Sonneratia alba J. Smith, in Rees, Cyclopedia 33, No. 2 (1816)

Latin for 'white', referring to the flowers.

Chiratia leucantha Montr.
Sonneratia acida Benth.
Sonneratia iriomotensis Masam.
Sonneratia mossambicensis Klotzsch ex Peters

Shrub to small tree up to 15 m tall. Bark cream, grey to brown, slight vertical fissures. Has pneumatophores that are cone-shaped (unlike the pencil-like ones of Avicennia). Leaves rounded, leathery, opposite, upper and underside of leaf similar. Flowers white, pom-pom-like, with many stamens sticking out, open only for one night. Fruits large (4 cm) green, leathery berries with a star-shaped base, Contain 100-150 tiny seeds that are white, flattened and buoyant.

Coastal mudflats, usually in mangroves. The fragrant, night-blooming Sonneratia flowers are pollinated mainly by the Dawn Bat (Eonycteris spelaea), the Common Long-tailed Bat (Macroglossus minimus,), and the Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bat (Cynopterus brachyotis). These bats feed on nectar and pollen of flowers and rely mainly on Sonneratia for sustenance. The Dawn Bat in particular, prefers Sonneratia. They are the same bats that pollinate commercially important crops such as durians, bananas and papayas. Many mangrove creatures and plants depend on Sonneratia. They are the host trees of the fireflies (Pteroptyx tener) that perform spectacular synchronised flashing along the Selangor River in Malaysia. Sonneratia leaves make up the bulk of the food eaten by the fascinating Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus) of Borneo. Other insects and small creatures also feed on their leaves and other parts. Being among the first trees to grow low on the tidal mudflats, Sonneratia stabilise the riverbanks and coasts, providing more favourable ground for other types of trees and plants.

Sonneratia is used for firewood, but is not the preferred mangrove tree for this purpose. Although it produces a lot of heat, it also produces a lot of ash and salt. The heavy timber is resistant to shipworm and pests and is used for building boats, piling and posts for bridges and houses. However, the wood corrodes metal, probably because of the timber's high mineral content. The pneumatophores are made into floats for fishing nets. Because Sonneratia species regenerate branches easily from their trunk, it is possible to harvest branches without hurting the tree and maintain mangroves for such harvests (called coppicing). Sonneratia is among the few used in replanting mangroves to protect coastlines (the others are Avicennia and Rhizophora). Leaves may be eaten raw or cooked. The ripe fruit are eaten by people from Africa to the Malays and Javanese, and are said to taste like cheese. In Eastern Africa the leaves are used a camel fodder.

Tropical coasts from East Africa to Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Australia and West Pacific.

Local names
English: Mangrove apple.
Malaysia: Perepat.