Calophyllum inophyllum is a large evergreen, commonly called Alexandrian laurel balltree, beach calophyllum, beach touriga, beautyleaf, Borneo-mahogany, Indian doomba oiltree, Indian-laurel, laurelwood, red poon, satin touriga, and tacamahac-tree. It is native from East Africa, southern coastal India to Malesia and Australia.
Calophyllum inophyllum is a low-branching and slow-growing tree with a broad and irregular crown. It usually reaches 8 to 20 metres (26 to 66 ft) in height. The flower is 25 millimetres (0.98 in) wide and occurs in racemose or paniculate inflorescences consisting of 4 to 15 flowers. Flowering can occur year-round, but usually two distinct flowering periods are observed, in late spring and in late autumn. The fruit (the ballnut) is a round, green drupe reaching 2 to 4 centimetres (0.79 to 1.57 in) in diameter and having a single large seed. When ripe, the fruit is wrinkled and its color varies from yellow to brownish-red.
Distribution and habitat
Calophyllum inophyllum is native to Africa in: Comoros; Kenya; Madagascar; Mauritius; Mozambique; Seychelles; Tanzania (including Pemba Island of the Zanzibar Archipelago); south, southeast and east Asia in: Burma; Cambodia; China (on Hainan); southern India; Indonesia; Japan (Ryukyu Islands); Malaysia; Papua New Guinea; the Philippines; Sri Lanka; Taiwan; Thailand; Vietnam; the northwestern, southwestern and south central Pacific Region in: the Cook Islands; Fiji; French Polynesia (Marquesas and Society Islands); Guam; the Marshall Islands; Micronesia; the Northern Mariana Islands; Palau; and Samoa; and in Australia in: Northern Territory and Queensland.
Nowadays it is widely cultivated in all tropical regions of the world. Because of its decorative leaves, fragrant flowers and spreading crown, it is best known as an ornamental plant.
This tree often grows in coastal regions as well as nearby lowland forests. However it has also been cultivated successfully in inland areas at moderate altitudes. It tolerates varied kinds of soil, coastal sand, clay or even degraded soil.
Besides being a popular ornamental plant, its wood is hard and strong and has been used in construction or boatbuilding. Traditional Pacific Islanders used Calophyllum wood to construct the keel of their canoes while the boat sides were made from breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) wood. It is sometimes used for backs and sides of entry level acoustic guitars.
The seeds yield a thick, dark green tamanu oil for medicinal use[medical citation needed] or hair grease. The nuts are dried before cracking, after which the oil-laden kernel is removed and further dried. The first neoflavone isolated in 1951 from natural sources was calophyllolide from Calophyllum inophyllum seeds.
The Mavilan, a Tulu-speaking tribe in north Kerala in India, use the Calophyllum inophyllum bark to make a powder that they mix with water and apply it on plants affected by a type of plant disease caused by water that they call neeru vembu.
The sap of the tree is poisonous and is used to make poison arrows in Samoa. The mature fruit is poisonous enough to use as rat bait.
The fatty acid methyl esters derived from Calophyllum inophyllum seed oil meets the major biodiesel requirements in the United States (ASTM D 6751), and European Union (EN 14214). The average oil yield is 11.7 kg-oil/tree or 4680 kg-oil/hectare. In the northwest coastal areas of Luzon island in Philippines, the oil was used for night lamps. This widespread use started to decline when kerosene became available, and later on electricity. It was also used as fuel to generate electricity to provide power for radios during World War II.
The tree is regarded as sacred in some Pacific islands because of its excellent growth in sandy soil as shade tree and many uses.