ABOVE: Fruits of Avicennia alba photographed in the mangrove reserve on the shores of Brunei Bay next to the Brunei Maritime Muzium.

The local name Api Api means Fire Fire. Three different explanations have been proposed;

(1) The wood is used for firewood by the local Bajau fishermen- not true.

(2) The wood is used for smoking fish by the local fishermen- true

(3) Api Api mangrove plants attract fireflies which  make a spectacular display on dark nights. This is the preferred explanation. In S E Asia  fire fly larvae are hosted  by small marine snails  which feed on mangrove vegetation.

The original local name for Kota Kinabalu was Api Api due to the strip of coastal mangroves growing at the base of Signal Hill now long since reclaimed from the sea to build an extensive concrete jungle. Api Api can still be found growing in the Likas Mangrove reserve on the far side of Signal Hill, Kota Kinabalu.

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With Api Api like many mangrove trees, the fruits are viviparious which means the seeds germinate whilst still on the tree  and can start growing immediately they hit the mangrove mud below.  This enables mangrove trees to rapidly establish dense local colonies which stabilizes the mud banks on which they grow and protects the mangrove forest being washed away by the sea.

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As with many other mangrove species  Api Api produce pneumaophores which allow the roots to breathe  air  despite growing in muddy sea water.