Characteristics of Ceylon Ironwood Tree (Mesua ferrea) in the Wild

Mesua ferrea
Ceylon ironwood or Indian rose chestnut (Mesua ferrea) is a tree species belonging to the Clusiaceae tribe whose wood is of high economic value. This tree is native to Sri Lanka and is the country’s national tree.

Apart from Sri Lanka, Ceylon ironwood is also cultivated in Assam, Nepal, and Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, this tree is known as Nagasari or Dewadaru, and for people who believe in superstition, Ceylon ironwood is considered a sacred tree.

Ceylon ironwood has dense, heavy, and hardwood (hence the name is often confused with ironwood). In trade literature, Ceylon ironwood is known as Cobra saffron.



Because the wood is very strong and heavy, Ceylon ironwood wood is used as rail bearings or magnificent buildings with strong structures, luxury furniture, and musical instruments.

The resinous sap is somewhat toxic, but some parts of it have medicinal properties.

The fruit is an alternative and stimulant, fruit paste is usually applied to boils.

A paste made from Nagasari flowers is used in the treatment of amoebic dysentery.

The decoction of the flowers is drunk by women after giving birth. However, studies have shown that Ceylon ironwood flowers exhibit antibacterial activity. In laboratory tests, flower extract from the Ceylon ironwood tree can stop pregnancy (not suitable for someone pregnant) and result in less implantation in mice.



In Theravada Buddhism, the Ceylon ironwood tree is said to have been used as a tree to attain enlightenment, or Bodhi by four Buddhas called Mangala – මංගල, Sumana – සුමන, Revatha – රේවත, danSobhitha – සෝභිත.

Ceylon ironwood may be descended from trees grown as ornamentals in monasteries in ancient times during the Anuradhapura period. Older trees form suckers or shoots from the base of the trunk, which becomes new trees when the old trunk falls, hence the base and roots of some Ceylon ironwood trees such as at ancient sites Na Uyana Aranya, Namal Uyana, Na-golla Aranya, Pidurangala, Kaludiya Pokuna, and Ritigala are probably very old.


Characteristics of Ceylon Ironwood Leaf

Mesua ferrea Leaf

The leaves are single, narrow, elongated (can reach 15 cm), dark green, and slightly whitish underside, the young leaves are limp, red to yellowish pink.


Characteristics of Ceylon Ironwood Flower

Mesua ferrea Flower

White flowers, large, 4-7.5 cm in diameter, fragrant, with four petals and many stamens in the middle.


Characteristics of Ceylon Ironwood Fruit

Mesua ferrea Fruit

The fruit is ovoid to spherical capsule with one to two seeds.


Characteristics of Ceylon Ironwood Tree

Mesua ferrea Tree
Source: Yi Shuen

Ceylon ironwood trees can grow to a height of 30 meters, with the base of the lower trunk 2 meters in diameter. In its native Sri Lanka habitat, Ceylon ironwood can grow in areas up to 1,000 m asl, where it grows in evergreen forests, especially in river valleys.

The bark of younger trees is gray with flaking, whereas the bark of older trees is dark gray with light red-brown.


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