Aleurites moluccana L Willd

[From Greek, Aleurites = wheaten flour and from Latin, moluccana = from the Moluccas]

Physical description: It is a tree which grows to a height of 18 m and a girth of 50 cm. It grows in the geographic area spanning Malaysia and the Pacific Islands. When cut, the bark exudes a clear watery sap. The stems, petioles, and blades are covered with a whitish starry tomentum. Leaves: simple, spiral and without stipules. The petiole is 11.5cm-15cm and thin. The blade is lanceolate, rigid, 3-5-lobed, 7.8 cm x 4cm-12.5cm x 16.2 cm and marked at the base with a pair of 1 mm diameter, disc-shaped glands. The margin is recurved. The nervations are raised on both surfaces of the blade which shows 6-7 pairs of secondary nerves. The inflorescences are terminal panicles. The calyx is 2.5 mm long, 2-3-lobed and covered with a whitish starry tomentum. The corolla is 1.3 cm across,

Synonymy: Aleurites triloba Forst.

Common names: Candleberry tree; aleurite des Moluques, bancoulier (French); tosikyasi (Burmese); shih leih (Chinese); wai-wai (Fijian); buah keras (Malay); akhota (Sanskrit); nattu-akhrotu (Tamil).

Fig. 196. Aleuritesmoluccana (L.) Willd. From: KLU Herbarium 9541. Flora of the Society Islands, Island of Raiatea, Bernice P Bishop Museum. Field collector & botanical identification: John W Moore, 26 Sep 1926. Geographical localization: in most shady valley 1 mile south of Uturoa, altitude 300 feet. From: KLU Herbarium 5886. Flora of Malaya. Field collector & botanical identification: Benjamin C Stone. 5 Mar 1966. Geographical localization: Ser-dang Agric. Expt. Station, Selangor, altitude: 200 feet.

Fig. 196. Aleuritesmoluccana (L.) Willd. From: KLU Herbarium 9541. Flora of the Society Islands, Island of Raiatea, Bernice P Bishop Museum. Field collector & botanical identification: John W Moore, 26 Sep 1926. Geographical localization: in most shady valley 1 mile south of Uturoa, altitude 300 feet. From: KLU Herbarium 5886. Flora of Malaya. Field collector & botanical identification: Benjamin C Stone. 5 Mar 1966. Geographical localization: Ser-dang Agric. Expt. Station, Selangor, altitude: 200 feet.

smelly and dull-white. The fruits are woody, 5cm-6.3cm, olive-colored capsules containing a pair of oily seeds (Fig. 196).

Pharmaceutical interest: An extract of Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd. inhibits the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Locher CP etal., 1995). It will be interesting to learn whether a more intensive study on this plant will disclose any molecules of therapeutic interest.

Uses: Georgius Everhardus Rumphius (1628-1702) states that the Javanese and Macassars make candles from the seeds which are either pounded and mixed with coconut, or simply strung on a piece of split bamboo. In India, where the tree was much cultivated, the seeds were known as Indian walnuts. Dr Rorke (Ann. deTherap., 1859, p. 117) reported that 1 to 2 ounces of oil "acts as a mild and sure purgative". In Indonesia, the bark of Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd. is used to treat dysentery. In Malaysia, the seeds or the leaves are used to assuage headaches, heal ulcers and resolve swollen joints. The oil expressed from the seeds is used to treat sciatica. In the Philippines, the seeds are used to relieve the bowels of costiveness and treat cholera, while the leaves are used to treat rheumatism. The seeds of Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd. are used to make soap and ointments. In India, the fruit is used to promote libido, invigorate health, expel worms from the intestines and to break fever. In Samoa, a dye extracted from the smoke of burned fruits is used to make tattoos. In the Sandwich Islands, the roots are used to dye native clothes. By the year 1890, the Sandwich Islands produced 10 000 gallons of oil from Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd. which were exported to Europe to manufacture soap.

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