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The Neram tree (Dipterocarpus oblongifolius)

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The Neram tree (Dipterocarpus oblongifolius) is a fairly common inland riverside tree in the north-eastern half of Peninsular Malaysia and also throughout most of Borneo (Sarawak, Brunei, Kalimantan, and parts of Sabah). It seems to be absent from the West Coast states, although strangely, seems to be present at the Ulu Kenas Recreational Forest park, near Kuala Kangsar in Perak (which is an exception). In Pahang itself, it is not found in all areas, and therefore can only be considered as locally common. In Sarawak, it is called the Ensurai tree.

The Neram tree is a dipterocarp which may surprise some people as dipterocarps are normally associated with straight and tall timber trees in the South East Asian rainforests. The Neram is anything but straight and tall, although it can grow to more than 2 meters in diameter and reach perhaps 40 meters tall. The trunk and branches tend to lean out over the water’s edge in order to facilitate its fruit dispersal.

Dipterocarpus oblongifolius canopy

Where rivers are narrow, the spreading crowns of Neram will actually form a green tunnel-like canopy over the river, shielding it from the sun.

This beautiful tree is very important for protecting riverbanks which would otherwise get eroded away during floods. As such, the tree is accorded some form of protection status in Sarawak. The Neram also plays a vital role in Kelah (Tor Tambroides) conservation as its fruit is eaten by those fishes (a fruiting drought some years ago decimated the Kelah population).

Neram trunks

The trunks of Neram lean over the waterways, and cling steadfastly to the banks of the rivers, protecting them from erosion.

The fruit consists of 3 very short wings and two main pink colored wings that are about 8 – 10 cm long. The leaves are dark green and shiny, about 15 – 18 cm long, and with prominent ridge veins. The bark is fairly reddish-brown with dimples, and somewhat flaky as well.

Neram fruits

Fruits of Neram sprinkled over a pebble bed, during their fruiting season.

Neram fruits

Closer view of Neram fruits. Notice the 2 prominent dark pink wings, and the 3 smaller stump-like wings extending from the fruit. One of the fruits on the right appears to have been partially eaten.

Neram leaves and fruits

The leaves and fruits of Neram.

Kayaking along inland rivers with the huge Neram trees arching over the river and providing much valued shade is a great experience, and only possible where they are found. Their boughs, branches, and trunks are often festooned with numerous epiphytes, ferns, and orchids, and when they fall into the river through old age, their enormous trunks provide a convenient natural bridge to ford the river.

Neram bark

The bark of the Neram tree is somewhat flaky and dimpled. This is a tree that grows to huge size.

Epiphytes on Neram trunk

The trunks and branches of Neram are often covered in mosses and epiphytes like orchids and ferns, and sometimes, vines/lianas as well.

Neram trees can be found throughout Taman Negara, where they line almost all the riverbanks there, although they seem to be absent from the other major conservation areas in Peninsular Malaysia, such as Endau Rompin National Park and Royal Belum State Park (as far as I know). They are impossible to miss throughout their range, as they are distinctive, large trees which tend to colonize entire riverbanks. Some magnificent stands of tall Neram trees may still exist along rivers flowing down the eastern flank of the Main Range in Pahang, such as at the beautiful Ulu Jelai (upper Jelai river), site of a proposed conservation area for many years, but which never got anywhere.

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5 Comments

  1. Wonderful write up Jungleboy.Almost bring tears to my eyes.

  2. Dear Sir, thank you for the great site. I am from Beaufort, Sabah. I am currently planting lots of neram seedlings about 16-20 inches tall amongst my palm plantation. I was wandering if these neram trees will grow straight in the future. I am lucky in a sense that neram trees are plentiful along a river near my plantation which is next to a forest. Likewise i am planting a few other Shorea species too, namely S. pauciflolius, S. johorenesis and D.lancelotius( need spelling check on that word for spear shape in latin) . If you have more advice or information please let me know, i am doing my part so that future generations can view these beautiful trees close up. One other question if i may, what is the name for this tree species, it has dots at the ends of the leaf’s viens and the leaf is spear head shaped. Thank you very much.

  3. @ Ghani Chong

    I think it’s good that you are interested in planting our beautiful Malaysian forest trees. I think your spelling should be Shorea pauciflora, Shorea johorensis, and Dryobalanops lanceolata. I’m sorry I don’t know what tree you are referring to in your question, but good luck. Maybe you can start the next FRIM in Sabah. FRIM started off as a forest plantation on almost barren land, but look what they have become today.

  4. Dear Sir, thank you very much for your encouragement. I will certainly do my part as a Malaysian! I would like to pass on some pictures of that forest plant with the spotted leaf, if i can e-mail you. Thanks again! Ghani.

  5. @ Ghani

    No problem, you can use my contact form to contact me. Cheers.

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