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Shorea robusta - Gaertn.

Common Name Sal Tree
Family Dipterocarpaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats A rare plant in China, it is gregarious in savannah woodlands at elevations below 800 metres in south-eastern Xizang[266 ]. Often the main tree in forests of Nepal at elevations up to 1,400 metres[266 ].
Range E. Asia - Indian subcontinent to south-western China[266 ].
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Shorea robusta Sal Tree


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Shorea robusta Sal Tree
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Summary

Sal Tree, Shorea robusta, is an evergreen tree growing up to 50 m in height with a cylindrical bole that can be unbranched for up to 25 m and up to 200 cm in diameter. It is native to the Indian Subcontinent and can be found in East Asia where it serves many purposes. Younger tree has an elongated crown but as the tree grows older, the crown becomes more rounded. It is moderate to slow growing, evergreen in wetter areas and dry-season deciduous in drier areas. The bark is rough and reddish brown. The leaves are oval, leathery, and taper to the tip with rounded or heartshaped base. The flowers are yellow and small, occurring in large numbers in the axils of the leaves or at the ends of branches. The fruits are oval, pale yellowish or green, hairy, comprising an oval seed. The seeds are roasted, boiled, or grounded into flour. It is also a source of sal butter, an oil used in cooking and as substitute for cocoa butter. The fruits are occasionally consumed as food. The tree is a source of lad dhuna, a whitish, aromatic, transparent resin used to caulk boats and as incense. The resin is also valued medicinally as treatment for dysentery, gonorrhea, boils, and tooth pain. The leaves are used as a poultice for swollen body parts. It is also used for making plates, cups, and as wraps. Seed oil is used for illumination and as treatment for various skin conditions. The bark is a tannin source. The wood is used in hydraulic engineering, ships and railway cars, poles, railway ties and posts, interior finishing, agricultural implements, and many other uses. It is also an important local source of fuel.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Shorea robusta is an evergreen Tree growing to 40 m (131ft) by 30 m (98ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

No synonyms are recorded for this name.

Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Seed  Oil
Edible Uses: Oil

Seed - roasted[272 ]. The seeds are boiled into a porridge with the flowers of Bassia latifolia and the fruits of Dolichos biflorus[303 ]. They can be ground into a coarse flour that is used to make bread, and the plant is used as a famine food[303 ]. A de-fatted kernel powder, popularly known as sal seed cake, contains about 50% starch, in addition to proteins, tannins and minerals. The physico-chemical property of the starch can be exploited for preparing canned food products[303 ]. The chemical composition of the seeds consists of 10.8% water, 8% protein, 62.7% carbohydrate, 14.8% oil, 1.4% fibre and 2.3% ash. The seeds are a source of 'sal butter', an oil that is used in cooking like ghee and as a substitute for cocoa butter in making chocolate[301 ]. Fruit - occasionally eaten[301 ].

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.


The resin is valued for its use in the treatment of dysentery, gonorrhoea, boils and toothaches[272 ]. The leaf juice is used in the treatment of dysentery[272 ]. The leaves are warmed and used as a poultice on areas of the body that are swollen[272 ]. They have a quick effect[272 ]. They are also applied to the stomach of children with dysentery[272 ]. The oil from the seed is used to treat skin diseases[272 ].

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Other Uses

Oil

Other Uses: When tapped, the tree exudes large quantities of a whitish, aromatic, transparent resin known as 'lal dhuna'. It is used to caulk boats and ships and as incense. In some places in the Upper Tista forests of the Darjeeling District, large pieces, often 450 - 600 cubic centimetres in size, are found in the ground at the foot of the trees[146 ]. The leaves are widely used for making plates, cups and for wrapping[272 ]. An oil obtained from the seed is used for illumination[272 ]. The bark is a source of tannins[272 ]. The heartwood is a dark, reddish brown; the thin band of sapwood whitish. The grain is strongly spiralled and rather coarsely structured. The wood is hard, heavy, very durable and highly resistant to termite attack. Seasoning can present problems. The wood is easy to saw, but because of its high resin content, it is difficult to plane and turn; it has a tendency to split when nails are driven into it. This important Indian hardwood is especially well suited for constructing structures subject to heavy stress in houses etc, it is also used in hydraulic engineering, ships and railway cars, poles, railway ties and posts, simple interior finishing such as window frames and floors, and many other applications[303 ]. For making household or agricultural implements, the coppice shoots are used[146 , 303 ]. The wood is an important local source of fuel[272 ].

Cultivation details

A plant of the tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 2,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 28 - 34°c, but can tolerate 7 - 47°c[418 ]. The plant can survive temperatures down to about -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 3,500mm, but tolerates 1,000 - 7.300mm[418 ]. There is usually a dry season of 4 - 8 months[303 ]. Prefers a position in full sun, but tolerates light shade[418 ]. Succeeds in most well-drained, fertile soils, though it prefers a moist sandy loam with good subsoil drainage[303 , 418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 6.7, tolerating 4.5 - 7.5[418 ]. Young trees grow quickly, developing a long taproot at a very young age and attaining top heights of up to 6 metres after 6 years[303 ]. Fruit and seed bearing begins around the age of 15 years, the tree then bears fruit regularly every 2 years or so, and a good seed-bearing year can be expected every 3 - 5 years[303 ]. The tree responds well to coppicing[303 ]. Rotations of 30 - 40 years are used when coppice regeneration is practised, and 80 - 160 years for high forest regeneration[303 ]. The tree is very tolerant of forest fires, usually surviving them if not too small[303 ].

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Propagation

We have no specific information for this species - the information below is a general guide for the genus. Seed - best sown as soon as possible. It does not require pre-treatment, but it is recommended to soak the seed for 12 hours prior to sowing[325 ]. The seeds are sown in seedbeds, where they are covered with a mixture of sand and soil (1:1) or with a thin layer of sawdust[325 ]. Germination of fresh seeds is usually good and rapid. About two weeks after germination, when the seedlings are 5 - 6cm tall, they are potted up into individual containers about 15 x 23cm with good drainage holes at their base[325 ]. It is normally recommended to use a mixture of forest soil and sand (at a ratio of 3:1) as the potting medium in order to introduce the appropriate mycorrhiza to the roots. The seedlings are placed in 50 - 60% sunlight and watered twice daily[325 ]. Seedlings can be planted out when 30 - 40cm tall - harden the seedlings off in full sunlight for one month prior to planting[325 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Sal, Agrath, Sakhu, Sekuva, Salwa, Shal, Ral, Gugal, Maramaram, Sagua, Sekwa, Taksal-kung, Dieng-blei, Hal-orang, Bolsal, Sakuwa, agrakh, agras, agrath, ajakarna, chandras, chhuma, chimar, dammar de l'inde, dhusin, india cop tree, jersing, jhesin, jin, kungiliyam, payin, phoksing, raal, raksi, rala, safed damar, sakhuwa, sal, sal tree, sal-träd, salan, salharzbaum, saltree, salwa, sandaras, sandras, sankhu, sava, shakgachha, shal, shala, shala tree, sisi, sosin, spos-dkar, takralakung, telladamaramu, tellaguggilarnu, vellai kundarakam, vellai kuntarakam, white damar tree.

Found In

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

Bangladesh; Bhutan; China; India; Nepal; Pakistan, Asia, Australia, Burma, Himalayas, India, Myanmar, Northeastern, SE Asia, Sikkim

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 : Status: Lower Risk/least concern

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Author

Gaertn.

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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