Around November 2015, Tan Teo Seng brought me a bunch of pinkish, grape-like fruits from Johor, Malaysia. The fruits were eventually identified as Cayratia mollissima (formerly Vitis mollissima), belonging to the grape family, Vitaceae. I could not find any common name among the local literature but wild grape would serve the current purpose. The plant is native to Singapore although its conservation status is reported to be “threatened”. It makes an excellent ornamental plant for the fence.
I hung the fruits in my garden for about a week but no animals (squirrel, civet cat, mynas, bulbuls…) would eat them. Eventually the fruits dropped one by one to the ground. I collected the seeds, placed them in a pot of soil and grew the plants by my fence. They have now flowered (above) and there are plenty of ants and bees pollinating them: Dwarf Honey Bee (Apis andreniformis) (below)…
…and Common Honey Bee (Apis cerana) (below). Note the prominent blob of yellow compacted pollen grains on the outer surface of the hind legs of the bees.
The National Parks Board link mentions pollination by bees and the larvae of the plume moth (Deuterocopus melanota) have been observed to feed on the floral buds.
Fruits are now appearing and I will be monitoring for other fauna that may be attracted to the fruits (as well as the plants in general).
2nd July 2016
Note: The firsrt video should be on Dwarf Honey Bee (Apis andreniformis) and the second on Common Honey Bee (Apis cerana). The titles of the videos have been amended, but not the video itself. Any comments on the identification of the bees are welcome.
I found it once in the forest on the way to the Mandai Zoo a long time ago. I see if I can find the picture.
Yes, please find the picture and share with us!
I think it is highly poisonous. I happen to spotted one look alike and took a very small bite just to see how is the taste. At 1st it taste sweet then slight bitter. 2 mins later, I feel a sharp itchy sensation on my throat. Like have a sore throat. It slowly becomes painful. I then quickly run to a near by wash room to gurgle and wash it off with plenty of water. Can sent you picture of the fruit and plant if you want.
Had NO idea at all that grapes could grow here, and that we even have native species! What do these taste like and is pink their ripened colour?
These are “wild” grapes, not the domesticated ones. We need guinea pigs to taste these fruits that ripen pink. True grapes actually can grow in the tropics but with difficulty. Have seen some fruiting.
I don’t mind tasting them at all if they’re edible! Are these wild grapes the same as “true” grapes? When you say “true” grapes what do you mean?
P.S. Very keen to see more such posts!
Wild grapes = not domesticated i.e. improved for consumption – bigger, sweeter, etc. True grapes = found on supermarket shelves… My definition.
Hi, check out FB SG Grapegrowers where locals plant grapes in HDB environnent
Thanks for the link.
I run into those recently. I was told they are edible so tried one. I can assure everyone that the fruit is NOT edible raw. It is not very sweet or sour, has very little real taste. But within three seconds of taking a small bite my mouth and throat were burning. Similar sensation to under-cooked Taro (usually sold in Singapore as yams) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taro The unpleasant burning lasts for several hours. And I only has a small bite, not even a quarter of one berry. I suspect no birds or animals eat the fruit for the same reason. Ps: the “real” grapes can be grown in Singapore.
The burning sensation is caused by calcium oxalate needle-like crystals, see http://www.besgroup.org/2016/10/09/fruiting-of-bush-grape-cayratia-mollissima/. Same sensation when you bite into the stem of Dieffenbachia (dumb cane).
I was almost killed by just tasting it. Within a few minutes, my throat was extremely sore and painful. 30 minutes later, I was breathless and almost died. I was went to SGH A&E for treatment. Don’t try it. It is poisonous!!! If I ate it, I won’t be able to write this comment
Thank you for the interesting article. Also thank you for the feedback by Jeff Tan and further input of YC Wee about the poisonous nature of the fruits and its taste. I was often tempted to try the taste of the exotic looking fruits whenever I saw them in the jungle but did not because I was unsure of its edibility.
I see this similar plant with fruits in Ang Mo Kio park, pinkish fruits very juicy… thinking very seriously if I should try ….