Monday, 17 December 2012

Alstonia scholaris

Alstonia scholaris, or commonly known as devil tree is native to Indochina and is part of the family Apocynaceae.


The medium to large size tree reaches a height of 40m in its native habitat, however in urban areas it has only managed to reach half the height. The pagoda shape crown is filled with its leathery leaves.

Glossy, dark green on the upper side and paler greyish-green on the underside, they measure about 8-22cm long and are arranged in whorls of 4-8 leaflets.

Flowers are small, creamy-greenish white and are twisted like propellers. Individual flowers are lightly-scented, but when the whole tree blooms, it emits a strong heady fragrance. It has a rich source of nectar and is pollinated by insects like various types of butterflies and bees, which often surround flowering trees.

The fruits are skinny and long at 30-60cm in length and 3-5mm wide. They are produced in hanging pairs, ripening from green to brown. Seeds are numerous, small, flat, tufted at ends, and dispersed by wind.

The species name ‘Scholaris’ refers to the fact that the timber of this tree has traditionally been used to make wooden slates for school children. The wood of the Alstonia is too soft for making anything, thus it is usually used in making packing boxes, blackboards etc. Its bark, known as Dita Bark, is used in traditional medicine to treat fever. On the Western Ghats, tribal people are reluctant to sit or pass under this tree, for the fear of the devil.

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