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  Schleichera oleosa (Lour.)Oken
Vernacular name  Dhoothalam, Poovanam (Sasidharan, 2004), Poovam, Kusam (Malayalam), Pumaratha, Puvattipuvam, Puvam (Tamil), Kosum, Gosum (Hindi) (Chacko et al., 2002).
Common name  Kusum, Gum lac tree,The lac tree, Honey tree (Bose et al., 1998) Macassar oil tree, Sri Lanka oak (Chacko et al.,2002).
Synonyms  S. aculeata Kostel., Schleichera trijuga Willd., Pistacia oleosa Lour. (Chacko et al., 2002; Sasidharan, 2004).
Family  Sapindaceae
Distribution  Throughout Indian sub continent. Also in Burma, S.lanka, Java. In India found in Bihar, W. bengal, Central and S. India, Chota Nagpur, Rajasthan, Assam and Andamans. In India, it occurs sporadically on the low hills of the Himalayas up to 900 m from the Sutlej eastwards up to Bihar, West Bengal, Central and Southern India. It is also found in Myanmar, Sri-Lanka and Java Indonesia (FRI, 1981). In Kerala, it occurs in semi evergreen and moist deciduous forests up to 900 m (Chacko et al.,2002).
Description  Slow to moderately fast growing, medium-sized to large deciduous tree attaining a height of 20 m and a breast height a diameter of 64 cm, with dense and spreading shady crown. Trunk is short and fluted (FRI, 1981; Chacko et al., 2002; Bose et al., 1998).
Flowering season  March - April. February to March (Bose et al., 1998)
Fruiting season  Ripens in June - July (Bose et al., 1998); August to November (FRI, 1981; Chacko et al., 2002).
Flowers  Minute, yellowish green, stalkless and borne in short dense clusters. Flowers small, yellowish green, polygamo-dioecious, apetalous, in short dense clusters, arranged in numerous spikes arising from the branches among the leaves; stamens 6-8; styles 3- to 4- cleft (Bose et al., 1998).
Fruits  Smooth or slightly prickly, globose or oviod, hard skinned berry dry, indehiscent, 1-2 seeded. Fruit drupe, globose, with scattered warty spines, 1-1.5 cm across, contains 1-2 seeds enclosed by a pulpy aril (Chacko et al., 2002)
Fruit type  Drupe.
Seeds  Up to 1.5 cm long smooth brown enclosed in a succulent aril, which is edible and has a pleasant acid taste. Seed one or two, brownish, compressed, enclosed in a succulent aril of pleasantly acid taste (Bose et al., 1998).
Seed length  1.5 cm (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed width 
Seed thickness 
Seed weight  1,517 (Sen Gupta,1937) to 2,200 seeds/kg (FRI,1981; Kumar and Bhanja, 1992; Luna, 1996; Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed dispersal 
Seed Collection  Ripe fruits are collected from the ground as soon after fall. The fruits may also be collected from the tree (Chacko et al.,2002).
Transportation of seeds  Fruits collected in cotton or plastic bags are transported as early as possible (Chacko et al.,2002).
Seed processing  The fruits are thrashed to separate the seeds (Chacko et al.,2002).
Seed storage  Orthodox / intermediate. Seeds, smeared with wood ash, can be stored in gunny bags or in air-tight tins for about 6 months without any deterioration. (FRI, 1981). Seeds remain viable for one year in gunny bags and for two years in sealed tin (Chacko et al.,2002).
Viability period  Seeds remain viable about an year of storage in both gunny bags and sealed tins (Dent, 1948; Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed emptiness  Moderate (Chacko et al.,2002).
Seed pre treatment  Although pre treatments are not needed (Kumar and Bhanja, 1992), soaking in hot water is beneficial (Kindt et al.,1997; Chacko et al.,2002).
Germination type  Epigeous (Kumar and Bhanja, 1992; Chacko et al.,2002).
Germination percentage  6 to 58 (Sen Gupta, 1937); 50 to 80 (FRI, 1998; Luna, 1996; Chacko et al., 2002).
Germination period  8 to 94 days (Sen Gupta, 1937; FRI, 1981; Luna, 1996; Chacko et al., 2002).
Nursery technique  Seeds are sown in polybags of size 22.5x17.5 cm filled with potting mixture during July to August directly since seeds do not withstand the transplanting shock because of the very fast growth of the taproot (Kumar and Bhanja, 1992; Chacko et al., 2002).
Method of propagation  By seeds and root suckers; stump planting is also practised (Ram Parkash et al., 1998).
Vegetative propagation 
Pests  Low infestation due to an unidentified beetle (Chacko et al.,2002).
Diseases  High (64%). More than 23 fungi, actinomycetes and bacteria are recorded on seeds. Chlamydomyces palmarum and Botrydiplodia theoromae are the most frequently encountered fungi. Cylindrocladium sp., and Phoma sp., are found associated with seed rot (Chacko et al., 2002).
Medicinal properties  The seed oil is bitter, sour, sweet, purgative and tonic. It is used in ulcers, pruritus, acne, and leg swelling. Inflammation oil is used for massage in rheumatism. The bark cores inflammation and skin diseases. The oil cake has good manurial value (Bose et al., 1998).
Uses  Wood is used for making wheels, shafts and agricultural implements. It is a prized host tree of the lac insect. The tree yields an oil that for cleaning and promoting the growth of hair and for making soaps and perfumes. It is an important forest tree and the best lac is obtained when the insects are grown in these trees. The timber is used for the oil and sugar mills, rise pounders, cart wheels, shafts, mortars and hammers. Oil is extracted from seeds and used for cooking, lubricating, hair dressing and burning in lamps (Bose et al., 1998).
Wood properties  Sapwood is pale grey and heartwood is light redddish brown. It is a very hard and very heavy wood with medium straight texture and straight to shallowly interlocked grain (Air dry weight about 100 kg/m3). Pores are scanty, moderate-sized, often oval and subdivided, often joined by pale, interrupted, wavy, uniform and equidistant, closely packed; the distance between the rays less than the transverse diameter of the pores (Gamble, 1922).
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