(Last Updated on : 06-07-2013)
The noble 'Alexandrian Laurel Tree' has an evergreen shelter of rich green foliage and it can be found in most of the coastal districts of India. The name of its family is 'Gutteriferae'. The tree is known as 'Calophyllum Inophyllum' in science. The name 'Calophyllum' that came from the Greek language means "beautiful-leaved" and 'Inophyllum' means "having leaves with pronounced veins" that refers to the undersides of the leaves. It has several names in the languages of Bengali
. In Bengali, it is known as 'Kath Champa', 'Sultana Champa' and 'Punnag'. In Hindi, it is called as 'Sultana champa', 'Surpan', 'Undi' or 'Surpunka'. It is 'Pinnai' and 'Punnagam' in Tamil and 'Pinna' or 'Dherupunna' in Malayalam
In India, the 'Alexandrian Laurel Tree' is a very popular one as it is suitable to be used for roadside and avenue planting in spite of being very slow growing. It can attain the height of 21 m. and spreads its coiling branches from low on the trunk. The bark of this wonderful tree is usually silky and dark grey and brown in colour. The thick and oval leaves of the tree can very easily remind you about those of Magnolia. They are smooth and refined with noticeable pale mid-rib. Their matching veins are so excellent and close that one can very hardly visit them from above. Comparing this rich and dark green colour, the clusters that bear fragrant and white flowers stand out outstandingly.
The flowers have four petals and a large number of yellow coloured stamens. The stamens remain grouped in four different bundles. The anthers of the 'Alexandrian Laurel Tree' change their colour from deep yellow through khaki and eventually they become brown. Both the male and neutral flowers grow together in this tree. However, amongst them, only the hermaphrodite flowers contain an ovary that is more like a bright pink ball. When the petals drop out, it remains left at the end of the white stem. The flowering period of this tree is during the months of May and June and in some special occasions, they flower again in the month of November. The circular fruits follow them. The tree generally generates from seed.
The fruits are greenish yellow in colour and their skin is very smooth. People can easily found them floating in the sea or on the shore. Oil, which was used by the people in the past as a fuel can be extracted from them. This oil is named as 'Pinnai' or 'Dilo' oil. The oil is highly aromatic and dark green in colour. It is suitable to be employed as a remedy for rheumatism, ulcers and other skin diseases. The timber of the 'Alexandrian Laurel Tree' is closely grained and durable. People use this wood for making boats, railway sleepers and also as plywood. As the wood is of a rich and reddish-brown colour, it is perfectly suitable for making cabinets.