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  Saraca asoca (Roxb.) de Wilde
Vernacular name  Asokam, Hema pushpam (Malayalam), Asoka, Asogam (Tamil) (Chacko et al., 2002). Ashok (Hindi) (Bose et al., 1998).
Common name  Ashoka (Chacko et al.,2002).
Synonyms  Jonesia asoca Roxb., Saraca indica auct. non L. (Chacko et al., 2002; Sasidharan, 2004).
Family  Leguminosae
Subfamily  Caesalpinioideae.
Distribution  Commonly found throughout the country generally along streams and the shades of evergreen forests. The tree is distributed in the central and eastern Himalaya, Western Peninsula of India; Sri Lanka, Myanmar; Malaysia; often grown in gardens for the beautiful flowers (Bose et al., 1998; FRI, 1983; Chacko et al., 2002). In Kerala, it occurs sporadically in the evergreen forests. It is frequently planted in gardens and near Hindu temples (Chacko et al., 2002).
Description  An umbragoeus, low branched handsome evergreen tree (6-9 m) with a dense crown of horizontally spreading branches (Bose et al., 1998).
Flowering season  February to June (Bose et al., 1998).
Fruiting season  Ripens in August to September.
Flowers  Flowers yellow or orange, turning red, scented, 2-3 cm long, in dense corymb, mostly on woody branches, sometimes on the trunk; bracteoles coloured; calyx tube 1 cm long, perfect stamens 7-8, scarlet (Bose et al., 1998).
Fruits  Pods are black, compressed, tapering at both ends, coriaceous or almost woody glabrous, veined. Pods 10-20 cm long, slightly curved, young pods purplish, turn brown when ripe (Bose et al., 1998).
Fruit type  Pod.
Seeds  4-8, ellipsiod oblong , 3.8 cm long, slightly compressed. Seeds 4-8, flat (Bose et al., 1998).
Seed length  4.9 cm (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed width  2.6 cm (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed thickness 
Seed weight  20 (Kindt et al., 1997) to 97 seeds / kg (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed dispersal 
Seed Collection  Ripe pods are collected from the tree by shaking off the branches. Mature fruits falling on ground can also be collected (Chacko et al.,2002).
Transportation of seeds  Fruits are transported to the processing centre at the earliest (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed processing  The pods are dried under shade to release the seeds. Insect attacked seeds should be discarded (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed storage  Orthodox (CABI, 1998; Chacko et al., 2002).
Viability period  Seeds retain viability up to six months in sealed tins when stored under cold conditions (Chacko et al.,2002).
Seed emptiness  Low (Chacko et al.,2002).
Seed pre treatment  Not required (Chacko et al.,2002).
Germination type  Hypogeal (Chacko et al.,2002).
Germination percentage  58% in shaded beds and 84% in unshaded beds (Ram Parkash et al., 1998).
Germination period  15 to 24 days (Chacko et al.,2002).
Nursery technique  Seeds are sown in germination trays filled with vermiculite or in nursery beds and watered regularly. The seedlings are potted into polythene bags of size 22.5x17.5 cm filled with potting mixture. The seedlings are most often damaged by rodents and hence needs protection (Chacko et al.,2002).
Method of propagation  By seeds.
Vegetative propagation 
Pests  Moderate (Chacko et al.,2002).
Diseases  Low (Chacko et al., 2002).
Medicinal properties  Flowers, bark, and seeds are medicinally important. Bark is used to cure internal hemorrhage and seeds are used to cure urinary discharge. The bark is used to cure internal haemorrhages and to improve the complexion. The water extract of flower is said to cure dysentery (Bose et al., 1998).
Uses  This is one of the most sacred trees of the Hindus. In the northern parts of Sri Lanka the timber is used for common house building purposes. The wood is used for ploughs and shafts (Chacko et al., 2002). Hindus use the flowers and leaves in religious ceremonies and Buddhists consider this tree sacred as Lord Buddha was born under its shade. It is frequently cultivated as an ornamental tree throughout tropical India. The wood is used in making implements and for house building in Sri Lanka (Bose et al., 1998).
Wood properties  The wood is yellowish brown, moderately hard and moderately heavy. It is diffuse porous wood with growth rings delimited by fine interrupted lines of soft tissues. The pores are moderately large to small. The wood is light reddish-brown, soft; occasional faint brown concentric belts of soft tissue. Pores are moderate sized, in radial, and frequently oblique, lines. Medullary rays fine, scanty and indistinct (Bourdillon, 1908).
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