Monday, 17 January 2011

That Plant Is As Shy As You Are

My son was suddenly very interested in the Semalu (Mimosa pudica, touch me not) plant these days. He was very interested to know how and why the plant would fold inward/droop when touched.

We spent a bit of time looking at "semalu" plants after our jogging session at a nearby park and he was so engrossed poking the plant and watching the reactions.

I told him the plant was as shy as he is when approached by strangers. He is now in Standard 3 and yet still finds it hard to be comfortable around people he doesn't know so he just clams up. I guess that's his defense mechanism, just like the plant.

Did I tell you he is very similar to his Mom? Yeah, well... I was that way too at his age. Actually, I was much worse. Way worse...

Do you know there is a Malay folklore about this plant? A condensed tale of the semalu plant:

There was once a Puteri (princess), a daughter of Sultan Zainudin Shah; named Puteri Seri Buana. She was a very shy princess and despite many suitors coming for her hands in marriage, they were all rejected by her.  She was always cooped up in her room and did not mingle with anyone at all.

One day, a prince named Tengku Ludin came to seek her and the puteri was scared of Tengku Ludin because unfortunately Tengku Ludin was so ugly with bulging eyeballs and potruding teeth (so they say. I "love" the not so political correct stories of yesteryears sometimes. Evil = ugly. Ugly = evil). The puteri ran to the river with Tengku Ludin hot on her heels. She then seeked the help of a Ketapang tree and the tree obliged by dropping a huge leaf for the puteri. The puteri then set sail using the leaf to seek help from Raja Gedembai (a guy who can curse anyone and turn them into stone).

All this while, Tengku Ludin was still chasing Puteri Seri Buana. Arriving at Raja Gedembai kingdom, the puteri cried out for help because Tengku Ludin was out to capture her and Raja Gedembai came out and cursed Tengku Ludin and he became a lalang (weed?) because he was evil and all that. Raja Gedembai then kindly advised Puteri Seri Buana to return home but Puteri Seri Buana was scared of her royal dad and his royal wrath. Raja Gedembai then turned her into a semalu plant, befitting her very shy persona.


  1. i remember i also like to play with the weed when i was a kid.. it's really amazing to see them clam up i thought..

  2. hahaha, talking about being shy.. i think i was quite shy too when i was a kid, and i don't think i'm getting better now also.. i will normally be very quite if i'm in a place with lots of strangers and newly-met..

  3. errr, i have not heard about that story before, who told you about that story?? i thot the Raja will turn the Tengku into a handsome guy and both he and the Puteri will live happily ever after..

  4. aaahhh, your story is so not fairy tale.. ended up both of them become weed.. hahahaha!! :D

  5. @SK,
    Well, about folklores (as opposed to happily ever after tales) - they don't normally have happy endings. Re - Puteri Santubong, Si Tanggang, Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup. I'm not sure about Chinese folklore lah... ^[^

    You sure you shy ah? See that avatar of yours, sure doesn't look like you shy one! LOL

  6. I never heard that story before but here we call the plant Putri Malu so could be related to that.

  7. I love poking that plant to see if hide in fear ... LOL! Evil kan?

    I didn't know there was a folklore related to that plant :D

  8. @Evan's Mom,
    What's the story of the plant like in Indonesia?

  9. @Nick,
    We have an abundance of folklore, maybe just not published or widely read. I think everything has a story of how it came to be. How a crow got their black feathers, etc. I used to read a lot when I was little about them but have not seen any books about our local folklore anymore. Plenty of "mat salleh" fairy tales in the market though.

  10. As a child, that plant provided some enjoyment for me too. Unfortunately, it's not common these days unless one goes to the outskirts or to parks.

    Thanks for that interesting story, Lina.

  11. The mimosa is a wonder. I used to love touching it when I was a kid. Just to see the plant shrink back for the fun of it.

  12. this is an interesting story. i like it

  13. @HappySurfer,
    Yeah, not common to see this plant anymore nowadays. But then, it is a good thing esp for those who likes to walk barefooted! Otherwise, they'll be in pain when they step on the semalu plant.

  14. @Mei Teng,
    Seems like every kid likes to play with this plant. :)
    Well, glad something never change because my kid loves to see the reaction like I did when I was little too. :)

  15. @Bengbeng,
    It was. Seeing my son playing with the plant made me remember the story. ;)

  16. I love to poke at the semalu plant even now. Hehe

  17. Huh? U so shy last time? No wonder lah, your genes passed to your son! Haha!

  18. Wow! Didn't know there's such a story! Interesting!

  19. @foong,
    You too? Kindred spirit lah we all - we all love to kacau the semalu plant. LOL

    Still shy lah, me! Didnt notice meh? LOL

  20. we call it makahiya in the Phils. Makahiya from the root word HIYA meaning shy. Hubs was amazed when I showed him that plant and was very happy touching it to close. We also had a folklore about it slightly different from yours.

  21. @Ayie,
    Thanks for sharing that, Ayie. :)

    I wonder what's the different varioation of folklore from our region about this plant. :)

  22. How come you keep this interesting story here huh?
    Share with your Japan-loving readers mah?
    Luckily she became a semalu NOT a buaya.

  23. @London Caller,
    Because this is where anything not Japan related is posted.

    Over there is for posts that's related to Japan only! ^^



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