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How to Grow and Care for a Shrubby Coral Pemphis (Pemphis acidula)

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Pemphis acidula, commonly known as Shrubby Coral Pemphis, is an evergreen shrub or small, densely-branching tree usually growing up to 20 feet (6 m) tall, occasionally up to 36 feet (11 m). The bole is usually gnarled and much-branched. Occasionally the plant is a dwarf creeping shrublet only 6 inches (15 cm) tall.

Shrubby Coral Pemphis is found in coastal locations in the tropical areas of the Indo-Pacific. It is one of the types of shrubs growing in sandy and calcareous soils of the littoral zones of the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean. It is also found in mangroves.

The tree is sometimes harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of timber. The wood is potentially of very good quality, but because of its small size and the poor form of the bole, as well as its limited supply, the wood is only used on a small and local scale.

Growing Conditions and General Care

The plant is sometimes grown as an ornamental. There is a significant trade in seeds and live plants, especially in Asia, for growing it as a bonsai.

Shrubby Coral Pemphis grows on a variety of soil including coastal fine sand, coastal limestone rock, cliffs, coral conglomerate, limestone bedrock outcrops of atolls etc. It is able to grow in places where seawater wet its roots regularly during the high tide.

It is propagated by seeds, wildlings and roots suckers. Seeds are not directly sown in the field. Nursery-raised seedlings are used for outplanting. Mature fruits can be easily identified by their brown color and each fruit contains 20 to 30 very small seeds which can be collected by gently pressing the matured fruits. Collected seeds should be subjected to floating test and seeds that float are viable. Seeds may be kept soaked for one to two days before planting in containers. Nursery-raised seedlings 15 to 20 cm can be used for outplanting. Propagation by wildlings is relatively less successful compared to nursery raised seedlings. It can also be propagated by planting straight stems with roots in suitable places. It needs to be pruned to get straight poles.

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