Characteristics of Puspa Tree (Schima wallichii) in the Wild

Schima wallichii
Puspa or Gegatelan (Schima wallichii) is a species of tree that produces medium quality wood. This tree is widely spread throughout Southeast Asia, from Nepal to Papua New Guinea.

The tree is called gegatelan because it has a layer of a kind of ‘miang’ (a type of fine hair that causes itching) under the tree, which spills out when sawed and causes itching when it comes into contact with the skin.

The species name is given in honor of N. Wallich (1786-1854), a Danish botanist who was credited with developing the Calcutta Botanical Gardens.

 
In Indonesia, the puspa tree is used as a protection in a forest containing Tusam (Pinus merkusii) and Damar (Agathis dammara) trees. Puspa trees are also planted in various other places for land reclamation and reforestation of water catchments. In northeast India, the planting of puspa trees is combined with cardamom in an agroforestry system to protect soil and water. In this country, puspa is also used as a shade tree in coffee plantations.

 

Characteristics of Puspa Leaf

Schima wallichii Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/tegar_dwi_santoso

Puspa leaves are scattered in a spiral, about 3 mm in length, oval to 6-13 × 3-5 cm wide, the base of the leaf is wedge-shaped and the tip is tapered, with jagged edges.

 

Characteristics of Puspa flower

Schima wallichii Flower
Source: flickr.com/Ahmad Fuad Morad

A single puspa flower, appears at the end of a branch, with two protective leaves, the petals remain until they become fruit. The petals are white, are attached at the base, and have many stamens.

 

Characteristics of Puspa Fruit

Schima wallichii Fruit
Source: flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

Puspa fruit is almost round box shape, 2-3 cm in diameter, opens with 5 valves, and the seeds are surrounded by wings.

 

Characteristics of Puspa Tree

Schima wallichii Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/tegar_dwi_santoso

Puspa trees are evergreen, medium to large, reaching 45-50 meters in height. The stems are round pistons, brilliantly can measure up to 2.5 meters, but usually less than that. The trunk is free of branches up to about 25 meters, the bark breaks down shallow to moderate, forming longitudinal grooves, reddish-brown to dark gray, the inside is bright red, with a layer of miang that can irritate human skin.

This tree is valued for its good quality wood as a building material for houses. Puspa wood is more suitable for use as beams and pillars than made into boards because puspa wood planks tend to bend. Puspa wood should also be used under roofs, for example as support poles, door frames, window frames, wood panels, wooden floors, tool handles, and agricultural equipment. Puspa wood is also good for making plywood, fiberboard, and (once cured) suitable for railroad bearings.

 

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