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Family Apocynaceae
Shui mei
Wrightia religiosa Teijs. and Binn.
Wu guan dao diao bi

Scientific names Common names
Echites religiosus Teijsm. & Binn. Philippine jasmine
Wrightia religiosa (Teijsm, & Binn.) Benth. ex Kurz Shui mei
Wrightia religiosa (Teijsm & Binn.) Benth. Sacred buddhist (Engl.)
  Water jasmine (Engl.)
  Wild water plum (Engl.)
  Wondrous wrightia (Engl.)
Wrightia religiosa (Teijsm. & Binn.) Kurz is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Wu guan dao diao bi, Sui mui, Sui-mei (Cantonese).
SINHALESE: Idda mal.
THAI: Mok ban.

Botanical snippets
- In Malaysia, water jasmine is the plant most often used for bonsai.(6)
- The genus was named for William Wright (1735-1819), a Scottish physician and botanist, by Robert Brown.   (6)

Shui mei is a tropical shrub growing up to 3 meters tall. Bark is smooth and gray. Branchlets are thin, terete, often with many lateral and short branches, minutely puberulent. Petioles are 2 to 4 millimeters. Leaves are opposite, simple, elliptic, ovate or narrowly oblong, 2.5 to 7.5 centimeters long and 1.5 to 3 centimeters wide, pubescent along the mid-vein, with 5 to 7 paired lateral veins. Cymes are often on short, few-leaved branches, short peduncled, and 1- to 13-flowered. Flowers are fruity scented, pendant, borne along the twiggy branches. Sepals are ovate, about 1.5 millimeters. Corolla is white and glabrous; lobes ovate, about 7 millimeters, densely pubescent on both surfaces. Ovaries are free. Seeds are narrowly fusiform, about 8 millimeters.

- Introduced.
- Ornamental cultivation.
- Widely plants as a hedge tree in Southeast Asia countries.
- Native to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
- A common bonsai plant in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan.

- Activity guided assay of a methanolic extract yielded eight compounds viz, kaempferol 3-O-α-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1-6)-ß-D-galactopyranoside (1), kaempferol 3-O-α-L-rhamnopyronosyl-(1-6)-ß-D-galactopyranoside (2), two new flavonol glycosides (3,4) quercetin 4'-O-α-L-rhamnopyranosyl-3-O-α-L-rhamnopyranosy-(1-6)-ß-D-glucopyranoside (5), rutin (6), quercetin 3-O-α-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1-6)-ß-D-galactopyranoside (7), and wrightiadione (8).

- A favorite bonsai tree because of its fast growth.
- Astringent.
- Studies have shown ß-glucosidase activity and air-purifying potential.

Parts used
Bark, roots.


- No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- In India, bark infusion used twice daily as medicinal herb.
- Roots used to treat skin diseases.
- Ritual: Sacred among Buddhists.

ß-Glucosidase Activity:
Study of crude extracts from different stages of three scented flowers (W. religiosa, Ervatamia coronaira and Gardenia jasminoides) were evaluated for ß-glucosidase activity. The highest level was found in Wrightia religiosa. Enzyme activity was increased significantly in open flowers. There is a good correlation between ß-glucosidase activity and scent emission from flowers and roots.  (3)
PAH-Degrading Bacteria in Plant Phyllosphere / Air Purifying Potential: Phyllosphere bacteria on ornamental plants were characterized based on its removal of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the major air pollutants in urban areas. PAH-degrading bacteria were 1-10% of phyllosphere population consisting of diverse bacterial species--Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, Mycobacterium, and uncultured bacteria. Phyllosphere bacteria on unsterilized leaves enhanced the removal of phenanthrene. In addition, there was also reduction of other PAHs such as acenaphthylene, acenaphthene, and fluorine. Results suggest a role for the phyllosphere bacteria on ornamental plants in the natural attenuation of airborne PAHs in urban areas.  (4)
• Naturally Occurring FANCF-Hes1 Complex Inhibitors: Fanconi anemia (FA) is an inherited anemia associated with bone marrow failure, progressive decline in hematopoietic stems cells, developmental defects and a predisposition to cancer. FANCF is one of the eight proteins in the FA core complex which is a key player in the DNA cross-link repair pathway. A screening HTS assay of a methanolic extract isolated eight natural occurring inhibitors, including two new flavonoid glycosides (3 and 4) from Wrightia religiosa. Compounds 3, 5, and 7 showed potent inhibition of FACCF-Hes1 complex formation. Compound 7 disrupted the FANCF-Hes1 complex more efficiently than the Hes1 dimer. (7)
• ß-Glucosidase Activity / Scent Production: In some flowers, aromatic compounds are stored as non-scented glycoside precursors in vacuoles. The removal of sugar moiety from these compounds was facilitated by the activity of ß-glucosidases in floral tissue and is correlated with scent production. Study evaluated crude extracts of three scented flowers (Wrightia religiosa, Ervatamia coronoria and Gardenia jasminoides). The highest level of ß-glucosidase activity was found in Wrightia religiosa. The enzyme was detected in closed buds and significantly increased in open flowers. (8)


Updated September 2018 / September 2016
May 2013

Photos ©Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Sorting Wrightia names
/ Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
Wrightia religiosa (Sacred Buddhist) / Description / Zipcodezoo
β-Glucosidase Activity and Scent Production in Some Flowers / O. Suntornwat and S. Koocharoensap / Acta Hort. 679, ISHS 2005
Diversity and Activity of PAH-Degrading Bacteria in the Phyllosphere of Ornamental Plants
/ Chontisak Yutthammo, Nudchanard Thongthammachat, Pairoh Pinphanichakarn, Ekawan Luepromchai / Microbial Ecology, February 2010, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 357-368
Wrightia religiosa / Synonyms / The Plant List
Water Jasmine / BonsaiBoy
Naturally occurring FANCF-Hes1 complex inhibitors from Wrightia religiosa / Midori A Arai, Kenji Uemura, Nozomi Hahahiga, Naoki Ishikawa, Takashi Koyano, Thaworn Kowithayakorn, Tagrid Kaddar, Madeleine Carreau, and Masami Ishibashi / MedChemComm/ DOI: 10.1039/c4md00495g
BETA-GLUCOSIDASE ACTIVITY AND SCENT PRODUCTION IN SOME FLOWERS / O. Suntornwat, S. Koocharoensap / Acta Hortic. 679: pp 195-199 / DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2005.679.24

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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