Cassia fistula

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Cassia fistula

Description

Deciduous or semideciduous tree, 10-15 m tall, rarely more; young twigs glabrous, branches spreading. Leaves with 3-7 pairs of leaflets; stipules deltoid, acute, 1-2 mm long, tardily caducous, subglabrous; petiole terete, 5-8 cm long, glabrous; rachis 10-30 cm long, terete. Flowers on slender, glabrous pedicels, 3-3.5 cm long. Sepals ovate-elliptic, velutinous outside, 7-10 mm long. Petals golden-yellow, broadly ovate, subequal, 30-35 by 10-15 cm, shortly clawed. Stamens 10: 3 long with filaments 3-4 cm, anthers 5 mm long, opening by apical and basal slits; 4 shorter with filaments 6-10 mm; anthers opening by a basal pore; reduced stamens 3 with filaments 3-4 mm and minute anthers. Ovary stipitate, strigulose, style velutinous; stigma small. Seeds numerous, separated by chartaceous septa and embedded in a glutinous, black pulp, glossy brown, smooth, elliptic, flattened, 8-9 by 5-6 mm.

Distribution

Asia-Temperate, Asia-Tropical: India present; Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia present); Philippines (Philippines present), Burma present, Ceylon present, N Thailand present, New World present, tropics present
Probably native of India and Ceylon and perhaps in Burma and N Thailand, now widespread in the tropics, also in the New World. De Wit (I.e.) discusses in detail whether it is native in the Malesian area and compares the distribution with that of the other monsoon species as, e.g., Bauhinia viridescens, B. malabarica, B. pottsii, Cassia javanica and Tectona grandis, all bicentric in their distribution, avoiding the humid tropics; this points towards a relict distribution pattern. It is thus possible that C. fistula is indigenous to the monsoon part of Indonesia. It is most certainly introduced to the Malay Peninsula and the Philippines It has since long been introduced to China

Taxonomy

Cassia fistula forms hybrids with C. javanica (see also under that species).

Uses

Besides the ornamental value and the long-time use also in western medicine of the pulp in the ripe pods as a laxative, several other parts of the plants have been and still are in use, e.g. the bark for tanning and as an ingredient in betel paste. A decoction of the roots has been used for purifying wounds. The pods are still imported to health stores in the West. See

Citation

K. & S.S. Larsen - in Fl. Thailand. 1984: pl. III/4; f. 26/1-4
Merr. - in Philipp. J. Sc., Bot. 1910: 47
Irwin & Barneby - in Mem. N.Y. Bot. Gard. 1982: f. 2
Koord. - in Atlas. 1913: t. 29
Rudd - in Fl. Ceylon. 1991: 62.
Verdc. - in Manual New Guinea Leg., Lae Bot. Bull. 1979: 41
de Wit - in Webbia. 1956: 207
Backer & Bakh.f - in Fl. Java. 1964: 536
Ho - in Illus. Fl. S. Vietnam, ed. 2. 1970: f. 2083
K. & S.S. Larsen - in Fl. Camb., Laos & Vietnam. 1980: pl. 14/1-4
Koord. & Valeton - in Bijdr. Booms. Java. 1895: 11
Corner, Wayside Trees. 1940: 386
Ridley - in Fl. Malay Penins. 1922: 620
Prain - in J. As. Soc. Beng. 1897: 156