Characteristics of Oriental Trema Tree (Trema orientalis) in the Wild

Trema orientalis
Oriental trema (Trema orientalis) is a species of flowering tree in the Cannabaceae family. This tree is native to tropical regions of southern Africa, Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia.

In Indonesia, the Trema orientalis tree is known as Mengkirai or Mengkurai, while in Africa it is called Hophout. In English-speaking countries, this tree is often called Pigeon wood, Charcoal-tree, Indian charcoal-tree, and Oriental trema.


Oriental trema has various uses as herbal medicine in various cultures. The leaves and papaya are used to treat coughs, sore throats, asthma, bronchitis, gonorrhea, yellow fever, toothache, and as an antidote to poisoning. The bark decoction is reportedly drunk to control dysentery and a decoction of the leaves is used to treat intestinal worms in dogs.

In a recent pharmacological study, an aqueous extract of the bark of Trema orientalis has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in an experimental animal model of diabetes mellitus and may be useful for treating this disease.

The oriental trema tree has a high ecological impact with at least 14 species of butterflies utilizing this tree as food for their larvae. Some bird species eat fruit or eat the abundant insects that live on this tree. Pigeons often nest in this tree where they also eat the fruit. The fresh leaves are also used as feed for cattle, buffalo, and goats in the Philippines.

The oriental trema tree is fast growing and is sometimes found growing in damaged and polluted soil. This tree is a pioneer species that can grow in poor soil and can be used to regenerate former mining forest areas. Oriental trema is also a good nitrogen fixer and thus can increase soil fertility for other trees.


Characteristics of Oriental Trema Leaf

Trema orientalis Leaf

The leaves are simple, criss-cross, and usually 3rd nerve from the base. It is a little difficult to distinguish the leaves from those of Celtis africana, but they are usually larger and elongated. The leaves are tapered from base to apex and vary from 6-15 cm long and 2.5-5 cm wide. The edges of the leaves are finely serrated, the young leaves are rough and hairy, sometimes becoming smooth when they are old.


Characteristics of Oriental Trema Flower

Trema orientalis Flower

The flowers are small, inconspicuous, and greenish, and appear in short dense bunches. They are usually unisexual, that is, the male and female are separate, sometimes they are found together. Flowers appear irregularly and often appear throughout the year.


Characteristics of Oriental Trema Fruit

Trema orientalis Fruit

The fruit is small, round, green, and turns black when ripe. They have very short stalks. The fruit stalk is the only way to distinguish this tree from Celtis africana.


Characteristics of Oriental Trema Tree

Trema orientalis Tree

This tree can grow to a height of 20 meters in the higher rainfall areas of eastern and northern South Africa. Oriental trema can grow in a variety of habitats and is usually found in moist soil at the edges of forests, and often in riverbank scrub, as well as along dry rivers.

The skin of the trema is smooth, light gray, and with conspicuous lenticels (freckles). The wood is relatively soft, light, slightly stringy, pink in color, flammable, and burns quickly when dry. The oriental trema wood is suitable for paper and pulp production, it produces paper with good tensile strength and folding resistance. The bark can be used to make string or rope and is used as a water-resistant fishing line. In India and Tanzania, wood is used to make charcoal and is a good fire starter.



Oriental trema is easy to grow from seed, the seeds are easy to germinate and the growth is fast. Fresh seeds germinate in a few weeks, and seedlings should be stored in a damp, shaded environment.

Cuttings may work but have not been tried in the nursery.


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