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Mesua ferrea - L.

Common Name Surli nut, Poached Egg Tree
Family Clusiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards There is some concern about the safety of the flowers. In laboratory tests extracts of the flowers terminated the pregnancy or resulted in lack of implantation in rats[303 ]. Toxic resin.
Habitats Canopy tree in lowland evergreen forest on level or undulating land, usually along streams but also on ridges with shallow soils, sea-level up to 500 metres[303 ]. Also an understorey tree in montane evergreen or semi-evergreen forest[303 ].
Range E. Asia - India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Mesua ferrea Surli nut, Poached Egg Tree

Mesua ferrea Surli nut, Poached Egg Tree
wikimedia.org / Vinayaraj


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An attractive, neat, dense, conical shaped evergreen tree. Considered sacred in India with fragrant blooms picked for offerings. Often planted near temples.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Mesua ferrea is an evergreen Tree growing to 18 m (59ft) by 18 m (59ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bee, Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Calophyllum nagassarium Burm.f. Mesua coromandeliana Wight Mesua nagana Gardn. Mesua nagassarium (Burm.f.) Kosterm. Mesua pedunculata Wight Mesua pulchella Planch. & Triana Mesua roxburghii Wight Mesua salicina Planch. & Triana Mesua sclerophylla Thwaites Mesua speciosa Choisy in DC. Mesua walkeriana Planch. & Triana

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

The seeds, known as 'surli nuts' are edible[317 ]. They need to be well-cooked[301 ]. They contain up to 76% oil[317 ]. The fruit is wrinkled when ripe, resembling a chestnut (Castanea spp) in size, shape and taste[301 ]. Young leaves - raw[301 ]. A sourish, astringent flavour[301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

A mixture of pounded kernels and seed oil is used for poulticing wounds[303 ]. The seed-oil is used for treating itch, scabies and other skin eruptions, dandruff and rheumatism[272 , 303 ]. The fruit is alterative and stimulant[272 ]. A paste of the fruit is applied to boils[272 ]. The flowers are astringent and stomachic[272 ]. A paste made from the flowers is used in the treatment of amoebic dysentery[272 ]. A decoction of the flowers is drunk by women after childbirth[303 ]. Qurs-e-Habis is a traditional medicine consisting of the stamens of this plant combined with the seeds of Wrightia tinctoria and the shells of pearl oysters (Pinctada margaritifera)[303 ]. It is used as a haemostatic, antidysenteric and antidiarrhoeal[303 ]. Research has shown that the flowers exhibit antibacterial activity[303 ]. In laboratory tests, extracts of the flowers terminated the pregnancy or resulted in lack of implantation in rats[303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Design: Small street tree; small flowering tree; specimen tree; Large planter or pot; Accent; Bonsai. Agroforestry Uses: The tree gives a dense shade and is an important shade provider in its distribution range[303 ]. It is considered suitable for underplanting in teak plantations[303 ]. Other Uses: The seeds yield up to 79% of a yellowish oil, which is inedible but is used industrially[266 , 303 ]. The oil contains linoleic, oleic, stearic, and arachidic acids[303 ]. It is used as a fuel for lighting[272 ]. The flowers are used in dyeing for fixed colours[303 ]. The fragrant flowers are used to stuff pillows and cushions and are also an ingredient of cosmetic products[303 ]. The heartwood is reddish-brown with a purple tinge when fresh, becoming dark red-brown upon exposure[303 ]. The wood is moderately durable; resistant to termites and insects; heavy and very hard, often blunting saws[303 ]. The wood is used for heavy construction (posts, beams, rafters, joists, columns) and heavy duty flooring and furniture[303 ]. It is also used for joinery, cabinet work, tool handles, agricultural implements, vehicles and boat building[303 ]. Used as firewood[303 ]. Resin from the bark is used to make varnish. This is a honey plant.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Oil

A plant of the moist to wet tropics, where it is found at elevations from 60 - 1,500 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 30 - 35°c, but can tolerate 4 - 45°c[418 ]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -2°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 3,000 - 4,000mm, but tolerates 2,000 - 5,100mm[418 ]. Young plants are quire shade tolerant, but gradually become more light-demanding as they grow larger[598 ]. Requires a fairly rich, well drained soil[303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 5.5, tolerating 4.3 - 6.9[418 ]. The tree grows very slowly and is not popular for plantations[303 ]. The plant starts producing fertile seeds when it is about 15 - 20 years old[418 ]. Its logs sink in water and should be either rafted to lighter logs or transported by road[303 ]. Endomycorrhizal associations, which fix atmospheric nitrogen, are reported in this species[303 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Oil  (0-15 percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Some of these are consumed whole while others are exclusively pressed for oil. Annuals include canola, poppyseed, maize, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut. Perennials include high-oil fruits, seeds, and nuts, such as olive, coconut, avocado, oil palm, shea, pecan, and macadamia. Some perennial oil crops are consumed whole as fruits and nuts, while others are exclusively pressed for oil (and some are used fresh and for oil).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - easy to handle in the nursery with a germination that is good and rapid[303 ]. Seedling germination is hypogeal. Germination rates are in the 30 - 70% range, however, record germination rates of 75 - 90% in 11 - 24 days have been achieved[303 ]. The seed loses its viability quickly, within 2 - 3 months[303 ]. Container raised seedlings are the best planting stock and should be planted preferably in fairly rich and well drained sites under suitable shade[303 ]. Seedlings are planted in the field after one year when they are about 30 cm tall or after 2 years when they are about 75 cm tall[303 ]. Vegetative propagation by means of cuttings is not promising[303 ] - misting may help.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Mesua. Indian rose chestnut, Bosneak, Bun nak, Bun-naak, Changkok, Dieng-ngai, Gangane, Gangaw, Ironwood, Irul, Kawtanok, Kesaramu, Lenggapus, Mai-kam-kaw, Mai-ting, Matopus, Mentepus, Mesua, Na, Nag champa, Naga sari, Nagacesara, Nagachambagam, Nagachampakamu, Nagakeshara, Nagasampige, Nagasari, Nagchampa, Nagesar, Nageswar, Nagkesar, Nagkesara, Nahor, Nak but, Nanga, Nangal, Nangu, Ngai-ching, Penaga lilin, Penaga puteh, Penaga sabut, Penaga suga, Penaga, Penga kunyit, Peri, Poached egg tree, Pohon nagasari, Tapis, Vap, Veluthapala

Andamans, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Himalayas, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, PNG, SE Asia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, USA, Vietnam

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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