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Mesua ferrea

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Mesua ferrea, the Sri Lankan ironwood, Indian rose chestnut, or cobra's saffron, is a species in the family Calophyllaceae. This slow-growing tree is named after the heaviness and hardness of its timber. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental due to its graceful shape, grayish-green foliage with a beautiful pink to red flush of drooping young leaves, and large, fragrant white flowers. It is native to wet, tropical parts of Sri Lanka, India, southern Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Indochina, the Philippines, Malaysia and Sumatra, where it grows in evergreen forests, especially in river valleys. In the eastern Himalayas and Western Ghats in India it grows up to altitudes of Template:Convert, while in Sri Lanka up to Template:Convert.<ref name=biotik>Template:Cite web</ref><ref name=Kostermans>Template:Cite book</ref><ref name=Gunatilleke>Template:Cite book</ref> It is national tree of Sri Lanka and state flower of Tripura and Mizoram.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>



The tree can grow over Template:Convert tall, often buttressed at the base with a trunk up to Template:Convert in diameter. The bark of younger trees has an ash grey color with flaky peelings, while of old trees the bark is dark ash-grey with a red-brown blaze. It has simple, opposite, narrow, oblong to lanceolate, blue-grey to dark green leaves that are Template:Convert long and Template:Convert wide, with a whitish underside. The emerging young leaves are red to yellowish pink and drooping. The branches are slender, terete and glabrous. The bisexual flowers are Template:Convert in diameter, with four white petals and a center of numerous orange yellow stamens. The fruit is an ovoid to globose capsule with one to two seeds.<ref name=biotik/>

History of the tree in Sri Lanka

In the dry zone areas of Sri Lanka—where ironwood trees normally do not grow wild, large, old ironwood trees can be seen around the remains of ancient Buddhist monasteries on rocky hills around Dambulla such as Na Uyana Aranya, Namal Uyana, Na-golla Aranya, Pidurangala near Sigiriya, Kaludiya Pokuna near Kandalama, and Ritigala. They are probably the descendants of trees planted as ornamentals in the monasteries in ancient times during the Anuradhapura period. Older trees form suckers or shoots from the base of the trunk, which become new trees when the old trunk falls down; therefore the bases and roots of some ironwood trees in these sites might be very old.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

In Theravada Buddhism, this tree is said to have used as the tree for achieved enlightenment, or Bodhi by four Lord Buddhas called "Mangala - මංගල", "Sumana - සුමන", "Revatha - රේවත", and "Sobhitha - සෝභිත".


As the English name indicates, the wood of this tree is very heavy, hard and strong. The density is 940 to 1,195 kg/m3 (59 to 75 lb/ft3) at 15% moisture content. The colour is deep dark red. It is hard to saw and is mainly used for railroad ties and heavy structural timber.

In Sri Lanka the pillars of the 14th century Embekke Shrine near Kandy are made of iron tree wood.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The flowers, leaves, seeds and roots are used as herbal medicines in India, Malaysia, etc.<ref name=biotik/><ref name=flowers>Template:Cite web</ref> and in Nag Champa incense sticks.

In eastern state of Assam, India, its seeds were also used for lighting purpose in evening for day to day purpose (while mustard oil for religious and health and culinary purposes) before the introduction of kerosene by the British.

Taxonomical status

Mesua ferrea is a complex species and has recently been split into several species and varieties.<ref name=biotik/> A.J.G.H. Kostermans and Gunatilleke et al. call the tree described in this article Mesua nagassarium.<ref name=Kostermans/><ref name=Gunatilleke/> Kostermans lists several subspecies of Mesua nagassarium.<ref name=Kostermans/>

These authors list Mesua ferrea as a separate species that is endemic to Sri Lanka and is a small, 15 meters high tree that grows near streams and in marshes in the Southwest of Sri Lanka, where it is called "Diya Na" in Sinhala, meaning "Water Na Tree". This "Diya Na" is not cultivated.<ref name=Kostermans/><ref name=Gunatilleke/> Gunatilleke et al. (p. 139), however, remark in a footnote: "In the most recent revision diya na is named as Mesua thwaitesii and na as Mesua ferrea".<ref name=Gunatilleke/>

Kostermans and Gunatilleke et al. classify Mesua ferrea in the Clusiaceae family, while in the AgroForestryTree Database it is allocated to the Guttiferae family.<ref name=Kostermans/><ref name=Gunatilleke/>

Vernacular names

Mesua ferrea has different names in various languages.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref><ref name=flowers/><ref>Template:Cite book</ref> Template:Clear right Template:Div col

  • සිංහල: Na (නා)
  • Assamese: Nahor (নাহৰ), Nokte ( নোক্তে)
  • Meghalaya (Garo): Kimde
  • Bengali: Nagesar (নাগেশ্বর)
  • Hindi: Gajapushpam; Nāg champa (नाग चम्पा), Nāgakesar (नाग केसर)
  • Filipino: kaliuas
  • Javanese: nagasari
  • Kannada: Nagasampige (ನಾಗಸಂಪಿಗೆ)
  • Malaysian: penaga
  • Malayalam: Nagachampakam; Veila
  • Marathi: Nagchafa, Thorla chafa
  • Myanmar: Kant Kaw
  • Mizo: Herhse (state tree of Mizoram)
  • Odia: Nageswara, Nagakesara
  • Română: Kesara
  • Sanskrit: Champeryah; Nāgakesara; Nāgapushpa, Nāga (नाग)
  • Sinhala: Nā (නා)
  • Tamil: Iravam(இரவம்), Iruḷmaram(இருள்மரம்), Cheru-nagapu; Sirunagappoo; Veilutta-champakam, Tadinangu, Naka
  • Telugu: Nagakesara
  • Thai: bunnak (บุนนาค)
  • Tibetan: Naga Kesar (ནཱ་ག་གེ་སར་)
  • Urdu: Narmishka (नर्मिश्क)
  • Vietnam: Vắp ( Theo Y Học Tuệ Tĩnh - HuuDuc)

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See also



External links

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