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  Alstonia scholaris (L.) R. Br.
  Family Name : Apocynaceae

  Synonyms : Echites scholaris, Alstonia kurzii, Tabernaemontana alternifolia, Acokanthera scholaris, Echites pala

  Common Names : Indian Pulai, White Cheesewood, Devil Tree, Blackboard Tree, Milkwood Pine, Dita Bark, Bitter Bark

  Chinese Name : 糖胶树, 黑板树

 
Indian Pulai,White Cheesewood,Devil Tree,Blackboard Tree,Milkwood Pine,Dita Bark,Bitter Bark
  • Record Info
    • Featured in '1001 Garden Plants in Singapore' Book (2ed) :
      True
  • Life Stage & Characteristics
    • Plant Division :
      Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
      Plant Growth Form :
      Tree (Big (>30m); Medium (16m-30m))
      Lifespan (in Singapore) :
      Perennial
      Mode of Nutrition :
      Autotrophic
      Plant Shape :
      Tiered
      Maximum Height :
      25 m to 40 m
      Maximum Plant Spread / Crown Width :
      10 m
      Tree / Palm - Trunk Diameter :
      1 m
  • Biogeography
    • Native Distribution :
      Indian subcontinent, Southern China, Indochina, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tropical Australia
      Native Habitat :
      Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest; Secondary Rainforest; Monsoon Forest)
      Preferred Climate Zone :
      Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
  • Description & Ethnobotany
    • Plant Morphology :
      Growth Form: Medium to large tree, usually up to 20m tall and 10m wide in urban setting, reaching 50 (-60)m height in native habitat. Crown pagoda-shaped, tiered, denser and rounded when mature.
      Trunk: Bark pale brown, smooth - scaly, with large horizontal lenticels, peeling off in rectangular flakes. Inner bark cream, yellow or straw colored, with copious white sap. 
      Foliage: Leaves glossy dark green above, paler greyish-green below, elliptic to narrowly obovate, subcoriaceous orleathery, (5-)6-17 (-31) x (1.5-) 2.5-8,5cm, arranged in whorls of 4-8 leaflets (occasionally 9) with 25-45 (-55) pairs of lateral veins that are closely spaced and almost perpendicular to the mid rib.  Species is irregularly deciduous in sub-tropical range.
      Flowers: Flowers white, creamy-greenish white, yellow or cream,  with partially-pubescent petals and tubes, produced in prominent cyme inflorescences at end of branchlets. Individual flowers lightly-scented, but fully-blooming tree emits strong heady fragrance sometimes described as reminiscent of burnt sugar. Rich source of nectar and pollinated by insects like various types of butterflies and bees, which often surround flowering trees. Blooms occasionally in Singapore, especially after distinctly dry cool weather. Blooming occurs once yearly in monsoonal Asia, usually from October to March.
      Fruits: Slender linear dehiscent follicles, 20-40 (-63)cm long, 3-5mm wide, produced in hanging pairs, ripening from green to brown. Seeds numerous, small, flat, tufted at ends, dispersed by wind.
      [Others]: Hazards: Injured bark and leaves exude milky latex. Copious pollen produced during blooming known to cause nasal allergies.
      Habitat :
      Naturally distributed in rainforests, monsoonal and vine forests, forming dominant canopy layer in some areas.
      Similar :
      Resembles the native Alstonia angustiloba (Pulai), which has slighty smaller stipule-less leaves (6-14cm long), shorter fruit pods (25cm long), white glabrous flowers, and paler grey bark.
      Cultivation :
      Hardy tree, prefers well-drained soils. Attains maturity in 8-10 years. Propagate by cuttings (which root easily in sand), seeds (collect from ripe unsplit pods), air-layering and grafting (cleft and inverted T-grafting). Host plant for Pauropsylla tuberculata, a kind of psyllid (jumping plant louse) which produces unsightly pouch galls over leaf surfaces.
      Etymology :
      Genus epithet 'Alstonia named after Scottish naturalist Dr. Charles Alston (1685-1760), who was professor of botany at University of Edinburgh, scientific writer and keeper of King's garden at Holyrood, and one of the few botanists who resisted the Linnaean taxonomic classification when it was introduced. Species epithet 'scholaris' refers to how the tree's wood was traditionally used to make slates for schoolchildren.
      Ethnobotanical Uses :
      Food (Herb & Spice)
      Medicinal, Timber & Products, Cultural / Religious (

      Heritage Tree :    
      There are currently two individuals of Alstonia scholaris listed as Heritage Trees in Singapore. One can be found on Sentosa, while the other at Temenggong Road. To find out more about these trees, please visit the 
      Heritage Tree Register.
      )
      [Others]: Medicinal: Bitter-tasting bark contains alkaloids and used as substitute for quinine to treat malaria; traditionally used as astringent against bowel problems like abdominal pains, chronic diarrhoea and advanced dysentery; also treats toothaches and snakebites. Harvested and sold commercially as 'Dita Bark'. Leaves used as remedy against beri-beri. Seeds rich in hallucinogenic compounds, used by Indian tribes as aphrodisiac in sex rituals. Timber: Lightweight soft timber used to make coffins, floats, corks, packing boxes, matchsticks, carvings, writing tablets and household utensils. Products: Latex makes a good quality chewing gum, and used as glue by Australian Aborigines to stick feathers to skin. Essential oil extracted from flowers. Used for its nectar and as semi-major bee plant in Blangadesh's apicultural industry. Cultural: Popularly known as Devil Tree, as plant is believed to the devil's abode -- probably due to the intoxicating fragrance emitted by flowering trees, especially at night -- and often considered so inauspicious that tribal people from the western coast of India are reluctant to sit or walk under these trees.
  • Landscaping Features
    • Desirable Plant Features :
      Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Foliage, Fragrant (Flowers: Day, Time Independent; [Remarks]: Flowers strongly scented like burnt sugar.)
      Plant & Rootzone Preference/Tolerance :
      Well-Drained Soils, Fertile Loamy Soils
      Landscape Uses :
      General, Roadside Tree / Palm, Shade Providing Tree / Palm
      Thematic Landscaping :
      Fragrant / Aromatherapy Garden, Butterfly Garden
      Usage Hazards / Cons :
      Irritant - Nasal Allergy, Irritant - Sap, [Remarks] (Injured bark and leaves exude milky latex. Pollen produced during blooming known to cause nasal allergies.)
  • Fauna, Pollination & Dispersal
    • Associated Fauna :
      Butterfly Food Plant
      Pollination Method(s) :
      Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Butterfly, Moth); Insects (Bee))
      Seed / Spore Dispersal :
      Biotic (Fauna) (Associated with: Aaptos suberitoides, Tufted seeds, dispersed by wind.), Abiotic (Wind; Explosive Dehiscence)
  • Plant Care & Propagation
    • Light Preference :
      Full Sun
      Water Preference :
      Moderate Water
      Plant Growth Rate :
      Moderate
      Planting Distance :
      12 m
      Maintenance Requirements :
      Moderate
      Propagation Method :
      Seed, Stem Cutting, Grafting, Air-Layering
      Propagule Establishment Remarks :
      Seeds have high germination, sprouting easily. Cuttings root easily in sand;.
  • Foliar
    • Foliage Retention :
      Evergreen
      Mature Foliage Colour(s) :
      Green
      Mature Foliage Texture(s) :
      Glossy / Shiny, Leathery
      Foliar Modification :
      Stipule
      Foliar Type :
      Simple / Unifoliate
      Foliar Arrangement Along Stem :
      Whorled
      Foliar Shape(s) :
      Non-Palm Foliage (Obovate; Elliptical)
      Foliar Venation :
      Pinnate / Net, Parallel
      Foliar Margin :
      Entire
      Foliar Apex / Tip :
      Acute
      Foliar Base :
      Cuneate
      Typical Foliar Area :
      Notophyll ( 20.25cm2 - 45 cm2 )
      Leaf Area Index (LAI) * for Green Plot Ratio :
      3.0 (Tree - Intermediate Canopy)
  • Non-Foliar & Storage
    • Trunk Type (Non-Palm) :
      Woody
      Bark Colour(s) :
      Grey when young, buff brown in mature trees
      Mature Bark Texture :
      Cracked, Plated, Lenticellate, [Remarks] (Corky bark)
      Stem Type & Modification :
      Woody
      Root Type :
      Underground (Tap Root; Fibrous Root)
  • Floral (Angiosperm)
    • Flower & Plant Sexuality :
      Bisexual Flowers
      Flower Colour(s) :
      Cream / Off-White, Green
      Flower Symmetry :
      Radial
      Flower Size :
      Remarks (Small, inconspicuous)
      Inflorescence Type :
      Cyme
      Flowering Period :
      [Remarks] (Rarely blooms in Singapore. May take place after distinctly dry and cool weather.)
      Flowering Habit :
      Polycarpic
  • Fruit, Seed & Spore
    • Mature Fruit Colour(s) [Angiosperms & Gymnosperms] :
      Brown
      Fruit Classification :
      Simple Fruit
      Fruit Type :
      Dehiscent Dry Fruit (Follicle)
The information given on this website has been compiled from reference works on medicinal plants and/or pron only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Reliance on this information is strictly at your own risk. You should always consult your physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.

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