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  Butea monosperma (Lam.) Taub.
Vernacular name  Brehma vriksham, Plash, Chamatha (Malayalam); Sindoorapoovu, Elai porasa (Tamil); Dhak, Palas (Hindi) (Chacko et al., 2002).
Common name  Flame of the forest (Chacko et al., 2002)
Synonyms  Erythrina monosperma Lam., Butea frondosa Koenig ex Roxb. (Chacko et al., 2002 and Sasidharan, 2004).
Family  Leguminosae
Subfamily  Faboideae
Origin 
Distribution  Found in most parts of India in the tropical and subtropical zones ascending to 1000 m in the outer Himalayas and on the hill ranges of South India up to 1300 m. It is common in the grassy blanks, especially along the edges of the forests in moist areas. Also found in the dry deciduous and open scrub forests, as well as in the waterlogged areas and saline soils (Luna, 1996). In Kerala it occurs in Kasaragod, Wayanad, Calicut and Thrissur (Chacko et al., 2002).
Description  Small to medium sized deciduous tree attaining a height of 12 m and a breast height diameter of 64 cm. Branches irregular and tomentose (Chacko et al., 2002; Nair, 2000).
Flowering season  February to March (Sahni, 2000); March to April.
Fruiting season  May to June (Sahni, 2000).
Flowers  Flowers bright orange-red sometimes yellow in 15 cm long racemose on bare branches. Pedicel: up to 2.5 cm long, brown velvety. Calyx: up to 1.5 cm long, dark olive green, densly velvety externally, silky hairy within. Corolla: 4-5 cm long with standard petal lanceolate, wing petal falcate and adnate and keel petal incurved. Stamens: 6, filaments up to 2 cm in length united to a staminal column. Pistil: with ovary up to 2.5 cm length (Nair, 2003).
Fruits  Fruit is a pod up to 15 x 5 cm, falcate-oblong, pubescent, compressed and long stalked. Single seed in each pod (Prasad and Reshmi, 2003; Nair, 2003).
Fruit type  Pod.
Seeds  Seeds flat reniform. The seed is characterized by finely ridged seed coat and palisade-like malpighian cells, discontinuous transparent linear lucida in upper half of malpighian layer and simple and oblong hilum (Manjoosha-Srivastava et al., 2002).
Seed length  3.3-3.8 cm (Luna, 1996 from Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed width  2.3-2.5 cm (Luna, 1996 from Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed thickness 
Seed weight  400 to 1,500 pods/kg (Sen Gupta, 1937; Kindt et.al.,1997); 9,850 to 14,790 seeds/kg (Luna, 1996; Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed dispersal  Birds.
Seed Collection  Collect the pods from the tree either by lopping or by shaking the branches manually (Chacko et al., 2002).
Transportation of seeds  Pods collected in cotton/ plastic/ gunny/ polythene bags are transported. No special care is suggested for transporting (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed processing  Pods are dried under shade and the wings are removed by hand (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed storage  Orthodox (CABI, 1998). The de-winged pods are stored in a dry place in sealed plastic containers for about a year (Dent, 1948; Chacko et al., 2002).
Viability period  No information (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed emptiness  Low (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed pre treatment  De-winging (Chacko et al., 2002).
Germination type  Hypogeal (Chacko et al., 2002).
Germination percentage  70 to 100 (Sen Gupta, 1937 ; Carlowitz, 1991; Chacko et al., 2002).
Germination period  8 to 14 days (Chacko et al., 2002).
Nursery technique  De-winged seeds are sown horizontally in germination trays containing vermiculite and watered regularly. The seedlings are picked out into polythene bags of size 20 cm x 10 cm filled with soil-based potting mixture (Chacko et al., 2002).
Method of propagation  By seeds and vegetative method.
Vegetative propagation 
Pests  Low (Chacko et al., 2002).
Diseases  Low (Chacko et al., 2002).
Medicinal properties  The bark is acrid, bitter, astringent, thermogenic, emollient, digestive, constipating and tonic. It is useful in dyspepsia, diarrhoea, dysentery, intestinal worms, bone fractures, rectal diseases, ulcers, tumours and diabetes. The leaves, flowers, seeds, gums are also medicinal. The powderd seeds have medicinal and insecticidal properties. The bark contain ruby red gum and it is highly medicinal for snake bites, tumour, bleeding piles and ulcers. The seeds are used as anthelmintic, aperient, digestive, and to treat piles, skin diseases, and abdominal troubles. They also have the property of reducing 'Kapha' and 'Vata' (in Ayurveda) (Manjoosha-Srivastava et al., 2002). The plant parts are mainly used fresh; most commonly used parts are roots, leaves, bark, fruits and even whole plant (Singh, 2007). Extract of stem bark has anti-diarrhoeal potential (Gunakkunru et al., 2005; Amit-Tomar, 2007). Ethanolic extracts has antiinflammatory and analgesic activities (Muruganandan et al., 2001). Butea monosperma used to cure threadworm infestation spread among children of Ranchi, Jharkhand, Bihar, India (Bondya et al., 2002). Petroleum ether, chloroform and benzene extracts of leaves of B. monosperma reduce the oedema volume in the case of inflammation (Lakshmayya et al., 2000).
Uses  Butea monosperma is an indispensable tree. Tribals use its flowers and young fruits. The plant is used in Ayurvedic, Unani and Siddha medicine for various ailments. Almost all parts of the plant, namely roots, leaves, fruits, stem bark, flowers, gum and young branches are used as medicine, food, fibre and for other miscellaneous purposes such as fish poison, dye, fodder and utensils. Approximately 45 medicinal uses are associated with the plant, half of which have already been scientifically studied and reported (Burli and Khade, 2007). The tree is silviculturally important, used as host for lac insect. The leaves are classed as a good fodder. It is also used by the different tribal societies in West Bengal, India for thatching roofs (Chakraborty and Aloke-Bhattacharjee, 2003). A ruby gum exudate from the tree is largely used in medicine and also in tanning and dyeing. Wood is used for gun powder charcoal. The methanol extract from seeds consisting of santonin and ivermectin, show potent anthelmintic activity against Caenorhabditis elegans (Prashanth et al., 2001). Stems contain stigmasterol, stigmasterol- beta D-glucopyranoside and nonacosanoic acid (Mamta-Mishra et al., 2000).
Wood properties  The wood is white and not very strong, it is easy to work either by hand or on machine. Wood grey or grey brown, white or brown if cut up fresh and quickly season, soft not durable; no annual rings. Pores large often subdivided, extremely scanty. Medullary rays broad and moderately broad, pale; the darker tissue between the rays is broken up into oblong patches by broad concentric bands of pale tissue similar in appearance to the medullary rays, alternating with dark patches, both distinctly visible on a radial section as long irregular alternate dark and light bands (Gamble, 1922).
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