October 14, 2009

Pliae - Pretty Soft Wood Tree

Only very recently I noticed a large number of plaie being grown in the area around E Mart in Miri.

In the past the Malays value this tree for its latex which has a medical liquid for curing glacoma. In fact many years ago when a barefoot doctor in Kampong Datuk Sharip was still alive no one in Marudi ever suffered from eye problems. He was the man every one would look for . He is my friend's uncle. Believe you me!

In Limbang in the 1960's a group of Japanese ordered a large consignment of this beautiful white soft wood thinking that they could float the logs all the way to Japan or at least half the way. However the logs were all softened in the sea water in the river mouth of the Limbang river. What ever happened then no one would be able to relate the story . They must have pushed the story behind their mind or it was just one of those mishaps people made with nature. The towkays did not believe the Ibans who told them that the wood was not water resistant. The Ibans were paid peanuts for their efforts but they also lost another income earning opportunity because no Japanese ever ordered the beautiful pliae any more. However I hope the plaie is on the endangered species today.

The indigenous people use the plaie for making "stoppers" and toys. Plaie is also useful as overhead beams in the house as long as it is not exposed to the rain.

However the greatest use of the pliae is in its beautiful nature as a wood for making the Kayan SAPE. It is beautiful white and soft and is light. Music from sape made from plaise gives a very melodious sound.

You can buy sapes from some of the local tourists shops in Miri. Check out with AgnesCrafts.

Plaie is also grown along the highway to KLIA and LCCT. Someone must have discovered its beautiful shape- the tree often looks like ballerinas with stiff skirts spreading out. It is now beginning to be grown in the various parks of Brunei.


(Disclaimer: I am not advertising for Mrs. Agnes J and some of the information provided are from the people I know from Marudi and Limbang)


Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakiana, I never heard nor read about this Plaie tree. But sure is interesting read your eloquent description of it. And yes, it is a beautiful tree.
When I return to Malaysia one of these days, I will be going to Sarawak as have BIL and family there. I certainly will look out for this tree.
One tree or plant that fascinated me during my days in Sarawak and visiting those isolated longhouses was the Tongkat Al tree and its interesting properties.

I quite often was given as presents specially concocted mixtures of this TA with other jungle plants too.
You know, I have always loved Sarawak and its beautiful peoples.
By the way, have you eaten a fish called Kapit fish? Hope that is the correct name.
Have a nice day Sarawakiana, Lee.

William said...

CY, there is another use for the latex. True or not, when someone has "snake", we use the latex and apply it over the "snake". I can't remember the details anymore, especially whether it is effective or not.
I cut down a big tree while I was in Sarikei back in 1969. I used it to make handcraft project. Because it is so soft and beautiful, we can make lots of thing from it.

wenn said...


Watt said...

Hi Aunty,
alternative to plaie is the tekalong tree...both are soft wood with latex. We used the latex of these trees as glue to trap birds(this activity of trapping birds is known as 'empulut').

God Bless.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Uncle Lee- It is nice to know someone who knows Sarawak and has connections here.

When you come over here I can give you a guided to E Mart/Senadin and the Lambir National forests. But will have to check out sarong clad girls. No easy to find Cheongsamed girls though. But may be you can try the reflexologists outlets.

Yes Tongkat Ali is all the rave here but I am not sure it really works (wink wink( from what I hear from girl friends..hahahaha.Lots of coffee laced with TA and lots of pills with TA around at exorbitant prices. Well many women are still disappointed no matter what the men say. Take this with a pinch.
But I think TA is really good for headaches and lowering blood pressure.
Kapit fish can be tengadak which is very tasty. But if you are referring to Empurau (the king of fish) you can still get it but usually in upscale restaurants. It has become the fish of the princes at 1000 ringgit per kilo.
I saw one in Kapit recently when the fishmonger sneeringly said "This one - 5800 - already booked. No chance." Well just asking..no harm done. That was probably the biggest empaurau I have ever seen.
In 1974 before man knew how to appreciate this fish we were asked to buy one whole fish at only 109 ringgit in Kanowit. We salted it and distributed it right up to Limbang. It was probably 10 kg. and we never had it so good since then.

One YB's father used to make the best salted empurau in the whole of Sarawak. We bought by the biscuit tins.

Hiya ...very lengthy reply. Have a good day!

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Thanks for the tips. I must ask more about this cure for "golden snake". Hives is a common ailment here. And I get very worried when friends have it. We used to go to one Chinese sinseh in Sibu for a good treatment - burn the tien sin at the back of the ear and there can be a loud bang...and the hives will "retreat".

How old was the pliae which you cut down?

Sarawakiana@2 said...


With nature - you just need to observe and learn from the local people. VEry few books have these kind of information.

Thanks for dropping by.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Watt
Thanks for the info. When I write my article about the tekalong (I took photos of them in the Limbang Valley recently) I will add your info...

I remember my Malay and Iban friends in Sg. Aup of Sibu using fishing nets and some kind of glue to capture burong pipit in their padi fields...I am wondering if this is the same "glue"

Thanks for dropping by.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

William - there are two trees in Pujut 6 and one tree has been tapped with rubber tapping style...I think someone is a sinseh there....??want to find out more?

Superman said...

Nice and special tree. Didn't notice that when in Miri last time.

Ah Ngao said...

i think i know what William mentioned about the skin diseases which resembles a snake-like rashes on the body.according to the chinese sinseh,if the snake "connects"-meaning the head and tails meets - goal lah.so treatment had to be done quickly or else,more serious and can be deadly.my mum knows how to treat this diseases and had treated a few.she's old now and i think she forgotten what are those herbs required.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

lots of them in E Mart area. A few of them are standing tall in front of some mansions here and there in Miri. But I don't think there are any in Sibu. If you go from Miri to Bandar you see them all along the highway....The trees have one layer of leaves after another. And the final tip can be just one long stem before the leaves spread out....

Special really. You can't miss them.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao

You must ask your mother for the treatment...invalueable...

Greenspot said...

Hi Sarawakiana,

Plaie (Alstonia sp) belongs to the same family as jelutong (Dyera). They belongs to the family apocynaceae. Memebrs of this family produces latex. Tekalong belongs to the family Moraceae which also produces latex. other eg of Moraceae are cempedak, nangka, figs, etc.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Greenspot
Nice to see you back.
Thanks for all the scientific tersm. Do you know why Miri is planting more plaie now?
I saw a beautiful and very well formed huge ficus (?)in Mandurah near Perth which also produces latex. Will write about it later.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cikgu
Nice to know more about Pliae trees. Never kn ew sape is made from the wood. I have heard about the treatment of eye problems using the plaie latex.

thanks for giving us the info. Cheers. Must go and see the pretty trees too...I sort of noticed them in Brunei now that you mentioned.

Greenspot said...

Hi Sarawakiana,

I suspect because Miri, especially Baram area was formerly peat swamp forest and the plaie could be the swamp species and therefore could grow well.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear K
Yeah they are found all along the way to KB and they are pretty in the distance. You can really tell them apart from the other trees because of the shape of their canopy and their "skirts of leaves spreading out layer by layer".

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks for dropping by and giving important info.
Yes I think the plaie is found more in peat swamps than in the hill regions. I tried looking for them in Upper Baram but found few.
But again being bigger in the upper rivers they might have been cut down by the thousands in the past and many would just rot in the log pond! What a waste.

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