The mempat tree
There is nothing like a mempat tree (Cratoxylum formosum) with its crown covered with new reddish pink growth and pale pink flowers to brighten a road. The tree fronting my house was leafless for about a week before it turned into an attractive tree just before Christmas last year. These trees do not shed their leaves together as each has its own schedule. A tree first sheds its leaves and remains leafless for days before the colourful new leaves slowly emerge together with the flowers. I have always admired the tree at this very stage. As the leaves expand in size they turn green and at the same time the flowers develop into fruits.
There are a few semi-parasitic plants growing on its branches. These round-fruited mistletoes (Macrosolen cochinchinensis) are easily seen when the tree is leafless but with the leaves growing back, they can still be discerned if you look hard enough.
The crown of the tree is a hive of activities, the various fauna being attracted by the fruits of the mistletoe plants and the nectar-filled flowers of mempat.
The flowers of mempat as well as those of the mistletoes attract bees, butterflies and of course birds. Various sunbirds find the flowers of irresistible because of the nectar they exude. These include Crimson (Aethopyga siparaja), Olive-backed (Nectarinia jugularis) and Brown-throated (Anthreptes malacensis) Sunbirds. The Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) visit for the mistletoe fruits, the mempat nectar as well as the flowers.
The tree is also popular with Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier) that visit for the insects that are attracted to the flowers. These birds also eat the mempat flowers, probably for the nectar they contain. They are also attracted to the tree because of the mistletoe fruits.
Input and images by YC.