Online Manual for the Forest Tree Seeds of Kerala

A Kerala Forest Department Funded Project

Dr. K Sudhakara
Professor & Head of the Department
Dept. of Silviculture & Agroforestry
College of Forestry, Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur 680 656
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Scientific Name  Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre
Vernacular name  Pongu, Ungu (Malayalam), Pungam, Punga (Tamil), Honge, Uggemara (Kannada), Papar kanji, Karanji (Hindi), Poonga oil plant, Indian Beech (English) (Chacko et al., 2002).
Common name  Indian beech (Chacko et al., 2002), Karanj.
Synonyms  Pongamia glabra Vent., Cytisus pinnatus L., (Sasidharan, 2004). P. mitis Kurz, Derris indica (Lam.) Bennet (Chacko et al., 2002).
Family  Fabaceae (Leguminosae).
Subfamily  Faboideae
Distribution  Occurs throughout India in plains and in the tidal and beach forests of Sundarbans and along stream banks as well as in the dunes along the sea shore. It is also grown along canal banks, roadside avenues and bunds. In Kerala, it occurs in evergreen and semi evergreen forests up to 900 m, but mostly confined to banks of streams (FRI, 1983; Chacko et al., 2002).
Description  A very handsome moderate sized evergreen tree reaching a height of 18 m and a breast height diameter of 48 cm (FRI, 1983; Chacko et al., 2002).
Flowering season  April to June, March to April (Bourdillon, 1908).
Fruiting season  May to June (Chacko et al.,2002). June to July (Bourdillon, 1908).
Flowers  Flowers white tinged with pink or violet or in the varying combinations, in axillary racemes, shorter than the leaves, pedicels up to one cm long.
Fruits  Fruit is a pod, 4 to 6 cm x 2.5 to 3 cm, woody, indehiscent, obliquely-oblong and compressed (Chacko et al.,2002).
Fruit type  Pod.
Seeds  Seeds 1-2 per pod, elliptic to reniform shaped, compressed, wrinkled and reddish brown coloured (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed length  1.68 cm (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed width  2.16 cm (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed thickness 
Seed weight  150-470 pods/kg (Kindt et al.,1997); 810-1410 seeds/kg (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed dispersal  Wind dispersal
Seed Collection  Pods are collected from the tree when it is leafless by shaking the branches manually (Chacko et al., 2002).
Transportation of seeds  Pods collected in plastic / cotton / gunny bags are packed and transported; no special care is needed (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed processing  The pods are thrashed to separate the seeds and sun-dried before storage (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed storage  Probably Recalcitrant. The pods are stored without breaking (Chacko et al., 2002).
Viability period  Seeds remain viable for about one year under ambient room temperature (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed emptiness  Low (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed pre treatment  Soak the seeds in cold water for 24 hrs (Kindt et al.,1997; Chacko et al.,2002). Soak in cold water for 24 hrs prior to sowing (Edwards and Naithani, 1999).
Germination type  Hypogeal (Chacko et al., 2002).
Germination percentage  35 to 70 (Carlowitz, 1991); fresh seeds give up to 89% germination (Chacko et al.,2002).
Germination period  10 to 60 days (Chacko et al., 2002).
Nursery technique  The pre-treated seeds are sown in germination trays filled with vermiculite and watered regularly. The seedlings are pricked out to polythene bags of size 22.5 x 17.5 cm filled with potting mixture and maintained under shade (Chacko et al., 2002).
Method of propagation  Seeds and root suckers.
Vegetative propagation 
Pests  No information (Chacko et al., 2002).
Diseases  Moderate (38-52%). Fourteen fungi belonging to 11 genera including Aspergillus, Trichoderma, Fusarium sp., etc. were recorded. Aspergillus spp. cause seed rot (Mohanan and Sharma, 1991; Chacko et al., 2002).
Medicinal properties  The oil obtained from the seeds antiseptic, useful in skin diseases. The bark is astringent, carminative, cooling and stimulant.
Uses  Pongamia pinnata is an important non edible minor oil seed tree that grows in semi-arid regions. Oil is used for tanning leather. Wood is used locally for agricultural implements, tool handles, cotton reels and combs. It is mainly used as fire wood. The oil obtained from the seeds and leaves is used in indigenous medicine, soap making and illuminating purposes. The oil cake is a good fertilizer (FRI, 1983). The seeds are a source of biodiesel (Chacko et al.,2002).
Wood properties  The wood is white or pale grey without any distinct heartwood. It is moderately hard and moderately heavy wood with coarse texture and interlocked grain. Air dry weight about 755 kg/m3. Pores scanty, of medium size. Rays very fine, even, white and equidistant, crossed by broad, wavy bands of soft, white tissue, giving the wood a mottled appearance (Bourdillon, 1908). Annual rings indistinct (Gamble, 1922).
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