Know your Mangroves
Sonnertia alba ( Mangrove Apple)

Mangrove Apple (Sonneratia alba), the plant has been termed as Sonneratia in honour of Pierre Sonnerat (1749-1814), who travelled into New Guinea, the East Indies, and China, and communicated many new plants to the botanists of Europe. The Latin word alba means white, the species bear white flowers. These flowers are quite unique since they blossom at dusk and drop down by morning.

Being nocturnal, they are mainly pollinated by bats and some nocturnal insects such as fireflies. It is called as mangrove apple since the fruit shape resembles apple (except a long pointed outgrowth).


Mangrove apple can be identified by its oval leaves, hairy, white flowers, round lime sized fruits, thick, conical and long pneumatophores (breathing roots). In Latin, pneumatophores mean 'air carriers'). This tree can grow up to 30 meters. The bark of young Sonneratia is covered with a layer of wax, probably to protect it against water loss and attacks by creatures great and small.

This species like other mangrove plants is not preferred as fuelwood because of high amount of ash it produces. But its wood is used in construction of ships, houses and bridges since it is resistant to wood borers and shipworms. The fruits, when ripe are eaten in SE Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Since this plant regenerates easily from its branches, it is favoured for forestation projects. Species such as Grey mangrove and Mangrove apple can tolerate highly saline and unstable conditions and thus generally found on water fronts, thus termed as 'front mangroves'