Many participants cannot escape the loss of bundles and bundles, especially in games of chance where only the den operator can be assured of win-win results. Everyone else just fattens his bank account, with the consolation that losers also get tattered bragging rights.
However, there is another category of winners which are considered perpetual winners. These are also blessed with the ability to enjoy the finer things in life without having to lose the shirt off their back. The method is simple – just acquire a few high-quality, elegant, perennial ornamental plants that can last for generations.
Examples of these ornamental plants included the finely tended and trained bonsai, adeniums and pachiras, also known as money trees, and other varieties. Interestingly, many tycoons keep many such plants which are expensive to own and are considered status symbols. In places like China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and even Malaysia and Singapore, these ornamental plants are expensive and reveal the status of the owner.
But many ornamental plants such as shrubs and small trees make wonderful accents on home grounds or in public spaces. These trees can be of the flowering or non-flowering type, with compact, loose and airy, broad and spreading, or tall and columnar, globose, stepped or conical crowns. All of them are very high value and elegant, especially in their aesthetics.
Many of them also produce very small leaves like rain tree and drumstick tree, or very large leaves like ketapang and ficus elastica. But between the small and large leaves are intermediaries such as the leaves of pokok tanjung or tanjung tree, a fairly common ornamental tree that is widely planted in kampungs, towns and cities.
A 5 year old sapling.
The leaves are elliptical and entire with a smooth wavy margin.
A pokok tanjung flower.
Tanjung trees, known botanically as Mimusops elengi, also have other common names such as bunga tanjung, medlar, mengkulah, and Spanish cherry. Most countries in this region use the common name pokok tanjung to identify the tree even though the botanical name is unknown to most. The native distribution of the tree extends from South Asian countries such as India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, to Asean and northern Australia.
As an ornamental tree, pokok tanjung is a medium-sized evergreen perennial tree that typically reaches 10 to 15 meters in height. The crown is usually very compact and completely filled with countless thick, leathery dark green leaves. These are elliptical in shape with a pointed apex, the leaf blade being entire and bearing a smooth but wavy margin. This results in the creation of a dense but beautiful thick bushy canopy that is usually 70-80% wide in width unless they are regularly pruned and trained.
For this reason, pokok tanjung trees are commonly used to make very good shade trees in many planting patterns, whether used to set up avenue or line plantings, cluster plantings, individual or scattered plantations.
As such, they are often seen planted in gardens and recreation parks, along city roads, and even in small towns and villages. With such a strong, compact crown and exceptional shading ability, it doesn’t need super brains to see the benefits these trees can bring to the landscape, the environment, the birdlife, and most valued of all, the cool, dense shade that can please tired dudes who need to rest or snatch forty winks.
At the start of flowering, several clusters of flowers are produced and borne along the branches in the leaf axils. The flowers are small, usually about 1.0 cm in diameter, and bear numerous individual elongated narrow petals borne in a whorl that are white in color but often tinged with a light pale yellow.
Even though the flowers may be small, they pack a noticeable punch in the form of its sweet fragrance that permeates the air around the tree, especially in the evening and early morning when the air is still and calm. After the flowers have faded, the next to come onto the scene are the green fruits. These appear to be plump and oblong with a short pointed top. As they ripen, they first turn orange and then dark red, with each fruit producing a single hard seed.
Ripe pokok tanjung fruits are plump and feel smooth and soft to the touch. However, too much mollycoddling and squeezing can result in crushed fruit with a reddish mash pulp and fully exposed naked seeds. It doesn’t matter because the soft, gooey pulp can be swallowed and the seeds saved for planting. Unfortunately, the fruits of pokok tanjung are not as sweet as carandas and carissa plums, Buncosia or the ubiquitous mango.
Nevertheless, a large tree can produce several fruit baskets which can be made into honey desserts, jams, purees, pies, pickles, preserves, syrup, pudding, fruit vinegar, wine, etc. A smart and enterprising kampung should be able to turn this into a buzzing and thriving business to help lift the rural poor out of abject poverty.
Besides the above, there are multiple other uses that cover just about every part of the tree. For example, large trunks make very good wood that can be used for home and office interiors. A good carpenter can see the value of such wood and is therefore able to monetize the item which otherwise would have been thrown away by the uninformed.
Pokok tanjung wood is strong, hard and tough with a characteristic tint from which skilled carpenters are able to accentuate the fine qualities of beautiful grain and impressive pattern. Upon request or to order, these materials can be sourced and then worked by expert craftsmen to create stunning wood products that complement the beautifully attractive indoor decorative plants in homes and offices of the who’s who of high and powerful. The idea is that if you can enjoy life by opting for the best and the most expensive, why not?
In traditional medicine, the flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and leaves are used in many countries to relieve minor ailments. More than that, it is best to consult a certified doctor where they are trained to examine health issues. Generally, the fruits are edible in any form whether processed or in raw form.
The flowers can be made into steeping tea for its refreshing effect, while the fresh flowers can be used to flavor bath water for a fragrant aroma after washing up.
The soils needed for planting pokok tanjung are very simple and easy to find. A three-tonne truck that supplies and delivers topsoil to the compound of gardening enthusiasts can cost several hundred ringgits. Rather than dabbling on this instead of buying a kambing leg, a large piece of beef, and several chickens for the family table, it may be advisable to get a few sacks of dirt each time you return to kampung. Plus, digging the ground is a very beneficial exercise, which ultimately means it’s a win-win situation when looked at from all angles.
Starting a pokok tanjung from seed can take an extremely long period of time as it is often forgotten due to the long wait. A faster method is to use stem cuttings or layering, the latter giving a very high success rate.
Seeds taken from ripe fruit ready for sowing.
A pair of immature green fruits.
A bowl of ripe fruit ready to eat (left). Ripe fruit sliced to reveal pulp and seeds (right).
Usually, well-rooted layers are planted in polybags or small pots, but as they grow and grow, they are moved to the ground where their position is permanent. Simply select a site that is not flooded or too wet or waterlogged for a given period. Then prepare the usual planting hole and finish planting the sapling.
Sometimes large concrete planters can also be used to plant tanjung pokok. Large reinforced concrete cylinder culverts can be used to good effect to grow such trees. In such a situation, the tree may be restricted in its growth and development, thus keeping its size small and easily manageable for many years.