er Researcher Institute of Malay World and Civilization UKMf

My photo
Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia
An Agri/Horticulturist and Botanist, German Foundation Scholar, Former researcher, Institute of Malay World and Civilization National University Malaysia

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Legendary Founding of Malacca and Melaka Tree


According to legend, during a hunt the chase ended when the royal hound was attached by its intended pray – an albino mousedeer. The dog fell into the river and Parameswara who watched the event while leaning under the shade of a  tree. Inspired by the fighting spirit of the mouse deer, he asked the lords of attendance the name of the tree he was leaning. The lords of attendance replied the tree  was Malaka tree. He  decided to open a new kingdom and called it Melaka.

The interesting part of this episode was the ability of the lords of attendance to identify the tree spontaneously when asked by the king. The lords of attendance, probably of Indian ( Hindu ) origin were familiar with the plant by the name of Amalaka as the tree was the element of the ancient Hindu art of medicine, the Ayurveda. In addition, the Malays called the plant Laka-laka

Phyllanthus emblica 1

             Phyllanthus emblica


Scientific names were given to the Melaka tree: Emblica officinalis, Emblica pectinata and Phyllanthus emblica. However, the accepted name now is Phyllanthus emblica and Emblica pectinata is synonym.

What Paramerswara saw in the legendry founding of Melaka was Phyllanthus emblica probably it was in its original form. After more than six centuries we may not be able to see the original form of Phyllanthus emblica. They are now mostly cultivated varieties and forms. The fruits are bigger, less astringen and it is rather a small tree or shrub. Phyllathus pectinatus with fruits clusted on end of leafy shoots sway in the wind, probably varieties or subspecies.

The Melaka tree is an example of the many spesies of Malaysian flora which are under exploited. The fruit is a rich source of vitamin c – 100gm of juice contains 600mg-1,300mg of ascorbic acid. This explains the use of the fruits as one of the important ingredients of medicine in the Ayurvedic system and in many Malay medicinal applications

Beside Melaka tree, there are several plants species dedicated to the name of Melaka scientifically such as:

Amoora malaccensis

Aquillaria malaccensis

Castanopsis malaccensis

Cynometra malaccensis

Durio malaccensis

Garcinia malaccensis

Koompassia malaccensis

Myristica malaccensis

Tabernaemontana malaccensis

Syzygium malaccensis

Strychnos malaccensis

Melaka is known as historical city ( Bandar Raya Bersejarah ). It really sad to see that more than 90% of plant species cultivated in the City are introduced or imported. The native or the indigenous plants such the above species are neglected. Probably no body have seen or could identify them.

The ability of lords in attendance to indentify the Melaka tree spontaneously when asked by Parameswara is something the present generation may not be able to do. Some of them may not be able to indentify even simple Malaysian flora, let alone a rare species such as the Melaka tree