Sri Lanka

Plant / Tree DetailsPlant / Tree Image

Naminam (Cynometra cauliflora) [නමිනං]

Naminam is a fruit-bearing shrubby or small much-branched tree, with a dense crown, growing 3-15 meters in height. It is believed to be originated in Malaysia and is found in South East Asia, Sri Lanka, and Western and Southern Peninsular India, only in a cultivated state. Its kidney-shaped one-seeded, rugose, brownish -green colored fruits are hanging from the trunk. Its fruits are edible with a sweet/sour taste of an unripe apple.

Naminam grows in wet tropical lowlands and is mostly grown in home gardens. It prefers the full sun but tolerates shade. Seedlings grow into fruit-bearing plants in 6 years.

Its fruits and seeds have medicinal value.

Canistel (Pouteria campechiana) [ලාවුළු (Laavulu)]

Canistel is a fruit-bearing evergreen small tree – with a Southern Mexican origin – that belongs to the Sapodilla family. Grafted trees grow better and bear fruit faster than seedlings. The tree can grow up to 3-7.5 meters. Canistel can be grown as a middle-layer garden tree, which needs little maintenance. Its fruits contain a high level of vitamins and are of medicinal value.

Indian Beech (Pongamia pinnata) [මඟුල් කරඳ (Mangula Karanda)]

Indian beech, (Karanda), Pongam oil tree is a fast-growing hardwood tree – natively grown in the Indian subcontinent as well as other Asian and Australian countries – which belongs to Fabaceae (legume) family. It has a large canopy that grows 15-30 meters in height and is often used for landscaping purposes, as a windbreak, or for shade. All parts of the tree have medicinal values thus used in traditional medicines. Enriches the soil by symbiotically fixing nitrogen.

Kumbuk / Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) [කුඹුක් (Kumbuk)]

Kumbuk / Arjuna is a hardwood tree that grows in the Indian subcontinent, usually on river banks. It has a buttressed trunk and a wide canopy at the crown. All the parts of the tree have been used in traditional medicines. It is believed that the roots of the tree have the ability to purify water and that a single tree can provide water for 7 wells. During ancient times, these trees were protected by the order of the kings in Sri Lanka, hence cutting down a Kumbuk tree could result in the death penalty.

Teak / Indian Oak (Tectona grandis) [ෙත්ක්ක (Tekka)]

Teak / Indian Oak is a large, deciduous, native hardwood tree found in South and Southeast Asia. It can grow up to 40 meters tall. It has a large buttressed stem, four-sided branchlets, and a spreading Crown.

Teak wood is one of the most popular types in the world for its strength, water resistance, beauty, and extraordinary durability. Its timber is used for making furniture, doors, windows, frames, bridges, flooring, railway cars, and shipbuilding.

It is one of the plants with the highest carbon sequestration in Sri Lanka.

Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) [සියඹලා (Siyambalaa)]

Tamarind is large, slow-growing long-lived, edible fruit-bearing tree of the legume family, originated in tropical Africa and is widely spread over Asia and other regions. It is a medium-growing tree with a maximum height of

12-18 meters, with a vase-shaped irregular crown of dense foliage. Tamarind also enriches the soil by symbiotically fixing nitrogen. One of the trees that were protected by the Kings in Ancient Sri Lanka. Tamarind is

used as a fruit, medicine, and ingredient in staple cuisine in many regions

Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) [ෙකාස්(Kos)]

Jackfruit is a member of the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family – of southern/western Indian, Sri Lankan, and Indonesian/Malaysian origin. It is considered the “rice tree” in Sri Lanka due to its high importance as food. Jackfruit is the national fruit of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They are commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisine – from tender to the matured stage, while a ripe jackfruit is a famous delicacy in the Asian region. While jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, the evergreen jackfruit tree can grow up to 20 meters with a dense treetop.

Mahogani (Swietenia macrophylla) [මැෙහාගනි]

Mahogani is an evergreen, tropical hardwood tree indigenous to the Americas, but also imported to Asia and Oceania due to its high importance as timber. Growing up to 50-60 meters, it has a dense symmetrical crown and is resistant to strong winds. It is one of the trees with high carbon sequestration. Some of the Mahogani species are considered invasive in some parts of the world. However, they are also listed as endangered due to overcutting to obtain timber.

Naa / Ceylon Iron Tree (Mesua nagassarium) [නා (Naa)]

Iron tree / Naa tree is hardwood timber that grows at a medium speed. It has dense, graceful-shaped, green foliage with red-colored young leaves. Na trees are often planted as ornamental trees due to their attractive nature. It’s named “iron tree” due to the heaviness and hardness of its timber. Messua nagassarium is indigenous to Sri Lanka and is named the national tree of the country. Mesua ferra is found in other wet-tropical Asian countries in the Indian and Malacca regions.

Mahua, Mousey Mi/Mee (Madhuca longifolia) [මී (Mee)]

Mahua is a medium-sized tree that grows up to 20-30 meters, with a straight and hard stem and a delicate bouquet of leaves and young parts. Its flowers are yellowish-white while the fruits are greenish-yellow with shiny brown colored seeds inside.

The “Mee tree” is considered the “fertilizer tree” in Sri Lanka and has been preserved by the kings since the 3rd century BC due to its high environmental value. (Cutting down a Mee tree would lead to the death penalty).

There are 7 species of “Mahua” and 4 of them are endemic to Sri Lanka. Bats and other birds feed on Mee fruits and flowers. Bats reside on Mee trees as well. Bats droppings and decomposed Mee leaves contain high nitrogen and other chemicals useful as fertilizers. Birds feed on insects, hence pests are also controlled. A special quality of “Mahua/Mee” is that it emits oxygen during the night as well. All parts of the tree are of high medicinal value.

Champak (Magnolia champaca) [සපු (Sapu)]

Champak is a large, flower-bearing evergreen tree, native to the Indomalayan realm and found in subtropical, moist, broadleaf forests with an elevation of 200-1600 meters. Champak tree can grow up to 50 meters and its trunk width can extend to 1.9 meters. It has a narrow umbelliform crown and a strong, fragrant flower – its color varying from creamy to orange.

The tree has a commercial value as its flowers are used to produce expensive perfumes and essential oils, while its timber is highly valued and used for making furniture due to its color and texture. The tree has a cultural value in India as it is considered a sacred tree among Hindus and Buddhists.

Orchid Tree, Butterfly Tree, Mountain Ebony (Bauhinia variegate / Bauhinia purpurea) [ෙකාෙබෝලීල (Kobooleela)]

The orchid tree is a small ornamental tree in the legume family, which is native to Southeast Asia. It can grow up to 5 meters and has simple leaves arranged to an alternative structure. It is still not naturalized but used as a garden plant due to its decorative nature. Flowers of species differ from white to pink/purple in color while the petals can be heart-shaped or narrow. Its fruit is a legume.

The tree is important as a garden plant as its symbiotic root system is capable of fixing nitrogen in the soil. All parts of the tree have medicinal value and are used for the treatment of many ailments including hormonal diseases, skin diseases, leprosy, gastro-intestinal diseases, tumors, and cancers.

Flame Tree / Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) [රතු මාර (Rathu Maara)]

Flame tree / Royal poinciana is native to Madagascar and introduced to tropical and sub-tropical regions worldwide. It is a member of the Leguminosae family. It grows up to 16-30 meters and has an umbrella-like dense canopy. It grows during dry seasons, sheds its leaves at the end of the wet season, and is found in dry/tropical savannas from 0-1000 altitudes.

It grows well in moist soils with good drainage and tolerates droughts when grown. It can also grow efficiently in fertile soils with 1500-millimeter rainfall per annum. It requires minimum nutrients as it can fix nitrogen in soils with its symbiotic root system.

Yellow/flame, Copper-pod, Yellow Poinciana (Peltophorum pterocarpum) [කහ මාර (Kaha Maara)]

Yellow Poinciana is a flower-bearing tree in the Leguminosae family – native to Southeast Asia and Northern Australia – with medium growth. It can grow up to 25-35 meters with a girth of up to 1 meter. It has an umbrella-like dense crown/canopy that prefers full sun and provides excellent shade.

Often used as an ornamental, shade-providing, roadside tree. Yellow flowers arranged in large compound racemes have a pleasant fragrance and attract insects for pollination. Its tannin-containing bark is used in the Batiks industry for coloring fabrics, while the timber is used for making furniture. Its leaves are used in animal feed too.

Siris Tree / Lebbeck (Albizia lebbeck)

[මාර / සූරිය මාර]

Siris / Lebbeck is a large tree belonging to the Leguminosae family, native to Indomalaya and Northern Australia, but has also been introduced and naturalized in other tropical regions. It can grow up to 25-30 meters in height while its trunk can grow between 50 centimeters and 1 meter in diameter. The multi-stemmed tree has an umbrella-like crown that can grow a 30-meter-wide canopy.

It usually grows in areas with an annual rainfall of 400-1500 millimeters, but can tolerate 300-400 millimeters of rainfall. It is one of the trees with the highest carbon sequestration and is usually cultivated for purposes of shading and afforestation.

It needs very low fertilizers and can enrich the soil with its nitrogen-fixing symbiotic root system. Its leaves are used as animal feed while its barks and seeds have medicinal value. The tree grows fast in favorable climate conditions. It has a commercial value as timber as well.

Robarosiya / Pink poui / Rosy trumpet tree (Tabebuia rosea) [ෙරාබෙරෝසියා]

Robarosia is a deciduous tree with medium to large growth, with a maximum height of 35 meters. It is native to Mexico, Venezuela, and Ecuador, and was later introduced to other regions as an exotic plant.

It usually prefers tropical climates and is planted as an ornamental plant alongside roads and parks. The tree provides shade during the rainy season and flowers during the dry season after defoliating.

Pink to white-colored trumpet-shaped flowers covers the entire tree during the flowering season. Its leaves, flowers, and bark have high medicinal value while the timber is used for making furniture.

Solitary fishtail palm, Kitul palm (Caryota urens) [කිතුල්]

Kituls palm is a flowering plant in the palm family, native to Sri Lanka and India. Its solitary trunked stem grows up to 15-20 meters and has a lifetime of about 35 years. It’s often found in monsoon climates, peri-humid regions, in most lowlands and submontane forests in tropical Asia.

It is called “Fishtail Palm” due to the shape of its leaflets. Kitul is the only palm with “bipinnate leaves”.

The trees are planted in sloppy and hilly areas to protect soil from eroding.

The tree has a high commercial value. Its sap is used for making treacle, jaggery, and toddy while the pulp made using the apical region of the stem is used to make a dessert similar to “sago”. The matured stem is strong, heavy, and durable thus used for making furniture, roofing, and flooring, among many others. Kithul trees are often used to feed elephants.

Queen of Flower / Pride of India (Lagerstroemia speciosa) [මුරුත (Murutha)]

Queen of Flower is a flowering small to medium-sized (growing up to 20 meters) deciduous tree, native to southern Asia. It is often planted as an ornamental plant in gardens due to its beautiful white to purple colored flowers with six petals, which bloom once a year during the peak of summer.

Young leaves are used as a vegetable, matured leaves are used in traditional medicines to reduce blood glucose, and flowers are used in making tea. Its leaves, bark, roots, and seeds are used in traditional medicine. It also has value as timber.

Showers of Gold, Golden Shower (Cassia fistula) [ඇහැල (Ehela)]

“Showers of Gold” is a flower-bearing deciduous tree with a medium growth (10-20 meters in height) and an irregular crown that sheds leaves once during an 8-10 months period when flowering. It is a member of the Leguminosae family thus important in fixing nitrogen in the soil. The species is native to the Indian subcontinent. It is often used as an ornamental tree alongside streets, parks, and gardens, and grows fast. It prefers tropical climates but can tolerate a short-term frosty season. Its flowers are produced in long pendulous clusters and are colored bright yellow hence named “Showers of Gold”.

All the parts of the tree have medicinal value and are used in treating skin diseases to cancer. Its timber is hard and used in making furniture.

Golden Shower is the national flower of Thailand, the state flower of Kerala-India, and the provincial flower of Sri Lanka’s North Central province.

Cannon Ball, Salwa, Marathi, Shorea Tree (Couroupita guianensis) [සල් (Sal)]

The Cannon Ball tree is a large, flowering deciduous tree native to tropical forests of Central and South America. It grows up to 20-35 meters in height. Flowers with a strong fragrance, born in racemes are directly attached to the trunk and main branches.

It has gained its name due to spherical fruits with woody shells resembling a rusty cannonball, which can grow 15-25 centimeters in diameter and takes 12-18 months to mature. A single fruit can contain 200-500 seeds in white-colored flesh. It is mainly planted as an ornamental tree but has a medicinal value as its parts are used to treat a wide range of ailments from hypertension, common colds, pains, and inflammation to wounds, toothache, tumors, and malaria.

It is believed to be introduced to India, Sri Lanka, and other regions during the 19th century. It is often mistaken for Shorea robusta and is widely planted at Buddhist and Hindu temples in India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Spinous Kino Tree (Bridelia retusa) [කැටකෑල (Ketakela)]

The spinous kino tree is a deciduous, medium-sized tree that grows up to 20 meters, is native to the Indomalayan region and China, and is found in dry, evergreen, or tropical forests and open lands. It is a fast-growing tree and has a high carbon sequestration rate. It is usually propagated with seeds and is ideal for coppicing as well. Its bark, leaves, fruits, and roots are used for treating rheumatism, fractures, and contusions. Its hardwood is used for construction, making of tools, railway ties, and agricultural implements.

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) [ෙදල් (Del)]

Breadfruit is a medium-sized evergreen tree in the mulberry and jackfruit family that can grow 15-25 meters in height. It is native to New Guinea and the Moluccas and was introduced to other tropical regions by the British during the colonial era. It can grow fast in favorable conditions.

Breadfruits are mainly planted for the fruits that are a staple food in many regions. It prefers tropical climates with 1500-3000 millimeters of annual rain but tolerates a wide range of climate conditions. Its bark and latex-like milky sap are used as medicines, while its wood is light but firm – hence used in making canoes, surfboards, boxes, and cartons.

Goraka / Garcinia brindle berry (Garcinia zeylanica) [ෙගාරක]

Goraka / Garcinia is an endemic plant to Sri Lanka, belonging to the Clusiaceae family. Other species of Garcinia are native to Southeast Asia and South Asia. It is medium in size and grows 15-20 meters in height with horizontal or drooping branches. Its evergreen foliage is thick and absorbs a high amount of carbon dioxide.

Garcinia has been used in medicine and cuisine since ancient times. Dried and cured rinds of the fruit are used in cooking and treating obesity and other ailments. Its antioxidant, antiseptic, antimicrobial, and purgative properties contained in leaves, fruits, flowers, and bark are effective in treating humans and animals.

Java Plum (Syzygium cumini) [මාදං (Madan)]

Java plum is a large tree native to India, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, which grows about 30 meters in height and can live for more than a century. It is a fast-growing tree and reaches its maximum height within 40 years. It is a member of the Myrtaceae family. It has dense foliage which provides shade but is grown for ornamental purposes.

Java plum fruits are eaten raw and can be used to make juice, jam, and jelly. Its flowers and fruits appear in clusters. It is a strictly tropical tree and would not bear fruits if grown above 600 meters of elevation.

Different parts of the tree have different medicinal values and have been used as treatments for a wide range of ailments from common colds, asthma, diarrhea, and worm infections to heart diseases, diabetics, and inflammation. Its wood is very hard and water-resistant, hence used in making sleepers for railways as carpentry is not easy with the wood.

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