Botanical Name : Sterculia urens Roxb.

Family : Sterculiaceae (Cacao family)

Introduction :

Gum karaya is a medium-sized, deciduous tree to 15 m in height, usually with a clean, crooked, short bole up to 2 m DBH; branches large, spreading; bark thick, greyish-white or reddish, smooth, shining with a thin, white transparent outer coat, peeling off in papery flakes. Leaves on long petioles, crowded at the ends of branches, palmately 5-lobed, 20-30 cm diameter; tomentose beneath, glabrous above, entire, acuminate; stipules caducous. Flowers greenish yellow, small, in terminal panicles; follicles 4-6, ovoid-oblong, about 2.5 cm diameter, coriaceous, red, covered with stinging hairs. Infact, the specific name urens means stinging in reference to the hairs on flowers. Fruit consists of 5 sessile, radiating, ovate-lanceolate hard, coriaceous carpels, 7.5 cm long, red when ripe, covered outside with many stiff bristles. Trees exude gum karaya used in foodstuffs as emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners. Seeds are eaten after roasting. Seeds and young tender roots are eaten in times of famine.

Names in different Indian languages :

Assamese : Odla

English : Kulu, Kateera-gum, Indian-tragacanth, Gum Karaya, Katira, Sterculia gum

Gujarati : Kogdol

Hin : Gular

Hindi : Katira, Karaya, Gulu, Kulu

Kannada : Pinari, Kendale, Kempudale

Konkani : Pandrukh

Malayalam : Annanvazhukki, Thondi, Theethondi, Annaanvazhukki, Paravakka, Thonti, Kithondi, Thiiththonti

Marathi : Kawali, Kandol

Oriya : Gudalo

Rajasthani : Katila

Tamil : Senthanukku, Vellai-puthali, Centanakku, Senthalamaram, Kutiraippitukkan, Kavalam

Telugu : Tapasi Chettu

Distribution & Habitats :     

Throughout India except Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram.

Synonyms :

Cavallium urens (Roxb.) Schott & Endl.

Clompanus urens (Roxb.) Kuntze

Kavalama urens (Roxb.) Rafin.

Morphology :

Tree Type: Deciduous

Canopy: Dense

Leaf Type: Hulchi like

Flower: In terminal panicles; foetid. Flowering from December-March.

Fruit: A follicle, 4 or 5 lobed; lobes ovoid-oblong with ferruginous stiff-hairs, red turning green. Fruiting March onwards.

Field tips: Bark papery and smooth, grey with white patches. Wood very soft, pith with red resin canals.

Leaf Arrangement: Alternate-distichous

Leaf Type: Palmate

Leaf Shape: Palmate

Leaf Apex: Caudate acuminate

Leaf Base: Cordate

Leaf Margin: Entire

Uses :

The gum is used as a bulk laxative. It is not absorbed by the body, but swells up inside the gut to provide a bulk of material that gently stimulates peristalsis. The gum is also used to treat throat infections.

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