August 3, 2009

Peeling Bark of Melaban Tree

As I walk more in this park I notice more and more botanical features.

How wonderful if our skin can peel in the same way as this tree. The old bark peels away and the fresh and smooth trunk is exposed.

Now I am wondering how long it will take for the new bark to grow!

Amazing nature.

According to "Greenspot" (Different Perspectives) scientifically, ‘melaban’ belongs to the genus Tristaniopsis in the Myrtaceae or jambu family and there are quite a number of species of Tristaniopsis in Borneo. Most members of such family are characterized by smooth, peely bark and these peely bark is most beautiful in the ‘melaban’ which is the tree in the photos.

It is the peely bark that gave rise to the name ‘melaban’ which means ‘to fight’ in Iban and the legend associated with 'batu melaban'. As soon as the new bark emerges, the older bark will fall off. Hence the famous Iban war cry "Agi idup agi ngelaban" which purportedly gave Rentap the great motivation to fight on. Today it is commonly used in Sarawak to help motivate team games like football and other endeavours.

According to an Iban legend, a stone called 'batu melaban' or philosopher's stone is found inside the tree and could bestow perpetual youth to the fortunate person who discovers it.

The family Mrytaceae is an element of the southern hemisphere in our tropical rain forests. Most members of the family are absent north of the equator but are abundant in South America, South Africa, India, Southeast Asia and Australia.

More photos of melaban (Iban name) or selunsur (Malay name)like the one below can be found at

There are numerous melaban trees at Lambir Hills National Park in Miri, near the waterfall.

There is an area called Melaban in Ulu Limbang named most probably because there were many melaban trees there when the Ibans first settled down there after being handpicked by the Second Rajah in the 1920's.

there is a school in Sarawak called SK Melaban too.

So I hope you can find your philosopher's stone and change metals into gold or find perpectual youth!!


Greenspot said...

Hi there!

The tree is Tristaniopsis. Visit


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks. I have incorporated some of your points in the posting. I hope we can share the info with more people...

Now I can try to find the philosopher's stone myself..Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

Dear Cikgu
I really like the legends involved in our country's plants and flowers. Hope everything is fine with you.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hello Kamaliah
I hope the haze is not too harsh for you. Just keep your room well with a good humidizer.

Yes I am beginning to see that many people are discovering lots of indigenous legends in both Sarawak and Sabah and I hope that teachers will continue to use them in their language lessons.

God bless.

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...