Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Barringtonia racemosa

Known as the Common Putat or Fish-Killer Tree, they can be found in Southern and Eastern Africa, Madagascar, Republic of Seychelles, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, throughout Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands to Northern Australia.

A small tree of about 4 to 8m, the Pulat has a grey to yellow to brown bark that is may ranges from mottled to smooth to fissured. The leaves are oblong and large, crowding at the ends of branches. 

The white to pale pink flowers are attractive and pendulous and in racemes, growing up to 60cm in length. The floral parts are all in 4s. The seeds are fragrant. The Putat is an endangered tree in Singapore as its back mangrove habitat is threatened by urban development. This tree contains a chemical called saponin that can stun fish in the water. Its flowers are arranged in a string-like fashion called “raceme” from which the plant got its scientific name. It consists of a central axis with stalked flowers along it with the youngest at the tip and the older ones progressively lower Keep a lookout for its flowers around May, which are pink and delicate.

It is the food plant for caterpillars of the moths Attacus atlas (Atlas Moth), Gnathmocerodes tonsoria, and Thosea andamanica. Its flowers are pollinated by bats and moths. 

The young or cooked leaves (to remove their bitterness) are edible. The pounded seeds are used to make edible flour.

The seeds, bark, leaves, fruits, and roots are used medicinally for various ailments and diseases.

The wood is utilized as firewood, and for construction. The bark provides a source of fibre. 

The powdered bark and all other parts of the plant were exploited as a fish poison, while their extracts may be used as an insecticide. The bark and roots are used as tanning agents as they contain high levels of tannin. It is occasionally cultivated as an ornamental tree along roadsides. 

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