Calophyllum inophyllum L., Sp. Pl. (1753)
Latin for 'fibrous leaves', referring to the close parallel secondary veins.
Balsamaria inophyllum Lour.
Calophyllum apetalum Blanco [Illegitimate]
Calophyllum bintagor Roxb.
Calophyllum blumei Wight
Calophyllum inophyllum var. blumei (Wight) Hassk.
Calophyllum inophyllum forma oblongata Miq.
Calophyllum inophyllum forma obovata Miq.
Calophyllum inophyllum var. takamaka Fosberg
Calophyllum inophyllum var. wakamatsui (Kaneh.) Fosberg & Sachet
Calophyllum ovatifolium Norona
Calophyllum spurium Choisy
Calophyllum wakamatsui Kanehira
A medium-sized to large evergreen tree 8-25 m in height, sometimes reaching up to 35 m.
Canopy width is often greater than the tree¡¯s height when the tree is grown in open locations.
It has a broad, spreading crown, often with large, gnarled, horizontal branches. The light gray
bark shows deep fissures alternating with flat ridges. Sap is milky white. It bears clusters of 4-15
fragrant white flowers about 2.5 cm across and 8-14 mm long on long, sturdy stalks in leaf axils.
There are 4-8 oblong petals. The opposite leaves are dark green, shiny, and hairless with
broadly elliptical blades 10-20 cm long and 6-9 cm wide. Both the tip and base of the leaves
are rounded. Leaf veins run parallel to each other and perpendicular to the midrib. The ball-shaped,
light green fruits grow in clusters. Fruits are 2-5 cm in diameter. The skin, which turns
yellow and then brown and wrinkled when the fruit is ripe, covers the thin pulp, the shell, a corky
inner layer, and a single seed kernel. One large brown seed 2-4 cm in diameter is found in each fruit.
[from Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry]
On beaches, in mangroves, along tidal rivers, in peat swamp and keranga
forest up to 800 m altitude. On sandy soils, also on limestone. Seeds dispersed
by sea currents, fruit bats and squirrels.
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.
The seeds yield a thick, dark green tamanu oil for medicinal use or hair grease. Active ingredients in
the oil are believed to regenerate tissue, so is sought after by cosmetics manufacturers as an ingredient
in skin cremes. The nuts should be well dried before cracking, after which the oil-laden kernel should
be further dried. The first neoflavone isolated in 1951 from natural sources was calophyllolide from
Calophyllum inophyllum seeds. The leaves are also used for skin care in Papua New Guinea, New
Caledonia, and Samoa. In Fiji and Lingua the leaves are also soaked in water and used for eye
inflammations. In Cambodia, the leaves are inhaled as a treatment for migraines and vertigo. The bark
can be used as a treatment for disease-affected plants. 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 ester of Calophyllum inophyllum seed
oil meets the major biodiesel requirements in the United States, and European Union. The average oil
yield is 11.7 kg-oil/tree or 4680 kg-oil/hectare. The tree is regarded as sacred in some Pacific islands
because of its excellent growth in sandy soil as shade tree and many uses. In the northwest coastal
areas of Luzon island in Philippines, the oil was used for night lamps. It creates a relaxing aroma.
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. Bark
used to dye fish nets.
Coastal regions from Eastern Africa and Madagascar, India and Sri Lanka,
tropical Asia and Australia, western Pacific. Also introduced in the Neotropics.
Borneo: Banitangor, Dangkaan, Limpaga, Penaga, Penaga laut, Njamplung.
Burma: Ph'ong, Ponnyet.
English: Alexandrian laurel, balltree, beach calophyllum, beach touriga, beautyleaf, Borneo-mahogany,
Indian doomba oiltree, Indian-laurel, laurelwood, Poon, satin touriga, and tacamahac-tree.
France (Seychelles, Mascarene Islands): Takamaka.
Guam: Daog, Daok.
Hawaii: Kamani, Kamanu.
India: Pinnai, Pinnay, Punnai, Punna, Punnaga, Punang, Sura honne.
Philippines: Bitaog, Palo maria.
Reunion: Takamaka bord du mer.
Samoa and Tonga: Fetau.
Sri Lanka: Domba.
Tahiti and Cook Islands: Tamanu.
Vietnam: Mu u.