Characteristics of Sea Poison Tree (Barringtonia asiatica) in the Wild

Barringtonia asiatica
The sea poison tree or Fish poison tree is a medium-sized tree species originating from the shores of islands in the Indian Ocean and West Pacific Ocean, to be precise in tropical Asia.

This tree was first discovered by the botanist Pehr Osbeck, on a sandy beach on the island of Java, which was later described and named “Mammea asiatica” by Carl Linnaeus in his book Species Plantarum in 1753.

In India, Sea poison tree grows in several locations besides the coast, for example in rice fields, even in cities. There this tree is known as the Fruit Box, it is because of the fruit that is shaped like a box.

All parts of the Sea poison tree contain poison. The toxins contained in tree parts include saponins.

In some areas in Indonesia and India, Sea poison tree fruit is used as a fish poison. Its use is by grinding the fruit into powder. Even though the fish will get drunk and easy to catch, fish contaminated by the effects of Sea poison tree fruit are not dangerous if consumed by humans.

In Indonesia, Sea poison tree has received the title as a tree of peace. The predicate was set by President Soeharto on Environment Day, which fell on June 5, 1986. The theme for Environmental Day that year was “A Tree for Peace”.

In the Yogyakarta Palace, Sea poison tree has a meaning as a symbol of a country that is great, clean, and embraces the truth. This tree is called Keben or Butun in Indonesia, especially in Yogyakarta.

On the island of Anak Krakatau, it is said that this tree is considered to be the first flora to grow on the island after the eruption of Mount Krakatau.


Characteristics of Sea Poison Tree Leaf

Barringtonia asiatica Leaf
Source : & Fauna of the Mid North Coast of NSW

The leaves are oval with a length of 20-40 cm and a width of 10-20 cm.


Characteristics of Sea Poison Tree Flower

Barringtonia asiatica Flower
Source :

The flowers are rather large, reddish-white, and have a sweet smell.


Characteristics of Sea Poison Tree Fruit

Barringtonia asiatica Fruit
Source : Fuad Morad

The fruit is 9-11 cm in diameter, box-shaped, the skin of the fruit is thick and hard. Each fruit has seeds 4-5 cm in diameter.

Sea poison tree fruit can last more than 5 years before germinating. Therefore, the fruit that falls into the sea can float and cross the ocean until it lands on its own and germinates.


Characteristics of Sea Poison Tree

Barringtonia asiatica Tree
Source :

Sea poison trees include trees that grow in wet areas in their natural habitat. It can grow to 15-20 meters in height and up to 50 cm in diameter. Often the tree grows side by side with other beachside trees such as Pemphis and Sea Hibiscus.


This tree is often planted as an ornamental tree because it has many meanings in ancient history.

The tree and its seeds contain saponins which can be used as a fish poison.

In Java, the oil obtained from the juice of Sea poison tree seeds is used as an adhesive or glue in making umbrellas, as well as to eradicate ectoparasites such as leeches.

The wood is used for construction and for making small traditional boats.


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