Butea frondosa: A Versatile and Colorful Tree


    Butea frondosa: A Versatile and Colorful Tree

    Butea frondosa, also known as flame-of-the-forest, dhak, palash, and bastard teak, is a species of flowering tree native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia. It belongs to the pea family, Fabaceae, and has bright orange-red flowers that are produced in racemes up to 15 cm long. The flowers are often used as a source of natural dye and have religious significance in Hinduism. The tree also has various uses for timber, resin, fodder, medicine, and lacquer production.

    Description

    Butea frondosa is a small-sized dry-season deciduous tree, growing to 15 m tall. It has a crooked and twisted trunk with irregular branches and rough, grey bark. The leaves are pinnate, with an 8–16 cm petiole and three leaflets, each leaflet 10–20 cm long. The flowers are 2.5 cm long and have five petals, two wings, and a keel that resembles the beak of a parrot. The fruit is a pod 15–20 cm long and 4–5 cm broad.

    History


    Description

    The tree is believed to have originated in Bihar and Jharkhand in India. It was historically found in large forests between the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers, but these were cleared for agriculture in the early 19th century as the English East India Company increased tax demands on the peasants.

    Uses


    History

    The tree has multiple uses for humans and animals. The wood is dirty white and soft, but durable under water. It is used for well-curbs, water scoops, spoons, ladles, and charcoal. The young shoots are used as fodder for buffaloes. The leaves are used to serve food or make plates and cups. The flowers are used as a source of natural dye for fabrics, paints, cosmetics, and rituals. The flowers are also used in herbal medicine to treat various ailments such as skin diseases, worms, diabetes, inflammation, and sexual disorders. The bark produces a crimson exudate that hardens into a substance called “Butea gum” or “Bengal kino”, which is used as an astringent and anti-diarrheal agent. The tree also serves as a host for the lac bug (Laccifer lacca), which produces natural lacquer.

    Cultivation


    Uses

    Butea frondosa is propagated by seeds or cuttings. It prefers well-drained sandy or loamy soils with moderate moisture. It can tolerate drought and frost to some extent. It requires full sun exposure and regular pruning to maintain its shape and flower production. It is susceptible to pests such as caterpillars, borers, aphids, and scale insects.

    References

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