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Monday, June 6, 2011

Butea sp. : The flame of the forest

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Butea is a genus of flowering plants belonging to family Fabaceae. It is a medium sized dry season deciduous tree growing up to a height of 15m. It is slow growing tree. Young trees have a growth rate of a few feet per year. Leaves of Butea are pinnate with petioles measuring 8 to 16 cm and three leaflets each 10 to 20 cm long. Fruit of Butea is pod 15 to 20cm long and 4 to 5 cm broad. It has many species out of those popular species are B. monosperma, B. frondosa, and B. reflexa.

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Butea is named after John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713 – 1792), Member of Parliament, Prime Minister for one year, and a patron of Botany. In 1795 William Roxburgh erected the genus Butea. But the same was not accepted and was marked invalid. However, the name Butea was validated by Carl Wildenow in 1802.
In English butea is known as Flame of the Forest or Bastard Teak. It is known as Kingshukor or Palash, Tesu, or Kinsuk   in Bengali and Hindi. In Punjabi it is known as Keshu and in Gujrati it is known as Kesudo.
Butea monosperma is native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia ranging across India, Bangla Desh, Nepal, Pakistan, Srilanka, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Western Indonesia.
Economic Importance
Butea tree is used for timber, resin, fodder, medicine and dye. The gum derived from this tree is known as kamarkas in Hindi. It is used in some food dishes. It contains tannin and hence it is used by leather workers. It is astringent and is used by druggists.
The wood is durable under water. So it is used for making well-rings and scoops. Good quality charcoal can also be made from its wood. Flowers of Butea are used for making traditional Holi colours. Its leaves are traditionally used for making plates and cups in India.
·         Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
·         Butea monosperma (Lam.) Taub. Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2006-05-18.Retrieved 2009-10-24.
·         Cowen, D. V. (1984). Flowering Trees and Shrubs in India, Sixth Edition. Bombay: Thacker and Co.Ltd., p.3.

Key Words : Butea, palash, flame of the forest, leaves,
Photo Credit Image 2 and 3: flikr

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