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  Azadirachta indica A. Juss.
Vernacular name  Neem (Hindi), Vepu, Aryaveppu (Malayalam), Vembu, Veppam (Tamil), Bevu, Kirri Bevu (Kannada) (Chacko et al., 2002).
Common name  Margosa tree, Neem tree, (Chacko et al., 2002); Indian Lilac (Bose et al., 1998).
Synonyms  Melia azadirachta Linn., Melia indica (A.Juss.) Brandis (Chacko et al., 2002).
Family  Meliaceae
Origin  India.
Distribution  It grows throughout the greater parts of India, more especially in the drier parts of the country. It grows in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Description  Moderate to large sized, evergreen (usually) tree with dense rounded crown, attaining a height of up to 15 to 20 m with a bole of 7 m (Bose et al., 1998).
Flowering season  March to May.
Fruiting season  Ripens during June to August, March to July (Sen Gupta, 1937; Chacko et al., 2002).
Flowers  Small white flower, smelling honey and sweet scented. White, scented, about 1 cm across, in axillary panicles, 12-30 cm long; calyx 5-fid, lobes ovate; petals oblanceolate (Bose et al., 1998).
Fruits  Smooth, ellipsoidal drupe. The fruit is a drupe (1.2 to 2 cm), one celled, and one or two seeded (Chacko et al., 2002).
Fruit type  Drupe.
Seeds  Seeds ellipsoid, fleshy and oily. The true testa of the seed is a brown papery covering inside the cartilagenous putamen of the drupe (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed length  1 cm (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed width  0.63 (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed thickness 
Seed weight  5,700 to 6,350 seeds/kg (Sen Gupta, 1937; Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed dispersal  By Birds.
Seed Collection  Collect fruits turning yellow, from the tree by shaking the branches (Chacko et al., 2002).
Transportation of seeds  Fruits are collected in ventilated containers (cotton bags, gunny bags, woven plastic bags, etc.) should be taken to the processing unit as quickly as possible (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed processing  If green fruits are collected, heap them for a day or 2 to make depulping easier. Ripe fruits are immediately depulped by squeezing in water and drying under shade (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed storage  Recalcitrant (Kindt et al., 1997; Chacko et al., 2002). The seeds have short viability. The seeds extracted from greenish yellow fruits can be stored in earthen pots and buried in sand. The earthen pots may be filled with seeds up to the neck leaving its mouth open. These pots are buried in sand up to the neck and the sand around the pot is kept moist by sprinkling water. These seeds retain 70% viability for 3 months (Rai, 1999; Chacko et al., 2002).
Viability period  Short; under ambient conditions viable up to 30 days (Rai, 1999; Chacko et al., 2002). Seeds with an initial germination capacity of 75% when stored in gunny bags have given 30% in the third week and 2% in the fifth week (Dent, 1948; Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed emptiness 
Seed pre treatment  De-pulped and air-dried seeds do not require any pre-sowing treatment. Hower, soaking in warm/cold water for 48 hrs improves germination (Kindt,1997; Chacko et al., 2002).
Germination type  Epigeous (Chacko et al., 2002).
Germination percentage  Up to 90 (Kumar and Bhanja, 1992; Rai, 1999; Chacko et al., 2002).
Germination period  10 to 30 days (Chacko et al.,2002).
Nursery technique  Seeds are sown in germination trays containing vermiculite or in nursery beds. Seedlings are pricked out to polythene bags of 20 x 10 cm size when they have a pair of leaves. Under moist conditions fungal attack in the form of leaf spot and the hole formation occur on the seedlings which can be controlled by application of fungicide (Bavistin, 0.1%). Seedlings can be produced in root trainers also using weed or coir pith compost mixed with soil in 75:25 ratio and managed under foliar nutrient application (Chacko et al., 2002).
Method of propagation  By seeds and vegetatively by shoot and root cuttings.
Vegetative propagation 
Pests  Low. Infestation by Araecerus suturalis Boh. (Coleoptera: Anthribidae) is reported (Browne, 1968 from Chacko et al., 2002).
Diseases  Low (20 to 26%). Aspergillus sp., and Trichoderma spp., are the important storage fungi and Colletotrichun gloeosporioides is the important field fungi recorded on seeds (Chacko et al., 2001).
Medicinal properties  The whole plant, bark, root bark, young fruits, nut or seeds, flowers, leaves, gum, toddy etc. are medicinally important. Its leaves are used to cure many diseases of the bladder, kidney, eyes and skin. The bark is bitter, astringent, acrid, depurative, vulnerary, liver tonic, expectorant, urinary astringent, anthelmintic, pectoral and tonic. The petrol ether leaf extract of an eluotropic solvent series has the strongest effect on pathogenic fungal growth (Khan and Wassilew, 1987). Antidiabetic medicines are extracted from neem (Alam et al., 1990). Extracts have antimalarial activity also (Vasanth et al., 1990).
Uses  Every part of the tree from its roots, trunk, bark, flowers, fruits, seeds, sap and gum are known to have some use and have a place in the traditional folklore and medicine. Seeds yield margosa oil which is used in soap manufacture. Kernels contain azadirachtin (Govindachari et al., 1990). Neem extract at higher doses adversely affect survival, growth and development of Tribolium castaneum (Ramachandran et al., 1988). Neem, groundnut, castor [Ricinus communis], soyabean and sesame oils at 0.5 and 1.0 ml/100 g of chickpea seed [Cicer arietinum] reduce damage by Callosobruchus chinensis. Neem and groundnut oils are also effective at 0.25 ml/100 g seed (Choudhary, 1990). Neem oil gives good results against B. tabaci (Rao et al., 1990). Neem oil is as effective as monocrotophos at 0.05%, and can therefore be recommended for use in an integrated control scheme for the pest (Sardana and Kumar, 1990; Grewal, P.S.1988). The methanol extracts of seed kernels at a concentration of 0.02% repel larvae of Spodoptera litura. It is an ovipositional deterrent also (Ayyangar and Rao, 1989; Sundaram and Velayutham, 1988). Incorporating leaf meal in combination with fertilizer improve the soil fertility status in terms of organic C, total and available N contents (Murthy et al., 1990). Application of Azadirachta indica as green leaf manure give 6.8 and 5.7 t/ha of grain yield (Subramanian and Rangarajan, 1990). Coating of neem cake or shellac with urea reduce the ammoniacal N concentration of the flood water as well as ammonia volatalization but will not improve the nitrogen use efficiency (Mishra et al., 1990). Soil drenches of 1.0 and 2.0 ppm azadirachtin applied to infested chrysanthemums (Dendranthema morifolium) significantly reduce female fecundity and longevity of males (Parkman and Peinkowski, 1990). Stem bark has three diterpenoids-nimbosodione, nimbisonol and demethylnimbionol (Iffat-Ara et al., 1990). Leaf extract of neem is effective against root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne incognita) (Chhabra et al., 1988; Alam, 1990; Siddiqui and Alam,1989). The application of nimbin (a triterpenoid from Azadirachta indica) as seed dressing significantly reduce the root-knot development/nematode population (Meloidogyne incognita and Rotylenchulus reniformis) (Siddiqui and Alam, 1990). Endomophilic nematodes and neem should not be applied together in control programmes (Rovesti and Deseo,1989). Addition of neem cake to soil reduce preemergence and postemergence mortality of cotton seedlings caused by Rhizoctonia solani. Populations of fungi, bacteria and Actinomycetes increase in unamended soils. Neem cake give similar reductions in root rot of soyabeans caused by Macrophomina phaseolina as soil drenching with quintozene. It is also effective in reducing wilt of coconut (Ganoderma lucidum), crossandra flowers (Fusarium solani) and Piper betle (Phytophthora capsici). Nematode populations in Piper betle soils are also reduced by 59%. (Jeyarajan et al., 1987). Aqueous neem seed kernel extract has larvicidal activity against Sesamia nonagrioides (Melamed-Madjar et al., 1989; Osman and Port, 1990). Treatment of rice seeds with neem extract before sowing reduce number of nymphs of Nilaparvata lugens becoming adults (Kareem et al., 1989). Leaf or kernel powder has insecticidal effects on the curculionid Sitophilus zeamais in stored maize (Kossou, 1989). Wood is used for building, furniture, carving, cigar boxes, cupboards and carts etc.
Wood properties  Weight 817 kg/m3 a strong and hard wood, the heartwood is reddish brown in colour and the sapwood is greyish white. Annual rings doubtful: the wood shows alternating bands with numerous and with fewer pores; also pale concentric lines, but whether these are annual rings is doubtful. Pores scanty, moderate-sized and large, often oval and sub-divided; visible on a vertical section. Medullary rays fine, numerous, white, prominent, bent outwards where they touch the pores; the distance between the rays less than the transverse diameter of the pores. The wood is scented; it much resembles mahogany (Gamble, 1922).
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