. microcarpa
limau kasturi
Up to 4m. small fruits used for juice. These planted in memory of Hj. Kasturi Hj. Idris.
Citrus hystrix
limau purut
Leaf blade 1 -2" long, almost as wide, slightly toothed: leaf stalk widely winged, as to appear like the other half of a blade divided in two. Fruit has wrinkled skin, used for ritual bathing. Rind used in ubat jamu to drive away evil spirits, worms in children and headache. Leaf an essential ingredient in cooking.
Citrus sp.
limau purut
This unidentified hybrid is more hardy than the common limau purut, but retains the strong pungency of leaves and fruit, and produces excellent juice.
Clerodendron bungei
China. Cultivated. Many tropical species from this genera are attributed with spiritual & magical properties.
Clerodendron fragrans
popkok rabu kambang, exhilaration tree

China. Used by Malays for rheumatism and ague, or with other substances fro treating skin diseases.
Clerodendron paniculatum
panggil panggil
Burma, s. China to Java, but not known in the wild. Summons spirits. One of the plants used to sprinkle tepung tawar in weddings, blessing fish stakes & 'in the taking of the rice-soul' (Burkill). Infusion is purgative. Elephant medicine, to protect them from harm.

Clitoria ternatea
Brazil? Pantropic. Slender climber with pinnate leaves and pea-like solitary showy blue edible flowers, used to colour food such as sweet glutinous rice.
Costus speciosus
setawar halia

Malaysia. Whole plant boiled for a decoction to bathe patients with high fever & for smallpox. Stem scrapings for leprous skin. Juice of rhizome is purgative. Malays attribute magical properties: drives away spirits causing illness.
Crinum asiaticum
bakong, rumput tembaga suasa
SE Asia to Pacific, seashores. Leaves used in poultices for joint pain, sometimes with pepper and gendarusa for fevers, lumbago, headaches, swellings. Chewed roots can induce vomiting.
Curculigo latifolia
Indo-Malaya. Fruits give sweet sensation and improve appetite. Decoction of leaves & hibiscus root used as eye drop for sore eyes. Roots eaten raw treat high fever. Decoction drunk for tumours smallpox and kidney stones. Fibre for fish nets.
Curcuma aeruginosa
temu hitam
Burma, Indo China. Cult. Rhizomes used in post natal tonics and jamu (traditional health tonic).
Curcuma longa
kunyit, turmeric
SE Asia, precise origin unknown. One of the oldest spice plants known, dried rhizomes ground for curries, dyes, used to relieve flatulence and diarrhea.
Cymbopogon citratus
Only known in cultivation. Used widely in cooking and fragrance. For headache, pound leaves and apply to forehead. Apply paste as insect repellent or to joints for rheumatism. Boil and drink water for urinary & stomach problems.
Cymbopogon nardus
serai wangi
Sri Lanka, S. India. Introduced to SE Asia. Acrid, warm, anti-inflammatory, analgesic. Digestive. Headache, stomach ache, diarrhea. Rheumatism. Irregular menses, post partum edema. Main source of citronella oil.

NEWCyrtandra cupulata

Cyrtandra cupulata.
Datura fastuosa
Widely distributed village plant. All parts poisonous, particularly seeds, but occasionally used as an internal medication for lack of virility. Most common criminally used poison, rendering subject insensible without killing him. Crushed seeds administered in coffee / tea.
Dianella ensifolia
akar siak, chi chiak
Indo-Malaya. Leaf poultice used with Ardisia as poultice for wounds. Roots used in post natal tonics.
Dillenia philippinensis
Philippines. (J.J. Dillenius, 1684-1747, German botanist, professor at Oxford). Flowers large, solitary, petals falling first day, fruit covered by thick fleshy edible sepals that make cough syrup & shampoo. Bark yields a red dye.
Diospyros discolor
buah mentega
Native to Philippines. Twigs velvety, Occasionally cultivated in Malaya for edible fruits. Separate male and female flowers, fruit a berry with fibrous to fleshy pericarp. (Lat. having many colours).

NEWElatostemma sp.
This from Taman Negara (1056 2000).

Elatostemma sp.
Emblica officinalis
SE Asia, frequent in villages and lowland forest. Cooked fruits eaten as a sour relish. Bark is used for tanning and dyeing. Leaves, roots and raw fruits are medicinal & rich in vitamin C. Slow growing to 20 m. Burkill states the name of the river and town is believed to have come from this tree & that origin is Sanskrit.
Etlingera elatior
Mauritius. Of all gingers in the peninsula, Etlingeras have the most colourful inflorescence and fruits, but this introduced species is widely used for its edible flower cooked in laksa and sliced in salads.
Etlingera littoralis
Gingers with tall leafy shoots and inflorescence on separate side shoots that may be some distance from the leafy shoot.
Eryngium foetidum
ketumbar Jawa
America, introduced by Chinese. Young leaves a substitute for coriander. Many medicinal uses in Americas: diuretic, febrifuge, mild stimulant, laxative. Decoction of whole plant lowers blood pressure, & as an aphrodisiac.
Euricles amboinensis
Sea shore plant through archipelago. Cult. as a magic plant; Malays use leaves in magic brush to sprinkle consecrated rice-gruel in harvesting, fishing and wedding ceremonies. Plant expels ghosts and evil spirits from house. Leaves applied to swellings, bulb to relieve oppression.
Freycinetia montana
pandan tikus

SE Asia to Pacific. 6 spp. in Malaya. Stems slender and climbing by means of air roots; inflorescence bract brightly coloured. Used in jamu and for women's ailments.
Garcinia atroviridis
assam gelugor
Malay peninsula, Burma. Edible fruit, dried segments used as condiment. Leaf sap used in post natal tonics.
NEWGlobba cernua
NEWGlobba corneri
Globba corneri.
NEWGlobba fragilis
Globba fragilis.

NEWGlobba cf patens
This from Gunung Bunga Buah, Genting.

Gnetum gnemon
belinjau, meninjau
Cultivated, seasonal, most likely introduced from eastern Indonesia. Fruit edible, seed roasted, flattened, dried and fried for empeng crackers.
Gnetum gnemon trunk.

Hanguana bognori, red underleaf.NEWHanguana cf bognori
Two varieties, one has red leaf backs.


Hanguana bognori.
Hedychium coronarium
ganda suli
Burma, India, southern China. Decoction of leaves drunk for indigestion. Leaves eaten with betel to treat abdominal pains. Stem sap applied to soothe swellings.

Fruit of Hedychium coronarium.

Helminthostachys zeylanica
tanjuk langit
Sri Lanka, India, S. China through Malesia to New Caledonia. Rhizome is eaten with betel leaves as a tonic and for whooping cough. Used as an aphrodisiac, for fever, syphilis, diarrhea, flu. Ulam, ie. eaten raw as 'salad'.

NEWHenckelia floribunda
This from Cemurung, Terengganu.

Henckelia floribunda.

NEWHenckelia miniata


NEWHomalomena confusa

Homalemena confusa.
Hoya carnosa
akar setebal/akar serapat
East Asia to Australia and Pacific. Epiphytic herb. Toxic and narcotic latex. Fresh leaf juice with honey used for pneumonia and bronchitis; anti-inflammatory.
Jasminum sambac
Tropical Asia? Flowers to scent tea, decoction of leaves & roots for fever, headaches, to stimulate lactation. Roots are used to treat asthma.
Justicia gendarussa
gendarusa, urat sugi
SE Asia. Decoction of leaves used to treat fever, jaundice, flatulence.
Kaempferia galanga
cekur, kencur
India. Rhizome, spice and scent, boiled with other roots for post natal tonic. Crushed leaves used as hot compress on swellings. To treat itchy throat, chew a piece of rhizome with salt.

Kaempferia galanga flower.

Kaempferia pulchra
Malaya. Small herbs with short rhizome and tuberous roots, flowers arise in midst of a few leaves.
Labisia pumila
kacip fatimah
Sumatra, Malaya, Java, Borneo. Decoction of plant use to fortify women before labour and after childbirth, treats flatulence and irregular menses. Leaf decoction drunk for dysentery.
Lawsonia inermis
India. Leaves are pounded and applied to fingers of brides for orange colour. Hair dye. Also treats superficial wounds. Boil leaves & gargle for sore throat.
Limonia acidissima
belinggai, gelinggai
India, Burma. Common in Perlis villages, needs monsoonal climate to fruit, slow growth and fruiting, brown pulp edible but resinous.
Lycoris radiata
bawang jabu
Myanmar to S. China. Bulbs cleaned , crushed and boiled. Decoction drunk to relieve fevers and coughs. White flowers open late afternoon, smell of dusty rooms.

Manihot esculenta 'Variegata'
tapioca / ubi kayu
Tropical America, brought to Asia in 17th cent. by Portuguese. Roots need to be grated, washed and cooked to make edible. Cassareep, a powerful antiseptic, is a by-product from boiling down the poisonous juice of bitter cassava.

Mapania caudata

Mapania caudata.
Maranta arundinaceae
West Indian arrowroot, ubi garut
Tropical America. Widely cultivated for starchy tubers that are grated, washed, sifted and cooked before rendering edible. Also used in making computer print paper.
Melastoma malabathricum
Madagascar, India to Australia. Common in open places, always flowering. Species very variable. Gr., melas (black) stoma (mouth), from the berries blackening the tongue.
Melia azaderach
mindi kecil, Persian lilac
Nowhere wild, foothills of the Himalayas? Cultivated for scent and shade. Arabs and Persians use leaf juice as vermifuge and diuretic. Used as fish poison, 6-8 seeds will kill a man. Poultice of leaves used for headaches, of flowers kills lice.
Melia indica
Wild in India & Java, otherwise cultivated for medicines. All parts of tree effective. Dried leaves in books deter insects. Identified by delicate and curiously curved toothed leaflets. Root bark for fever and anti-malarial, leaf poultice for ulcers.
Melissa officinalis
lemon balm
Southern Europe. Culinary, cosmetic and medicinal herb. Mild sedative properties in refreshing tea, relieves wind, reduces fever, increases perspiration.
Mentah arvensis
For headaches, pound leaves with lime juice, apply paste to forehead. Boil leaves to make a cough mixture.
Morus alba
Indian mulberry, besaram
North India. Leaves fed to silk worms or cattle. To Chinese, all parts medicinal: restorative, tonic & astringent for nervous disorders. Young leaves good for nursing mothers. Leaf decoction treats the blood, gonorrhoea, & poisoned wounds.
Murraya koenigii
daun kari
Leaves used for flavour and fragrance. Mixed with ubat periuk to regulate the menstrual cycle.
Murraya paniculata
India to Australia, S. China, Melanesia. Ornamental. Yellow (kuning) root wood used for kris handles. Infusion of leaves for tapeworm and stomach herpes. Flowers for cosmetics and to scent hair.
Myristica fragrans
pala, nutmeg
Maluku. Fruit is pickled as food. Shoots eaten as vegetable with rice to treat hypertension. Red mace for flavouring fish and cakes. Seed kernel gives commercial nutmeg. Oil is medicinal and used to flavour tonics.

Nepenthes mirabilis

Nepenthes mirabilis.
Ocimum basilicum
selasih, basil
Cooking herb. Boil and drink for flatulence and cough. Apply extract to ringworm, insect bites and toothache. Drunk after childbirth & to relieve irregular menstrual cycles. Soaked seeds help soothe stomach and stimulate bowel movement.
Orchidantha longiflora
Endemic to Perak and Selangor in lowland Dipterocarp forest. Boiled leaves a poultice for chest and back pains.
Orthosiphon aristatus
misai kucing, cat's whiskers
Indo Pacific. Brewed leaves are a diuretic, used to eliminate bladder stones. Dried leaves were exported to Europe as early as 1886.
Pandanus amaryllifolius
pandan wangi
Moluku? Widely cultivated. Leaves used to flavour food and in hair wash. Leaf ash mixed with vinegar used as a lotion for measles.
Pereskia bleo
Brazil. Decoction of leaves drunk for cancer.
Phyllanthus acidus
cermai, Malay gooseberry
One species, cultivated, origin unknown. Common village tree, especially in north. Fruits cooked as a sour flavouring or acar; root is medicinal but poisonous: boiled and steam inhaled for cough, weak infusion drunk for asthma.
Piper betel
Malay archipelago. Leaves are eaten with gambir for treating diarrhea. Mild stimulant, applied in poultices for stomach pains, coughs and asthma. Leaf sap applied to soothe oral sores and ulcers.
Piper nigrum
lada hitam
Introduced (from India?) Marco Polo reported in 1280 that it was in Malaya. Cultivation followed land clearance, need for highly organic soils favored shifting cultivation, creating wide grass wastes in Singapore mid 19th century. Essential ingredient of jamu.
Piper sarmentosum
SE Asia. Leaves used in embrocation for skin discoloration and a throat poultice for coughs. Roots chewed with areca nut to treat persistent coughs and asthma.

Pipthospatha ridleyi

Pipthospatha ridleyi.
Plectranthus amboinicus
bangun bangun, po hor, Indian borage
NE Africa. Cult. from India to SE Asia. Decoction used to treat asthma, fever, nausea, rheumatism, colic, urinary tract infections cough, epilepsy and convulsion. Boil with rock sugar for sore throat.
Plumeria rubra
bunga kemboja
Central America. Flowers sweet, cool, fragrant. Used to prevent heat stroke & to treat enteritis & dysentry. Helps indigestion and poor absorption of infantile nutrition.

Pollia griffithii

Pollia griffithii.
Polygonum minus
Old World tropics. Cooking herb. All parts used in post-natal tonics. Leaves used to treat indigestion (boil and drink) and dandruff (pound leaves, extract oil, mix with water & apply to scalp for a few minutes).
Rhodomyrtus tomentosa
Use leaves fruits and roots. Fruit for stomach ache and diarrhea, roots as an ingredient for women after childbirth.
Ruta graveolens
rue, ingu
S. Europe, N. Africa, no longer found in the wild. Bitter, acrid, cool. Anti-inflammatory, dispels stagnant blood, analgesic. For colds, fever, infantile convulsion, amenorrhea. Infantile eczema. Traumatic injury. Snake and insect bites.
Sambucus javanica
elderberry, bungan kepapah (Bali)
Indonesia. Sweet and mildly bitter. Use roots (antispasm and anti swelling) stems and leaves (diuretic, anti swelling and analgesic).
Scaphoclamys sp.
This sp. located by stream bank at Bukit Kabut, Belum, Perak. Leaves dark green with purple lower surface.

Schismatoglottis calyptrata

Schismatoglottis calyptrata.

Scindapsus pictus

Scindapsus pictus.

Selaginella frondosa

Selaginella frondosa.
Selaginella plana
paka merak
Malay peninsula. Various spp. used for stomach ache, rheumatism, coughs, asthma, post-natal tonics.
Strobilantes dyerianus
Persian shield
Burma. Introduced to the Botanical Gardens Singapore by collector Boxall and having done well was sent to Kew and brought into wider cultivation 1893.

Stauranthera grandiflora

Stauranthera grandiflora
Syzigium aromaticum
cingkeh, clove
Traditionally added to cigarettes (kretek) and food for fragrance. Shoots and leaves chewed for bad breath and to relieve toothache. Sun dried flower buds are the cloves of commerce.
Tacca integrifolia
keladi murai, kelemoyang air (Sel.)
Common tuberous herb in deep shaded forest. Flowers arranged in clusters of 5+ surrounded by leaf like bracts, with pendant thread like bracts. Pulped tubers treat skin irritations caused by ulat bulu darat, stinging black caterpillars (Bentong).
The flower of Tacca integrifolia.
Tamarindus indica
asam jawa
Africa; introduced by Arab traders to India & SEAsia (tamar-ul-Hind, 'the date of India'). Young shoots eaten raw; decoction of leaves treats fever. Pulp of fruit added to curry for sourness; bark a poultice for sores and boils.
Telosma cordata
bunga siam, melati tongkeng, Tonkin creeper
China, India. Edible fragrant flowers and leaves. Chinese in Java make sweetmeat of the fleshy roots. Flowers used in soup to treat weak eyes.
Tinospora crispa
India~Indo-China, Malaya, Philippines, Java. Antibacterial and antimalarial. Treats stomach ache, fever, gonorrhea and for deworming. Boil the stem and strain, drink once a day. Antiseptic: pound stem with sulphur and apply to wound.
Tradescantia spathacea
daun kepah, boat lily
Central American ornamental herb. Previously known as Rhoea discolor.
Typhonium flagelliforme
rat's tuber / birah kecil
India to Australia. Decoction of leaves for mouth ulcers and some cancers.
Vallaris glabra
kesidang, kerak nasi
Java. Widely cultivated in Malaysia for its strong pandan smelling flowers. "The scent is mousy but agreeable to the natives of the East, who like it, as they like rice and yams with a mousy smell". (Burkill)
Wrightia religiosa
mok (Thai)
Old World tropics. Cultivated for fragrant flowers and for bonsai.
Zingiber griffithii
Zingiber griffithii.
Zingiber malaysianum
Zingiber officinale var.
halia bara
Smaller variety of commercial ginger, does better in tropics. Rhizome decoction for indigestion (Perak) and after childbirth (Kel.), fever lotion (Batu Gajah); part of an elaborate cosmetic for entire body in cases of suspected lunacy.
Zingiber spectabile
tepus tundok, chadak
Malaya, Sumatra. Sometimes used for flavouring. Leaves pounded to poultice swellings, cold leaf infusion to bathe eyelids. Name chadak infers connection with the occult (Burkill). Recently become a popular cut flower.

Last updated 24July 2008.


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