Botanical Survey of India | Flora of India

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Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd., Sp. Pl. ed. 4, 4: 590. 1805; Hook.f., Fl. Brit. India 5: 384. 1887. Jatropha moluccana L., Sp. Pl. 1006. 1753.

Eng.: Candle-nut tree; Hindi: Jungli-akhrot; Tam.: Katakrote.

Trees, 15 - 20 m tall; young shoots and leaves stellate pubescent. Leaves polymorphous, crowded at the ends of branches, ovate to lanceolate or broadly rhombate or deltoid and obtusely or acutely 3 - 7-lobed, palmately 3 - 7-nerved at base; lobes short, acuminate, obtuse or truncate; petioles 5 - 10 cm long, stellate pubescent, biglandular at apex. Inflorescences lax- flowered terminal panicles of thyrsoid cymes; secondary rachis often trichotomous, 10 - 15 cm long; bracts subulate, early caducous. Male flowers: calyx subglobose in bud, splitting irregularly into 2 or 3 valvate segments, velvety tomentose; petals 5, imbricate in bud, 6 - 8 mm long, lanceolate or obovate; disc urceolate, with 5 glands; stamens 15 - 20, verticillate in 3 - 5 rows; filaments free, hairy, produced into a small blunt point; anthers introrse. Female flowers: sessile at the divisions of panicles; calyx cylindrical and conical, splitting into 2 or 3 segments, ca 6 mm long; petals 5, narrowly oblong, 9 - 10 mm long, white; disc urceolate with 5 glands; ovary densely hispid, 2-loculed; styles 2, each bifid with linear-subulate arms. Fruits subglobose or ovoid, laterally compressed, 5 - 6 cm in diam., fleshy, smooth, olive-coloured when ripe; stone 1 - 5-loculed, 1 or 2-seeded, hard; seeds acute at apex, hard; testa woody, rugose, thick.

Fl. Feb. - June; Fr. June - Dec.

Distrib. India: Cultivated in tea gardens, often seen naturally regenerating and found in secondary or disturbed forests, up to 600 m altitude. West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu (Javadi hills).

Native of S. E. Asia and Pacific Islands. Widely cultivated.

Uses. The kernel of the seed is edible, has a pleasant taste, resembling that of a walnut. It is cooling, improves appetite, carminative and acts as a cardio-tonic (Kirtikar & Basu, Indian Med. Pl. 3: 2248. 1935). The oil extracted from seeds used for making candles and hence the tree bears the name ‘candle-nut tree’. It also finds use in paint and varnish industry. The oil is a mild purgative, is superior to castor oil in having no offensive smell or taste, and produces cathartic action without nausea. The oil cakes used as fertilizers. The wood is soft and used for packing cases. Roots yield a brown dye.

Notes. Chromosome numbers: n = 11 (Datta in Taxon 16: 344. 1967) and n = 22 (Bedi et al., Taxon 29: 353. 1980).

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