Mesua ferrea L

[After J. Mesue (777-857), John of Damascus and from Latin, ferrum = iron]

Common names: Iron wood tree; mesua naghas (French); penaga (Malay); nagkesara (Indian & Sanskrit). Penaga is a word of Sanskrit origin and the tree has since time immemorial been cultivated in India for its important ceremonial uses.

Physical description: It is a magnificent tree native to India, which grows wild in Burma, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The wood is very hard, heavy and durable. The bark is dull brown with irregular fissures; the inner bark exudates a clear gum resin. Leaves: green but pinkish-red when young, simple, 6.5cm-12cm x 1.5cm-4cm, without stipules and decussate. The blade is elliptic, medium sized, tapered at the apex and at the base, bluish below and greenish brown above; and the numerous secondary nerves are hardly visible on both sides. The flowers are showy, ephemeral, fragrant, white, 9 cm in diameter, solitary and axillary. The perianth consists of 4 sepals and petals, and the petals are whitish.The andrecium is showy and consists of several free

stamens. The gynecium consists of a 1-2-locular ovary, each locule containing 1-2 ovules attached to axillary placentas. The fruits are ellipsoid, shortly beaked, 3 cm in diameter, woody and seated on a persistent calyx, and contain 1-4, woody, glossy seeds with brightly colored partitions (Fig. 96).

Uses: In Burma, the flowers of Mesua ferrea L. are used to make an astringent tea and the leaves are used externally to counteract snake-poison. In Malaysia, a bath with these flowers is taken to invigorate health after childbirth. In Indonesia, the pounded seeds or the oil expressed from the seeds are used externally to heal wounds and to treat skin infection.

Fig. 96. Mesua ferrea L.

Pharmaceutical interest: Coumarins: Racemosol and mammea A/AC cyclo F extracted from Mesua racemosa are weakly cytotoxicity towards KB cells (Morel C etal., 1999). It will be interesting to learn whether more intensive future research on Mesua ferrea L. will disclose any coumarins of chemotherapeutic interest.

Racemosol

Mammea A/AC cyclo F

Racemosol

Mammea A/AC cyclo F

Continue reading here: Order Malvales Lindley 1833

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