The kesidang flower is a symbol of the grace, charm and beauty of traditional Malay culture. Hence it was selected as the state flower of the historical city of Malacca. It was a popular flower a long time ago but quite a rarity now. Kesidang was documented by G.E. Rumphius in his works on the Herbarium Amboinense, a catalogue of plants of the Indonesian Archipelago, during the 17th century.
Malay ladies liked to wear kesidang flowers in their 'sanggul' (hair combed into a bun). Kesidang flowers were very popular then. Perfumed flowers like the Kenaga (Canaga odorata), Yellow Chempaka (Michelia champaca), White Chempaka (Michelia alba), Bunga Tanjung (Mimusops elengi) and Arabian Jasmine (Jasminum sambac); were often used at weddings and kenduris (feasts) where the flowers were scattered on banquet tables and made into garlands to decorate festive arches. These flowers acted as natural perfume. Kesidang plants were commonly found at temple grounds, churches and stately homes, and the flowers used widely by Malay ladies, Malaccan 'nyonya' (Straits Chinese ladies) and also the Chitty (Peranakan Indian) ladies.
Common name: Kesidang, Kerak Nasi, Tikar Seladang, Melati Bali, Bread Flowers.
Native of: Java, Indonesia
Photo taken at: Rooftop Secret Garden of 1Utama
"Kerak Nasi" means rice crusts. "Tikar" means mat while "Tikam" is grip. "Seladang" is a wild oxen which is native to South East Asia. The clusters of little white flowers has the colour of and the aroma of rice crusts, hence the name 'kerak nasi'.
Kesidang is grown for its flowers which are very fragrant. It has the scent of cooked pandan leaves. Some people say it smells like slightly burnt rice, hence the name 'kerak nasi'. Some say it smell like freshly cooked fragrant rice. I think it smells like nasi lemak! Yet some others tell me it's a love-hate affair. Either you love the fragrance or you hate it. Those who hate it can't stand the scent as it gives them a headache or migrane. I love it because I love pandan and I also love the scent of slightly burnt rice.
Kesidang flower is an ingredient in the making of 'bunga rampai' or potpourri used at Malay weddings and spas. The ingredients used are fresh rose petals, thinly sliced pandan leaves, fresh champacca petals, kesidang, jasmine and plumeria flowers. Mix them all together in a bowl with a few drops of jasmine oil and put the bowl in a room or near a bed for a romantic aromathery.
Peranakan people like to sprinkle bunga rampai flowers on the marital bed.
Put the ingredients in a potpourri bag and you can hang it in the car as an air freshener. Place some kesidang flowers on your work desk. Its mild but lasting aromatic scent is very therapeutic. It soothes and calms your nerves.
Kesidang is a tender, tropical perennial woody climber that can grow up to a height of 6-10ft. It is suitable for pergolas and trellis, can be trimed it into a bush or hedge or grown in a container. It needs full sun exposure for it to bloom. This plant is easy to care for and it is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of conditions. Water it regularly but do not overwater. It's flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. When plucking the flowers, be careful of the white sap that oozes out. If it gets onto your hands, it may be difficult to wash off with just soap and water.
Propagation is by layering, i.e. marcotting (air layering) and ground layering. Anchor a portion of the stem to the ground with a brick. Roots and shoots will grow to develope into a new plant.
I can still find the kesidang in suburban areas and the countryside. The photos in this post is taken at The Secret Garden of 1-Utama. You can also find a specimen tree growing on a pergola at the Kuala Lumpur Hibiscus Garden. We can buy the seedling from nurseries around town for about RM 10.00. This plant is also listed in the websites of Top Tropicals and Dave's Garden.
Like in the old days, kesidang is best grown near a balcony, in the patio or beside a window. When you open the window in the morning, a fresh light fragrance fills your room and linger in the air. On a pergola, it branches out like an umbrella, so put a bench underneath where you can sit down and enjoy its aromatic scent. Many folks here have fond memories of carefree days in the kampung or village, playing and chatting with friends under the kesidang tree.
I am extremely delighted to dedicate this post to Ms Ami from Florida, USA, of Southeast Florida Garden Evolvement blog. She was my first commenter for my previous post titled, "Lily Magnolia Flower." I am so happy to find her blog which is filled with many many lovely plants and flowers very similar to those in my own country.
Updated on 24 Jan 2013 - For those who understand the Malay language, here's a pantun/gurindam from my My Nice Garden Chat Group in Facebook:
En Abu Hassan Jalil -"Kekadang terpandang Kelulut sedang bersidang di bunga kesidang".
Ms Junie Lee - "Keharumannya tidak terhingga kata, maka menawan kelulut tuk bersidang di persidangan Khas bunga kesidang!"
(The words are copied with their permission).
1.You can click on the links provided at places where text are in green.
2. To view my article about the Kesidang "Scented Gardens" published by New Straits Times, click here.
This is my entry for Blooming Friday, 1st week of March 2010. My grateful thanks to Katarina at Roses and Stuff for hosting Blooming Friday. To see what others have posted or to participate, click here.
This is also my entry for Fertilizer Friday. My grateful thanks to Tootsie at Tootsie Time for hosting Fertilizer Friday. To see what others have posted or to participate, visit here.