Avicennia alba is a species of tropical mangrove in the family Acanthaceae. In the Malay language it is known as api api putih, "api" meaning "fire", referring to the fact that this mangrove attracts fireflies, and "putih" meaning "white", referring to the pale-coloured underside of the leaves. It is found growing in coastal and estuarine locations in India, south east Asia, Australia and Oceania.
Avicennia alba forms a low, dense bushy crown often branching near the base of the trunk. The shrub does not grow more than about 20 metres (66 ft) high. The roots are shallow and send up a large number of pencil-shaped pneumatophores. These aerial roots help with gas exchange and also play an important part in the exclusion of salt from the plant's vascular system. The trunk has smooth, greenish black bark which is finely fissured and does not flake. The dark green leaves, 15 cm (6 in) long and 5 cm (2 in) wide, have a silvery grey underside and grow in opposite pairs. The small, orange yellow flowers, borne in a racemose inflorescence, have 4 petals and a diameter of about 4 millimetres (0.16 in) when expanded. The fruits are greyish-green capsules and conical in shape with an elongated beak up to 4 centimetres (1.6 in) long. Each contains a single seed.
Distribution and habitat
Avicennia alba is found in south and south east Asia, the islands of the south Pacific Ocean and Australia. It is common in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore. It grows on tidal regions of riverbanks and on muddy portions of the seashore. It is a pioneering species being one of the first to colonise new ground. Its widespread root system with large numbers of pneumatophores helps to stabilise new deposits of sediment.
Because it is difficult for seedlings to become established in tide-swept muddy habitats, Avicennia alba exhibits cryptovivipary. The embryos start to develop and break through the coat of the seeds before the fruits split open to shed the seeds. In some cases the plant also exhibits vivipary, with the developing shoot breaking through the fruit capsule while it is still growing on the bush. The seedlings have hooked hairs and are often seen growing in tangled groups.
A number of invertebrates are associated with Avicennia alba. The larvae of certain small moths, Euopoicillia spp., feed on the flower buds and those of another moth, Autoba alabastrata, feed on the fruits. The leaves are eaten by beetles, Monolepta spp.. The greatest number of known species of marine fungi are found growing in mangrove swamps where Avicennia alba is one of a number of species colonised.
Mangrove habitats in general are threatened by human activities such as coastal development, agriculture and the creation of fish ponds. Rising sea levels due to global warming will also affect mangroves communities. Avicennia alba is affected by these threats but the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists it as being of least concern because it is a fast-growing species, recovers readily from being cut, is widely distributed and is common over much of its range.
The timber from Avicennia alba does not make good firewood or charcoal but is used in the smoking of rubber and of fish. An extract of the heartwood is used in herbal medicine to make a tonic and the resin has been used in birth control. The seeds are boiled and eaten as a vegetable and are sometimes available in local markets.
- Avicennia alba IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
- Vanden Berghe, Edward (2010). "Avicennia alba Blume". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
- Api-api Putih (Avicennia alba) The Tide Chaser. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
- Api Api Putih Mangrove and Wetland Wildlife at Sungei Buloh Nature Park. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
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- Species of Higher Marine Fungi University of Mississippi. Retrieved 2012-02-07.