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  Cassia fistula Linn.
Vernacular name  Amaltas (Hindi), Sarakonnai (Tamil), Kanikonna (Malayalam) (Chacko et al.,2002); Konna (Malayalam) (Troup, 1921).
Common name  Indian laburnum, Raj brikh, (Chacko et al., 2002); Amaltas, Golden shower, pudding pipe tree (Bose et al., 1998); The purging fistula (Troup,1921).
Synonyms  Cassia rhombifolia Roxb. (Chacko et al., 2002); Cathartocarpus fistula (L.) Persoon
Family  Leguminosae
Subfamily  Caesalpinioideae
Distribution  Common in deciduous forests throughout India, Myanmar and Burma ascending to 1500 m in the Himalayas and in Sri Lanka. In Kerala it occurs in dry and moist deciduous forests. It is often grown as an ornamental tree (FRI, 1983; Chacko et al., 2002).
Description  A moderate sized deciduous tree with an open crown about 5 m high with a straight bole (Bose et al., 1998). Slow growing medium sized deciduous tree attaining a height of more than 15 m and a breast height diameter of 48 cm (Chacko et al., 2002).
Flowering season  April - June and September.
Fruiting season  January - May (Sen Gupta, 1937 from Chacko et al., 2002)
Flowers  Flowers bright yellow in lax pendulous racemes with a long glabrous pedicel. Flowers yellow, about 3 cm across, pendulous racemes of up to 40 cm long; calyx 6 to 8 mm long; petals 5, obovate; stamens 10, 3 long, curved, 4 with short filaments, 3 small, without pollen (Bose et al., 1998). Flowers 4-6 cm across, bright yellow in lax drooping axillary racemes 30-60 cm long; pedicels 2.5-5 cm long; slender; calyx 8 to 10 mm long, divided almost to the base; petals 1.8-2.5 cm long, obovate, shortly clawed (Troup, 1921).
Fruits  Fruit is a pod, woody, oblong brown coloured, cylindrical, and about 20 to 50 cm long, with a diameter of about 1.5-3 cm. Pod 30-60 cm long, 2.5 cm diameter, indehiscent cylindric, smooth, pendulous, dark brownish black when ripe (Troup, 1921). Dark green coloured pods with brown strips in between, with the fruit coat turning brown from the distal end towards the proximal end and nearly 1/4 of the lower pod turning brown is the maturity index for Cassia fistula (Sharma et al., 1998).
Fruit type  Pod.
Seeds  Ovate, compressed, light brown, hard, smooth, shiny, with a moderately hard testa and a horny albumen. Seeds 40-100 immersed in dark coloured, sweetish pulp and separated from one another by transverse septa, about 1 cm diameter, flattened (Troup, 1921).
Seed length  1.0 cm diameter (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed width 
Seed thickness 
Seed weight  5,640 to 7,055 seeds/kg (Sen Gupta, 1937; Chacko et al., 2002). 2,600 seeds/kg (Carlowitz, 1991; Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed dispersal  Ants and other animals.
Seed Collection  Collect brownish black fruits from the tree (Chacko et al.,2002).
Transportation of seeds  No special care is needed (Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed processing  The fruits are dried in the sun and broken to extract the seeds. The seeds are separated from the soft pulp and washed with cold water before drying (FRI, 1983; Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed storage  Orthodox (Kindt et al., 1997; Chacko et al., 2002). The seeds can be stored in sealed tins or gunny bags for many years (Dent, 1948; Chacko et al., 2002). C. fistula shows 100% viability up to two years of storage. The use of storage media helps to increase the percentage of seed viability (Khomane and Bhosale, 2003).
Viability period  Seeds are viable for long period, even up to 13 years (Dent, 1948; Chacko et al., 2002).
Seed emptiness  Low (Chacko et al.,2002).
Seed pre treatment  Boiling seeds for 5 min before sowing. Seeds from 1year old pods germinated more quickly than that from the fresh pods. Boil for 5 min before sowing, or file-off testa and soak in cold water for 2 hrs (Edwards and Naithani, 1999). Pretreatment of seeds with hot water along with light incubation (in 8 h daily cycle) improve germination. Pretreatment with hormone and nitrogenous substances also show limited improvement (Sinhababu et al., 2007). Mechanical scarification and soaking in sulphuric acid for 60 min are the two best methods to break the dormancy of C. fistula seeds (Lopes et al., 2003; Sreerama et al., 2000 ).
Germination type  Epigeous (FRI, 1983; Chacko et al.,2002).
Germination percentage  25 to 70 (Chacko et al.,2002).
Germination period  9 to 97 days (Sen Gupta, 1937; Chacko et al., 2002).
Nursery technique  The pre-treated seeds are sown in seedbeds in drills about 25 cm part in March or April and regularly watered. The seedlings are pricked out and planted in polybags of 22.5 x 17.5 cm size (Chacko et al.,2002).
Method of propagation  By seed.
Vegetative propagation 
Pests  Mild damage due to Bruchus pisorum L. and Caryedon gonagra Fb. (Coleptera:Bruchidae). Incidence of Corcyra cephalonica Stainton (Lepidoptera:Galleriidae) to ripe pods is also observed. In addition to these, a caterpillar, Nephopteryx rhodobasalis Hamp. (Lepidoptera:Phycitidae) is reported to bore in young pods (Beeson, 1941; Chacko et al., 2002).
Diseases  Moderate (35.5 to 53%). Spermoplane microbes recorded include10 fungi and a bacterium. Aspergillus, Chaetomium, Mucor, Penicillium, Trichoderma are the important storage fungi and Fusarium and Periconia are the field fungi recorded (Chacko et al.,2002). Alternaria cassiae cause leaf spot of Cassia or sicklepod. The disease can also affect seedlings (David, 1991). Leaf blight caused by Rhizoctonia solani (Mehrotra, 1998).
Medicinal properties  Pods are strong purgative. The bark is laxative, diuretic and depurative and is useful in boils, leprosy, ringworm, colic, fever and cardiopathy. The leaves are useful in ulcers and intermittent fevers and the flowers are used in skin diseases, dry cough and bronchitis. Leaf extracts (at 50%) of Cassia fistula show antifungal property (Masih and Singh, 2005) against Trichophyton mentagrophytes (MIC 0.5 mg/ml) and Epidermophyton floccosum (MIC 0.5 mg/ml) (Duraipandiyan and Ignacimuthu, 2007). Extracts of Cassia fistula show antioxidant activities (Luximon-Ramma et al., 2002). Cassia fistula used for the treatment of diabetes (Bondya and Sharma, 2004). The methanol extracts of C. fistula is effective against both Gram-positive (Bacillus subtilis, B. cereus, B. megaterium, Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis, Enterococcus faecalis and Micrococcus luteus) and Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, S. paratyphi, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae) (Yogesh-Mahida and Mohan, 2006; Ali et al., 2003; Samy et al., 1998). Cassia fistula used in formulations, useful in the treatment of heart disease (angina, hypertension, heart attack/myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease and cardiovascular diseases) (Lokhande et al., 2006).
Uses  Bark is in demand for tanning the hides and dyeing of leather and jute fibres. Pulp of pods are largely used in Bengal to flavour native tobacco. From the stem exudes a red juice which hardens into a gummy substances and the wood ash is used as a mordent in dyeing. The timber is used for camp furniture, turnery, and boat building, particularly boat spars. It is an excellent fuel and yields first-class charcoal (Troup, 1921). Flower and leaf essential oil of Cassia fistula L. comprise forty-four compounds (92.6% and 90.7% of the flower and leaf oil, respectively). The main components of the flower oil are (E)-nerolidol (38.0%), and 2-hexadecanone (17.0%), while the leaf oil consists mainly of phytol (16.1%) (Tzakou et al., 2007). Pods of Cassia fistula, contain an anthraquinone derivative, 3-formyl-1-hydroxy-8-methoxy-anthraquinone (Meena-Rani and Kalidhar, 1998).
Wood properties  The heartwood is yellowish to brick red, very hard. It is medium coarse textured, somewhat straight grained and heavy. The heartwood is very durable. The sapwood is very liable to attack by borers (not to fungi). The calorific value of the wood for completely dried material is 5164 calories (9296 B.T.U) for sapwood as also for the heartwood (Krishna et al.,1932 from Troup,1921). Pores moderate sized to large, often subdivided, often filled with resin, scanty, uniformly distributed, enclosed in, and joined by, white, wavy irregular, often interrupted, often anastomozing concentric bands of soft tissue. Medullary rays very fine, numerous, uniform, slightly bend, prominent in the dark, firm tissue which separates in the wavy bands (Gamble, 1922).
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