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Rengas Trees

By Forest Ang

.....The surface of the trunk and branches always have few stains of black saps...

I donít know about you but when I go forest exploring, I always watch out for Rengas trees. I will avoid the trees. In Malaysia, there are many of these Rengas trees in our lowland forest. If you are on a trail blazing through the lowland jungle of Malaysia, you must be aware of the potential of contacting the Rengasí sap. Although Rengas trees are large, there are young trees which the trail blazer might cut and could potentially be exposing the saps. As a hiker behind, you could be at risk of brushing the tip of the cut young trees with your hands or arms.

rengas tree
Note the black stain found on the trunk of this Rengas tree

The brothers of Rengas trees are mango trees (Mangifera) and the Cashew Nut trees (Anacardium). Both the resinous black sap of Rengas and some of the wild mango trees are highly poisonous and also an irritant. The Cashew Nut trees donít have black sap but the saps from the fruits are just as poisonous; although the nuts are everyoneís favorite.

There was a huge wild mango tree (Machang in Malay) at Kuala Trenggan, Taman Negara, Pahang. A small boy found the mango and bit on it. The sap got on his lips. Within minutes, he was having itchiness on his lips. The next day he got blistered lips.

Leaves of Cashew Nut trees are my favorite ulam. Take it with sambal belacan and you would have appetite for food. However, beware that the fruits' inner layer covering the nuts are protected by poisonous sap. A friend who peeled the inner coatings of the fruits to get to the nut had his hands stained with the sap Ė got blisters and had to live with the sore for weeks.

Botanists have classified Rengas into five genera Ė namely Gluta, Melanochyla, Melanorrhoea, Semecarpus and Swintonia. The trees contain a poisonous resinous sap which blackens when exposed to the air. While some species the sap caused mild itching of the skin, but for some they will caused painful blisters forming open sores which heal very slowly. It is unwise even to shelter beneath the trees because raindrops will carry down the poison from the leaves or broken branches. (Corner, 1988).

How to Recognise Rengas Trees
All Rengas trees have bright pinkish or reddish brown inner bark. The surface of the trunk and branches always have few stains of black saps. Rengas leaves appeared like the leaves of Mango or Cashew Nut trees.

How to avoid the poisonous sap from Rengas Trees
Wear long pants and long sleeves during forest or jungle exploring. Do not cut plants or trees unnecessary. Donít stay under the Rengas Trees especially during rain as leaves or branches might break off and saps could drop.

No Cure
There is no modern medicine to clean the effect of Rengasí sap. The black sap will stick on our skin like super glue! No solvent could be able to wash off the sap. It then caused blisters and eventually the skin will rot. No antibiotic could help.

Nature's Antidote
I have been told that Daun kentut can be used as antidote for Rengasí sap. Pound the leaves and paste them on the wound. At this moment, I have not tested Daun Kentut on Rengasí wound and could not provide enough detail. If you have used them successfully please drop me a line.

Wayside Trees of Malaya, E.J.H.Corner (1988), Malayan Nature Society.

Take care!

17 Jan 07


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