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Native Indonesian Plants

By Jacob J. Wright
Bali is one island in the archipelago of Indonesia.

Over 17,000 different islands comprise the equatorial nation of Indonesia--nestled between Asia and Australia. While not even two percent of the world's land area, Indonesia boasts 11 percent of the world's plant species. Cloaked in thousands of hectares of tropical rain forests, this nation has many native plants--including many trees, shrubs and epiphytic plants (that clasp their roots onto other plants for support, such as orchids).


Orchid tree blossoms.

The books "Tropical and Subtropical Trees and "Tropical Flowering Plants" list several trees native to Indonesia, including timber and ornamental species. Some native timber trees are mast tree (Polyalthia longiflora), ironwood/na (Mesua ferrea) and teak (Tectona grandis). Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) flower oils gave rise to the Chanel No. 5 perfume, according to author Barwick. Trees with particularly showy flowers are Tabernaemontana pandacaqui, orchid tree (Bauhinia variegata), maple-leaved bayur (Pterospermum acerifolium), apple-blossom cassia (Cassia javanica), golden shower (Cassia fistula) and sorrowless tree (Saraca indica). Ornate leaves don the umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) and Fairchild's sterculia (Sterculia ceramica). Elephant apple (Dillenia spp.), Malay apple (Syzygium malaccense), Java apple (Syzigium samarangense) and starfruit (Averrhoa carambola) are all native to Indonesia.

Herbaceous Plants

The red-coral bracts of torch ginger.

Lush foliage or showy flowers mark the most ornate aspects of some of Indonesia's herbaceous natives. Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum) is from Sulawesi, while several species of elephant ears hail from various islands across the nation: Alocasia cuprea, Alocasia longiloba and Alocasia plumbea. Voodoo lily/arum plants abound, especially on Sumatra and include the species Amorphophallus lambii, Amorphophallus gigas and Amorphophallis titanum. Many species of bat flowers (Tacca spp.) grow in the warm, wet rainforests across Indonesia, too. Gold birds (Burbidgea schizocheila), Malay ginger (Costus speciosus), hidden lilies (Curcuma sumtrana and Curcuma pheaocaulis), torch ginger (Etlingera elatior) and hidden ginger (Zingiber neglectum) die back in the winter dry season but bloom in the rainy season.


Betal nut palm (Areca catechu), clustering fishtail palm (Caryota mitis) and sealing wax palm (Cyrtostachys renda) grow naturally across the hot, moist and humid lowlands of Indonesia. Two palms naturalized in Indonesia today, according to the authors of "An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms," are the coconut (Cocus nucifera) and the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis).


Many wild moth orchid species grow naturally across Indonesia.

Calanthe vestits and Phaius tankervilliae are two deciduous perennial orchids native to Indonesia. The orchid group or genus called Dendrobium hails from all parts of Asia; one species of Indonesia is the butterfly dendrobium (Dendrobium bigibbum), which grows in trees. Jewel-orchid (Haemaria discolor) grows in soil and is evergreen. Other large orchid genera native across parts of Indonesia include moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), ground orchids (Spathoglottis) and slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum).


Hoya vines make good houseplants, too.

Woody stemmed vines native to Indonesia include shooting-star hoya (Hoya multiflora) and Hoya purpureofusca. Others of vines of note are bower-vine (Pandorea jasminoides), Rangoon creeper (Quisqualis indica) and shower-of-gold vine (Tristellateia australasiae).


Suckering and spreading shrubs native across Indonesia include Indian glory-bower (Clerodendrum indicum) and Java glory-bower (Clerodendrum speciossisimum). Sometimes growing out of soil and on rotting organic matter on tree trunks is the rose-grape medinilla (Medinilla myriantha) and coral medinilla (Medinilla scortechinii). Other shrubs from Indonesia are white flag (Mussaenda frondosa) and orange jessamine (Murraya paniculata).


About the Author


Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.