Friday, September 18, 2009
Brunei's National Flower?
[Photograph of Simpur taken from trek earth]
Someone ask whether I can post about the national flower, simpur? This is interesting. I am not sure when simpur became our national flower. But definitely during the APEC Summit which Brunei hosted in 2000, simpur was part of the official APEC 2000 design and simpur by then if you don't know it already was definitely on its way to becoming Brunei's national flower. Posting about it is easy.
The APEC 2000 website is still alive and has a nice description about the Bunga Simpur or Simpor as it is used in the article on the APEC 2000 website. It was written by Drs Idris M. Said of the Forestry Department, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.
The Simpor belongs to a genus of plants called Dillenia, a name derived from the personal name Dillenius, a German botanist (1684-1747). There are some 60 species of the Simpor in the world, which are distributed in the region extending from Madagascar in the west to Australasia in the east.
In Brunei Darussalam, eight species of Simpor are known, two of which, Dillenia beccariana (the River Simpor) and Dillenia suffruticosa (Simpor Bini), are more common. The Simpor species are usually trees, but some can be rather shrubby. The Simpor has yellow flowers, usually conspicuous and showy.
The River Simpor (Dillenia beccariana) is depicted on the front side of Brunei one-dollar note. The species is a small tree, and it is fairly common along the rivers, especially the Temburong River, and it can be easily observed as one takes a river journey to the Ulu Temburong National Park. Apart from along the rivers, the River Simpor is also found in other areas.
The Simpor Bini (Dillenia suffruticosa) is also widespread in distribution, and it can grow in various habitats. It can be found commonly in the white sands areas, as well in secondary growth and in swamps. In the white sands, the Simpor Bini is a very important species. It acts as a pioneer species, colonizing the white sands where other tree species are unable to establish themselves on the white sands. The Simpor Bini is known to have seeds that can establish on the white sands, and on germinating, are able to send roots very deep down to reach underground water source. The low spreading shrubs that develop will eventually provide shade for seedlings of other tree species to establish themselves. Islands of fresh vegetation will be initially formed, and eventually a new forest is established.
This significant ecological role of the Simpor is something which should be given due appreciation. The Simpor Bini is an indicator of underground water source, and traditionally some wells were dug based on the presence of the Simpor Bini. Some species of the Simpor have a unique fruit, which splits open like a star to expose the seeds to the birds for effective dispersal. The inner bark of the Simpor is rather thick with radial lines and fairly loosely fibrous, such that it produces a hissing sound when cut, a unique feature associated with the Simpor.
There were various traditional uses attributed to the Simpor. The Simpor Bini was used for the treatment of wounds in stopping bleeding. The pulp of the fruits of a certain species was used for hair wash.
One significant aspect of the Simpor is that the flower is often used in Brunei art known as 'Ayer Muleh’, which is an artistic vegetative design used for decoration in traditional handicrafts, but which is now more widely used in the printed form.
The timber is usually hard or very hard, with twisted grain, but of limited use. The flowers are sometimes eaten. The usually large and stiff leaves are also used, e.g. as platters and food wrappers. The mature or old leaves of some species contain a deposit of silica in their tissues and thus they were once used as sandpaper. The Simpor flower has large brightly coloured petals, spreading like an umbrella over the clumped or united stamens, which are positioned in the middle portion.
The unique blossoming of the flower and the green color of its leaves symbolizes the development of our economy's investment (from fruit) towards better economic growth (to flower) and the prosperity of the APEC region.
The plant itself is quite hardy and can grow and survive anywhere, thus symbolizing the stability of the APEC region to survive any challenges, particularly the economic downturn.