Two native Indonesian endangered plant species that need more attention

written by:  Wawan Sujarwo

Saninten and Local wisdom

“Saninten buah saninten
Dicandak ka parapatan
Hapunten abdi hapunten
Bilih aya kalepatan” 

Saninten buah saninten
Dibawa ke perempatan
Maafkan saya maafkan
Kalau ada kesalahan

The translation of the quote above is as follows: Saninten, the fruit of Saninten/Taken to the crossroads/Forgive, O forgive me/If I made any mistakes. The verse above is a snippet of a Sundanese Sisindiran from "Sisindiran dan Wawangsalan Anyar" by Dedy Windyagiri. Sisindiran is a traditional Sundanese poem. It incorporates rhymes and syllables in an orderly manner. This particular verse is filled with religious values. As quoted from Sumarni in the journal titled "Sentences of Sisindiran and Wawangsalan Anyar of Dedy Windyagiri," this verse is usually used during speeches and religious teachings. It is often found in formal activities, including closing speeches or interludes to religious lectures. In this case, it is encouraging one another to forgive.


This article attempts to interpret the ethnobotanical perspective of the Saninten (Castanopsis argentea) fruit in this verse as follows: (1) Saninten is symbolized as forgiveness. Due to its spiky and hard outer layer that illustrates arduous past mistakes and its sweet and pleasant smell that comes from the seed inside, which tastes sweet and savory, (2) it simply rhymes with the message that is trying to get across. However, it still shows that such plant species in local communities were widespread, known, and consumed and that there is a "symbolic, economic, and ecological values over time" within the local community.


According to my previous article in the Jakarta Post years ago, the dying cultural heritage should be passed on to the next generation. Moreover, many of them are linked to the locals' botanical knowledge, especially Saninten, an endangered plant species. Therefore, similar to traditional folk songs, Sisindiran is a potential material as a way of finding a track record of humans'—especially in the Sundanese tribe area—relationship with plants.

Saninten (Castanopsis argentea) and its lesser-known sibling, Tungurut (Castanopsis tungurrut): A genomic conservation

Despite sharing the same status on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List—endangered (EN)— unlike Saninten (Castanopsis argentea), Tungurut (Castanopsis tungurrut) is not protected by the Minister of Environment and Forestry’s Regulation No. 92 of 2018. IUCN listed actions that needed to be taken in order to conserve the species, and one of them is genome resource banking. As of March 2023, there are no records of C. tungurrut in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). At the same time, there are three nucleotides, two proteins, and 1 data article about C. argentea ranging from 2019 to 2022. Of course, we cannot be satisfied with this record alone. This should drive us to research and gene bank more and give light to the less given attention species. The current studies about Saninten genetic diversity that surfaced should lead us to attempt genomic banking.


We should not rely solely on the physical plant for research purposes, as estimated data from 2017 shows that the Tungurut population has already been declining by 30% for over 20 years. Hence, we should introduce cryopreservation to this endangered species. Cryopreservation is beneficial for the seed bank, cell culture freezing, and rare germplasm storage. Previous studies show that the main factors are moisture content control, proper freezing, and thawing methods. People should acknowledge and share the same awareness they have for Tungurut as they do for Saninten. This effort is in line with the BGCI’s tree conservation program to provoke more people to pay attention to endangered plant species.

What next?

Due to its ‘unconfirmed’ status as an endemic species belonging to Indonesia, studies have been conducted to map these two species' distribution. Those data should be integrated into a guide or manual. A book about “Introduction to Castanopsis” or “Introduction to Indonesia Endangered Plant Species” should be made; this book should contain updated information, e.g., about the species, the verified distribution map of Castanopsis to determine whether or not a group of species belongs to a specific condition, i.e., latitude and longitude, distribution zone, species zonation, as well as tracking its origin, flowering calendar, conservation (propagation method and protection), phylogeny, etc. Another suggestion is to include these species—along with other native and endemic species of Indonesia—on the educational curriculum and/or syllabus, with the intention of conserving the species through education so that knowledge and the gravity of this matter are passed on and even solved by the next generation.





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