Ceylon ironwood: Useful and graceful tree
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Mesua ferrea or known as penaga lilin, Ceylon ironwood, Indian rose chestnut, or cobra’s saffron, belongs to the family Calophyllaceae. The tree is native to Sri Lanka, India, southern Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Indochina, the Philippines, Malaysia and Sumatra. It grows in evergreen forests, especially in river valleys. In the Himalayas and India the tree can grow at up to 1500 m altitude and at up to 1000 m altitude in Sri Lanka. As the name “ironwood” indicates, the wood of this tree is very heavy, hard and strong, deep dark red in colour. The flowers, leaves, seeds and roots have medicinal properties and are used as herbal medicines in India, Malaysia and other places. The stamens yield the drug known as nagakesara. The seeds and heartwood contain anti-inflammatory properties. Volatile oil from the flowers showed antibacterial activities and it is used to cure cough and indigestion. The oil from the seeds exhibited antifungal activity against a number of pathogenic fungi and is used as cure for skin ailments. Mesua ferrea is the national tree of Sri Lanka. It is widely cultivated in Asia as an ornamental due to its graceful shape. The grayish-green waxy, foliage with a beautiful pink to red flush of drooping young leaves. The flowers are large, fragrant, and white and yellow in colour. Two penaga lilin trees can be seen flushing its red shoots on the right of Jalan Foxworthy before the junction to Jalan Jelutong, and on the left before the Auditorium building.

Since the beginning of April 2014, flowering trees of Mesua ferrea can be seen near D6 and D13 building.

Article by Noor Azlin Y. First uploaded on 12 February 2013. The weekly weather was cloudy with temperature ranging from 24°C to 33°C. Updated on 4 April 2014. The weekly weather was mostly cloudy and rainy, 30°C to 34°C.