Saraca asoca (Roxb.) Wilde

Saraca asoca (Roxb.) Wilde  (CAESALPINIACEAE)
Common names

Kannada: Ashokada mara.
Malayalam: Asoka, Asokam, Hema pushpam.
Tamil & Telugu: Asogam, Asoka.

Description:  Small trees, 10-12 m tall. Leaves even-pinnate; rachis 10-25 cm long; leaflets 3-6 pairs, oblong or oblong-lanceolate, 13-23 x 5-8 cm, acute or rounded at base, acute to acuminate obtuse at apex; coriaceous. Stipules connate, intrapetiolar. Flowers in axillary, often lateral, 5 cm long, 10 cm broad, dense corymbose panicles, showy, yellow, orange or red. Bracteoles erect, embracing the calyx tube, longer than bract. Calyx 4-lobed, lobes 1 x 0.5 cm, spreading, orange-red, tube 1.5 – 2 cm long. Petals 0. Stamens 6-8, usually 7; filaments slender; anthers oblong. Ovary linear; ovules 4 or more; style coiled; stigma capitate. Fruit a dehiscing flat pod, oblong, 5-15 x 2.5 cm, coriaceous or almost woody, shorly apiculate. Seeds obovate-orbicular, compressed.

Flowering : December – January.
Fruiting : May – July.

Distribution: Indomalasia. Frequent in moist deciduous forests of the Western Ghats. Often cultivated.

Uses: Pods are reported to make a very good forage for cattle. It is frequently grown as an ornamental and avenue tree. The plant is one of the most sacred trees of the Hindus and Buddhists, the flowers being much used for religious ceremonies and temple decorations. Bark astringent, antibilious, uterine sedative, used in leucorrhoea, menorrhagia and other menstrual disorders, in haemorrhoid, dyspepsia, colic, pimples; bark and flower antibilious, used in haemorrhagic dysentery; leaf blood purifier, used in stomach-ache; flower uterine tonic, antidiabetic, antisyphilitic; seed used in urinary discharges. In Ayurveda the bark is used in worm infestation, polyuria, fever, leprosy and gynaecological disorders. The well-known Ayurvedic preparations are “Ashokarishta” and “Ashokaghrita”. The former is prescribed in leucorrhoea, haematuria, menorrhagia and other diseases of genitor-uterine system of females.