Saraca asoca

Author: (Roxb.) W.J. de Wilde

Morphological description
Tree up to 10 m tall and 10 cm in diameter, sometimes shrub or medium sized shrub, 4.5 m tall.

Leaves (1-)4-6-jugate, subsessile to shortly petioled; (petiole and) rachis (0.5-)7-15(-30) cm long (asoca Saraca ylf 428835 ). Leaflets chartaceous or subcoriaceous, elliptic-oblong or -lanceolate, or lanceolate, (3.5-)7-18(-26) by (1-)3-5(-9) cm, the lowest pair usually smaller; glabrous; apex acuminate; base cuneate, obtuse, or rounded, symmetric, rarely the lowest pair obscurely subcordate; midrib slightly elevated above, prominent beneath; nerves 5-9(-12) per side; subsessile to petiolules 2-5 mm.

Inflorescences (asoca Saraca infl FM43 ) 1.5-12(-20) cm wide, glabrous, main branches up to c. 6 cm long, 1.5-2 mm diameter; bracts broadly ovate, ovate or obovate, 1-6 by 1-3.5(-5) mm, caducous or persistent, puberulous and/or minutely ciliate on the margin; bracteoles persistent during anthesis, erect, embracing the pedicel, never spreading more than 45° from the pedicel, ovate, elliptic, or obovate, 2-7 by 1.5-4 mm, sparsely puberulous, subglabrous or glabrous except minutely ciliate on the margin; pedicels 8-18 mm, the length between bracteoles and flower (4-)7-10 mm.

Flowers obscurely or not articulated near the base, subglabrous or glabrous, orange yellow, when older deep orange or orange red, fragrant during the night. Hypanthium 9-20 mm long, 1-3 mm wide at the throat. Calyx lobes elliptic or obovate, 7-13 by 5-9 mm. Stamens (5-)6-8(-10); filaments (10-)17-25 mm, glabrous; anthers ellipsoid or oblong, 1.5-2 mm long; staminodes 0-2. Pistil stipitate, free part of stipe 2-4 mm, hairy; ovary 4-6 mm long, puberulous, 8-10(-12)-ovuled; style 15-20 mm, glabrous; stigma capitellate.

Pods oblong or elongate-oblong (sometimes slightly curved), or scimitar-shaped, 12.5-25 by 3.5-6.5 cm, c. 1 cm thick, leathery or woody, (1-)4-6(or more)-seeded, with straight or curved, up to c. 1 cm long beaked apex, and cuneate or obliquely rounded base, valves coiling.

Seeds oblong-ellipsoid, sometimes slightly reniform, 2-3 by 1.25-2 cm, and 0.6-1 cm thick.

India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Burma (west of the Irrawaddy R.). Introduced and cultivated in Malesia , specimens seen from Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Java, Papua New Guinea.

Outside Malesia in forest up to c. 500 m altitude, one specimen collected at 1250 m in Sri Lanka, North Central Prov., Ritigala (Jayasuriya et al. 1343 , L).

Flowering and fruiting may occur all the year round.

The species is frequently planted near shrines, occasionally in gardens and villages as an ornamental. Its bark, leaves and flowers have medicinal properties (Burkill, 1935: 1964; Chadha et al., 1972: 232-274).

1. In India Saraca asoca is often called Asoc (Hind.) and Aoka (Beng.). It is a sacred tree for the Hindus and it is believed that Buddha was born under its shade.
2. It has been reported that two ovaries were found occasionally to occur in one flower (cf. Zuijderhoudt (1968: 423).