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Fagraea fragrans - Roxb.

Common Name Ironwood, Tembusu
Family Gentianaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Skin rashes may develop when handling green logs with bark on[ 316 ].
Habitats Light primary and secondary forest in humid or seasonally inundated locations, avoiding stagnant water. In freshwater-swamp forest, found in association with Melaleuca spp. Also occurs naturally as a pioneer in burnt-over areas and lalang grassland[ 303
Range E. Asia - India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, Indo-China, Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Wet Soil Full sun
Fagraea fragrans Ironwood, Tembusu

Fagraea fragrans Ironwood, Tembusu
Mokkie - wikimedia.org


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Fagraea fragrans or commonly known as Ironwood or Tembusu is a large evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia. The trunk is dark brown and deeply fissured. The leaves are oval and light green in colour. The flowers are yellowish with distinct fragrance. The fruits are bitter, red berries. Ironwood grows up to 25 m tall with a straight, cylindrical bole of up to 150 cm in diameter. It yields a high quality timber, and an excellent fuel and charcoal. When established, it is moderately tolerant to drought. Bark decoction is used as a febrifuge to treat conditions such as malaria. On the other hand, decoction of twigs and leaves is used for dysentery and severe diarrhoea. The skin of the fruits yields latex which can be used as an adhesive. The wood is used for posts and piles, bridges and ships, chopping blocks, furniture, cabinet work, etc.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Fagraea fragrans is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Insects, Birds, Bats.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Fagraea cochinchinensis A.Chev. Fagraea gigantea Ridl. Fagraea sororia J.J.Smith Fagraea wallichiana

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

The root may be edible.

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.
Antidiarrhoeal  Dysentery  Febrifuge  Malaria

A decoction of the bark is used as a febrifuge to treat conditions such as malaria[ 303 , 451 , 598 ]. A decoction of twigs and leaves is used to control dysentery and severe diarrhoea[ 303 , 598 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Adhesive  Charcoal  Fuel  Latex  Pioneer  Soil stabilization  Wood

Street tree, Public open space, Specimen in large garden, Bonsai. Agroforestry Uses: The tree is used for reforestation purposes, at least partly due to its ability to suppress the dense cover of weeds, including Imperata cylindrica and Gleichenia linearis[ 303 , 404 ]. It is planted in some regions to control soil erosion[ 307 ]. It occurs naturally as a pioneer in burnt-over areas and poor sites such as alang alang (Imperata cylindrica) grassland[ 303 , 325 ]. Other Uses The latex found under the skin of the fruits is often used as an adhesive[ 451 ]. The heartwood is light yellowish brown, the sapwood light yellow with an unpleasant smell[ 325 ]. The wood is medium-weight, hard and very durable[ 325 , 404 , 451 ]. This species is the main source of tembesu timber, considered to yield first-class turnery timber[ 303 ]. The nailing properties are good. The wood can be peeled into a 1.5 mm thick veneer at a 90° peeling angle without pre-treatment with good results[ 303 ]. This valuable and durable timber is used both as sawn wood as well as round wood for posts and piles in the construction of houses, bridges and ships, and for railway sleepers, posts for electric and telephone lines, barrels, chopping blocks, furniture, cabinetwork, door and windows sills and wood carvings[ 303 ]. The wood yields a very high-quality fuel wood and charcoal[ 303 ].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Coppice  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the wet, lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 400 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20° - 30°c, but can tolerate 10° - 36°c[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 2,000 - 3,000mm, but tolerates 1,000 - 4,000mm[ 418 ]. Grows best in a sunny position[ 418 ]. Thrives in well-drained to swampy, periodically inundated habitats, occasionally even on permanently inundated localities, often along rivers or creeks[ 303 ]. It can succeed on poor or degraded soils so long as they are well-drained, and even in lalang (Imperata cylindrica) grasslands, where it suppresses this noxious grass[ 303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 6, tolerating 4.5 - 6.5[ 418 ]. Established plants are moderately drought tolerant[ 307 ]. Considered a useful plantation species, as it is adaptable and hardy[ 303 ]. The corky bark gives it some resistance to fire - an 8-year-old plantation in Alang Alang grassland suffered no damage from a passing fire[ 303 ]. The lower branches are very persistent and pruning these promotes height growth[ 303 ]. Trees coppice freely; locally, trees may often be pollarded for poles[ 303 ]. Large trees are frequently hollow[ 303 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - it has quite a long viability. When sown fresh it has a viability of 65 - 80% and germinates in 15 - 60 days or more[ 303 ]. The very fine seed should be mixed with fine sand and sown under light shade[ 303 ]. It needs protection from ants[ 303 ]. Watering should be done by spraying gently so as not to disturb the seed[ 303 ]. The seedlings can be transplanted to open nursery beds or containers after 2 months, when 5 - 7 cm tall, and they can be planted out in the field when 30 - 45 cm high with adhering soil clump[ 303 ]. The seed has an initial viability of 80%, which reduces to 65% after being stored for 3 months in air-tight containers[ 303 ]. Seeds can be stored for 6 months, but they lose their viability very soon when kept inside the fruit[ 303 ]. The fruit should be macerated by hand to extract the seeds, which should then be washed and dried[ 303 ]. Allowing the seed to ripen for 1 month after collection is reported, but immediate sowing also gives good results[ 303 ]. The whole berry can also be sown, but then seedlings do not appear until after 6 weeks[ 303 ]. Root suckers are an easy method of propagation[ 303 ]. Cuttings with several internodes taken from the branches of mature trees failed to root, but when taken from coppice shoots they rooted successfully[ 303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Ananma, Buabua, Kan krao, Munpla, Tatrao, Temasuk, Tembesu, Trai, Urung,

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Asia, Australia, Burma, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Myanmar, SE Asia, Singapore, Thailand, 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.

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

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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