Melientha sauvis PIERRE (Opiliaceae)
Vernacular name: phak waan paa
Common name: -
Wild tree, evergreen, up to 10 m high. Leaves simple, alternate, elliptic to ovate, obtuse or sometime acuminate, glabrous, glossy green above, leathery but brittle when bruised, 6-12 cm long, 2.5-5 cm wide; petiole 1-3 mm long. Inflorescence solitary or in group of racemes, on stem or leafless branches, rarely in the leaf axils, 15-20 cm long. Flowers dioecious, 4- or 5-merous with 1-1.5 mm long tepals, green. Fruit a drupe, ellipsoid, with a fleshy mesocarp, 2-3 cm long, 1.5-2.0 cm wide, green when young, turn yellow at maturity.
Common in dry, deciduous forest from sea level up to 1,500 m.
The young shoots, leaves and flowers serve as a vegetable in soup or dried fish curry. People eat this plant as delicacy and it is one of the most expensive indigenous vegetable. Farmers start planting this species in larger scale recently.
This plant can be grown from seeds. Fully ripe seeds are collected, the fleshy mesocarp is removed, the naked seeds are cleaned and are soaked overnight before direct seeding in the permanent site at 2 by 3 m spacing during early rainy season (first or second week of May in Thailand). Seed germination takes place within 3 months. Seedling growth is very slow during the first 2 years, and weeding should be done carefully by hand pulling or cutting. Do not disturb the soil around the seedling during the first year. Mulching and fully compost manure are recommended. The plants grow to the first harvesting stage by the fourth or fifth year.
Caution: this plant is often mistaken with the highly similar but most toxic, related species, Urobtrya siamensis, by most inexperience collectors. These two plant species are very much alike and inhabit the same ecological habitat. The later species differs in its bracteate, pendant raceme in the leaf axil; fruit is smaller and bright red when ripe.