Sesbania grandiflora ‘Alba’ – flowers and pollination

on 19th September 2018

Sesbania grandiflora ‘Alba’ is commonly known as Vegetable Hummingbird, West Indian Pea, Katuday and Turi. It is a fast-growing smallish tree. It is easily recognised by its large white flowers, slender and elongated fruits and compound leaves with small, oblong leaflets.

Flowers and leaves.

The leaves, fruits and flowers are commonly eaten as vegetables in South and Southeast Asia. I was introduced to it by my Filipina helpers who regularly harvest the flowers and share them with their friends. The stamens and style are first removed from the flowers, leaving only the white petals and green sepals. These are eaten as a salad, blanched and tossed with vinegar and garnished with onions, chilly and sometimes also crispy anchovies, commonly known as ikan bilis – see video below.

The tree regularly bears fruits but I failed to observe pollinating agents. Smallish birds visited the tree but none were observed visiting the flowers. Then one day my video caught a smallish bird visiting the flowers. Stalking the flowers with my video cam finally showed Olive-backed Sunbirds (Cinnyris jugularis) visiting the lowers irregularly to “steal” nectar – see video below.

YC Wee
1st July 2018

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YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

2 responses

  1. A long time ago I have eaten bunga (flowers) & daun (leaves) Turi cook as a lemak in Malaysia. It was spicy, milky & delicious when rendered with ikan bilis (anchovies). This, as a vegetable, is also eaten in Brunei & Indonesia, especially by the kampung (village) folks.

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