Characteristics of Heart Leaf Tree (Macaranga tanarius) in the Wild

Macaranga tanarius
Heart leaf tree or Parasol leaf tree (Macaranga tanarius) is a tree that makes up secondary forests that produce light wood for making boards, firewood, as well as traditional medicinal ingredients.

In Indonesia, Heart leaf tree is known by names such as Mara, Madau, Samè, Karahan, Tutup ancur, Totop lakèk, Dahan, Hanuwa, Hinan, Lama, Lingkobong, and Singkobong. While internationally known as Heart leaf, Parasol leaf tree, Blush macaranga, Nasturtium tree, and David’s heart.

The heart leaf tree is found in Southeast Asia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and eastern Australia. The tree is very easy to spot because of its round, heart-shaped leaves. In Australia, the Heart leaf tree grows naturally from the Richmond River, New South Wales to Cooktown in tropical Queensland. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, almost all riverbanks and vacant land are covered with this tree. Generally, Heart leaf tree grows from the lowlands to 1400 m asl.

Heart leaf tree grows well in thickets, edges of disturbed primary forest, or near a brackish forest. This tree can grow in various types of soil such as mud soil, limestone soil, rocky soil, and coral sand soil.

In Japan, the Heart leaf tree is widely grown in the Ryukyu Islands, except in the Daitō Islands, then distributed outside Japan such as southern China, Taiwan, to Malaysia.


Heart leaf tree wood has a durability class III. It has a fairly good value and is commonly traded as a building material, especially for light construction such as casting processes.

Local Indonesians use Heart leaf tree wood for building houses, household appliances, and making tool handles.

A decoction of the bark of the Heart leaf tree is used as a medicine for bloody stools as well as for treatment in curing drunken people by mixing other ingredients and is sometimes used in making palm wine. The root of the Heart leaf tree is used for fever medicine.

The tannins obtained from the bark of the Heart leaf tree are used for tanning fishing nets and painting. It is also possible to color the mats black. The trick is to peel the bark, boil it in water, insert the net thread, and boil it two or three times. Or for painting, usually boiled together with turmeric and grated coconut. A net that uses mara as its tanner, will certainly withstand seawater.

Heart leaf tree is often confused with Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) because of its similar leaves. However it can be distinguished, the leaves of the Sea Hibiscus are split near the base and are more like a heart, the flowers are also different from the Heart leaf tree.


Characteristics of Heart Leaf Tree

Macaranga tanarius Leaf

Leaves alternate, heart-shaped slightly rounded, 8-35 cm long, grayish or white on the underside. It has prominent petioles 8-20 cm long. Nine main veins radiate from the petiole, easily visible on the upper and lower sides of the leaf.


Characteristics of Heart Leaf Tree Flower

Macaranga tanarius Flower

Flowers 0.5 mm in diameter, yellowish-green, growing in groups in protective leaves contained in hairy panicles. The female and male flowers grow on different trees.


Characteristics of Heart Leaf Tree Fruit

Macaranga tanarius Fruit

The fruit is about 1 cm in diameter, purple-yellow in color, 2-stemmed, and includes a true dehiscent box fruit, which is round and paired and has spines. Inside the seed, there is a black seed coat.


Characteristics of Heart Leaf Tree

Macaranga tanarius Tree

Heart leaf tree grows as a medium-sized tree, reaching 20-25 meters in height, with a branch-free trunk of 10-15 meters. This tree is classified as an understory tree that grows under the forest canopy. The diameter of the mara stem reaches 60 cm and does not have buttresses. The bark is slightly gray or light brown, hairy when growing in the lowlands or bares as if growing in the mountains. The branches are smooth, gray with prominent leaf scars.

Heart leaf tree is very suitable to be planted as a reforestation tree because it can live in various types of soil and is long drought resistant.


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