Schleichera oleosa (Lour.)Oken, Allg. Naturgesch. Bot. 2: 1341 (1841)

Name meaning 'oily', i.e. seeds of the plant are rich in (kusum) oil.

Cussambium Rumph.
Cussambium glabrum Ham.
Cussambium oleosum O. Kuntze
Cussambium spinosum Ham.
Melicocca trijuga Juss.
Pistacia oleosa Lour.
Schleichera aculeata Kostel.
Schleichera trijuga Willd.
Stadmannia trijuga Spreng.


Tree, up to 40 m high, dbh up to 2 m, but usually much less; (with slight buttresses), the bole usually crooked. Branches terete, striate, 2-5(-8) mm diam., black when young, later yellowish brown to ashy; young parts sparsely, shortly fulvous-sericeous and with sessile glands. Leaves (2- or) 3- (or 4-)jugate; axial parts usually early glabrescent; young leaves deep purple; petiole terete to more or less flattened or slightly grooved above, 2-6(- 8) cm long, pulvinate; rachis terete to 3-angular; petiolules swollen, slightly grooved above, 1-3 mm long. Leaflets elliptic to obovate. 4.5-18.5(-25) by 2.5-9 cm, chartaceous to coriaceous, dark brown or greyish green above, medium brown to greenish beneath, (sub)glabrous; base subacute to cuneate, often oblique; margin entire to repandous; apex obtuse or emarginate (to shortly acuminate); nerves 12-15 or more per side, straight to slightly curved, looped and joined near the margin with the exception of the lower ones; intersecondary nerves often more or less strongly developed; reticulation fine, dense, prominulous on both surfaces. Inflorescences 6-15 cm long, sparsely hairy. Flowers pale yellow or pale green. Sepal lobes ovate to deltoid, c. 1.5 mm high, obtuse to acute, thin-hairy on both sides, the margin ciliate (and glandular), deciduous in fruit. Stamens: filaments c. 2 mm long, sparsely hairy; anthers broad-elliptic, c. 0.75 mm long, slightly emarginate at apex. Pisil strongly reduced in male flowers; ovary ovoid, slightly 3- angular and indistinctly 3-sulcate, c. 1.25 mm long; style rather thick, 1.25-1.5 mm long. Fruits broadovoid to subglobular, c. 15 by 13 mm when 1-seeded, or transversely ellipsoid, slightly flattened, somewhat bilobed, 17-20 by c. 18 by 14 mm when 2-seeded, narrowed at base, pointed at apex, granular, yellow. Seeds subglobular. c. 12 by 10 by 8 mm; hilum orbicular; testa dull medium-brown, smooth and glabrous; arillode yellow and subacid. [from Flora Malesiana]

Requires 750-2500 mm annual rainfall and a dry season, which explains its absence from western Malesia. It tolerates absolute maximum temperatures of 35-47.5 degrees C and absolute minimum temperatures of -2.5 degrees C. In Java, it occurs usually at low altitudes, but can be found up to 900(-1200) m. It occurs spontaneously in dry, mixed deciduous forest and savanna with only scattered trees, sometimes gregariously. In Java, it is found in areas with natural teak forest. It grows on rather dry to occasionally swampy locations on various, often rocky, gravelly or loamy, well drained, preferably slightly acid soils. It is fire-resistant. Seedlings are frost sensitive and light-demanding. Deciduous, but completely leafless during a few days only. The seeds are eaten by mammals (probably mainly Viverridae) and birds; furthermore, secondary dispersal would be by termites.

It has many important uses. The wood is suitable as firewood and makes excellent charcoal; the pinkish-brown heartwood is very hard and durable, excellent to make pestles, cartwheels, axles, ploughs, tool handles, and rollers of sugar mills and oil presses. Oil extracted from the seed, called 'kusum oil', is a valuable component of true Macassar oil used in hairdressing; it is also used for culinary and lighting purposes and in traditional medicine it is applied to cure itching, acne and other skin afflictions. Unguents are made of the harder fraction of the oil. In Madura and Java the oil is used in the batik industry, and in southern India as a cooling bath oil. The pleasantly acid arillodes of the ripe seeds are eaten, whereas immature fruit is pickled. Cooked young leaves make a side dish. Powdered seeds are applied to wounds and ulcers of cattle to remove maggots. A dye is obtained from the bark. The bark contains tannin and is astringent and used against skin inflammations and ulcers, while an infusion is taken against malaria. It used to be utilised occasionally for tanning leather. Leaves, twigs and seed-cake are used to feed cattle. In India it is used as host for the lac insect (Laccifer lacca). The product is called kusum lac and is the best in quality and in yield. In Central India, it is much planted as a wayside tree.

Occurs naturally from the foothills of the Himalayas and the western Deccan to Sri Lanka and Indo-China. It was probably introduced to Malesia and has naturalized in Indonesia (Java, the Lesser Sunda Islands (Bali and Nusa Tenggara), Sulawesi, the Moluccas, Ceram and the Kai Islands). It is occasionally cultivated throughout the tropics, especially in India.

Local names
Cambodia: pongro.
English: Macassar oil tree, gum-lac tree, Ceylon oak.
French: Qennettier-rose, pongro.
Indonesia: kosambi (Javanese), kasambi (Sundanese).
Laos: (do:k) phen (Spire).
Malaysia: kusambi.
Thailand: machok (northern), takhro (north-eastern).
Vietnam: c[oj] ph[ef]n, c[aa]y van rao, pongro.