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  Caesalpinia sappan L.
Vernacular name  Chappangam (Malayalam), Sappan, Parthangi (Tamil), Pattaranjka (Sanskrit), Bakam (Hindi).
Common name  Sappan wood, Brazil wood, East Indian redwood (Kennedy et al., 2004).
Family  Leguminosae
Subfamily  Caesalpinioideae
Origin  Indo-Malesia (Sasidharan, 2004).
Distribution  Indigenous to Myanmar, Philippines, parts of Africa and Central America. In Kerala, it occurs in Calicut, Trichur, and Quilon districts.
Description  A middle sized thorny tree, reaching a height of 12 m and a girth of up to 45-75 cm, with a few small or scattered prickles. Branches lenticellate (Troup, 1921).
Flowering season  March to May, sometime extending to August (Nair, 2001).
Fruiting season  November to December (Nair, 2001).
Flowers  Yellow in axillary and terminal panicle of raceme 30-40 cm long; petals orbicular, 0.8 cm long, yellow; base of upper petal pink (Troup, 1921).
Fruits  Pods 8-10 cm long; yellowish green turning blackish brown later; glabrous, thick, flattened, woody, indehiscent (Troup, 1921).
Fruit type  Pods (Troup, 1921).
Seeds  3-4; greenish brown, compressed, smooth (Nair, 2001).
Seed length 
Seed width 
Seed thickness 
Seed weight  1,760-2,260 seeds/kg (Nair, 2001).
Seed dispersal 
Seed Collection 
Transportation of seeds 
Seed processing 
Seed storage 
Viability period 
Seed emptiness 
Seed pre treatment  Soaking the seeds in water for 12 to 24 hrs may be beneficial in accelerating germination. Concentrated sulfuric acid treatment for 6 min improve germination (48.86%) by removing seed coat dormancy. The treatment with GA3 300 ppm show 71.10%, germination (Channegowda et al., 2001).
Germination type  Epigeal (Nair, 2001).
Germination percentage 
Germination period 
Nursery technique 
Method of propagation  By seeds.
Vegetative propagation 
Medicinal properties  Wood is an astringent, a decoction of the wood is used against dysentry, diarrhoea and in certain cases of skin affection (Troup, 1921). The active antibacterial principle of Caesalpina sappan is brasilin (Xu-HongXi and Lee, 2004). Its heartwood has long been used in Chinese medicines for treating a variety of immune-mediated pathology and inflammatory disease. Brazilein and Caesalpinia sappan ethanol extract (SME) could distinctly inhibit the proliferation of T lymphocyte stimulated by Concanavalin A (Con A) and the proliferation of B lymphocyte stimulated by lipopolysaccharides (LPS) (Ye-Min et al., 2006). The methanol extract of heartwood has growth-inhibiting activity against Clostridium perfringens. C. sappan heartwood-derived material could be useful as a preventive agent against diseases caused by C. perfringens (Lim-MiYoun et al., 2007). Water and methanol extract of C. sappan shows both cytotoxicity and topoisomerase I inhibition activity in vitro (99.9% of enzyme activity is inhibited by 100 micro g/ml water extract and by 400 micro g/ml methanol extract) (Jeon-WonKyung et al., 1999).
Uses  Caesalpinia sappan is a multipurpose tree used primarily as a source of medicine and dye (Kennedy et al., 2004). Wood is used for cabinet making, scabbards and walking sticks. A red dye called Brazilin is extracted and used for colouring cotton, silk, and woolen fabrics. Pods contain tannin. The wood takes a good polish and is likely to be useful in inlay work.
Wood properties  It is very hard and very heavy wood with diffuse porous structure. The sapwood is white and heartwood is orange red. It is straight-grained and fine textured. Wood is hard, sapwood white, heartwood orange yellow. Pores isolated, small, in narrow pale rings, scanty, between the fine, wavy, numerous medullary rays (Gamble, 1922).
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