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Aleurites montana (Lour.) Wils.

Wood-oil tree, Mu-oil tree

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Kernels yield a valuable drying oil, largely used in paints, varnishes and linoleums. Also used locally for illumination and lacquer-work. Varnish made from this plant possess a high degree of water-resistance, gloss and durability. There are only slight differences between the oils of A. montana and A. fordii.

Folk Medicine

The oil is applied to furuncles and ulcers.


The oil content of the seed is ca 50–60%. Oil consists chiefly of glycerides of beta-elaeostearic and oleic acids, and probably a little linoleic acid. Oil cake residue is poisonous and is only fit for manuring.


A small tree about 5 m tall, much-branched, partially deciduous, dioecious; leaves simple, ovate or more or less cordate, apex cuspidate, about 12 cm long, 10 cm broad, sometimes larger and 3-lobed; leaf-blade with 2 large, conspicuous glands at base, petiole up to 24 cm long; flowers monoecious, petals large, white, up to 3 cm long; fruits egg-shaped, 3-lobed, wrinkled, about 5 cm in diameter, pointed at summit, flattened at base, generally with 3 or 4 oneseeded segments, the outer surface with wavy transverse ridges, the pericarp thick, hard and weedy. Fl. and fr. March.


(2n = 22)


Native to South China and in some of the S. Shan States (Burma). Introduced and cultivated successfully in Indochina where it has replaced A. fordii; Malawi, and in cooler parts of Florida, and other tropical regions.


Ranging from Warm Temperate Moist to Tropical Dry to Moist Forest Life Zones, the mu-oil tree tolerates annual rainfall of 8.7–20.2 dm (mean of 7 cases = 14.5), annual temperatures of 14.8–26.5 (mean of 7 cases = 22.1°C), and pH of 5.5–8.0 (mean of 4 cases = 6.4). Adapted to subtropical regions and high elevations with moderate rainfall. Mainly a hillside species, but can thrive ded the area is well-drained. Maximum temperature 35.5°C, minimum temperature 6°C. It is frost-tender, and does not require a low temperature (below 3°C) as tung-oil trees (A. fordii) do, so can be grown in warmer regions. In Assam, grown where rainfall is 175–275 cm annually; in Mysore at elevations of 800–1,000 m with annual rainfall of 150 cm. Grows well in alluvial soils and is not very exacting in its soil requirements, but in richer soils the growth is more vigorous. A slightly acid soil is preferable.


Trees are propagated from seeds or by budding. In Malawi, propagation is by budding from high yielding clones. Seeds are usually planted in nursery and may take from 2 to 3 months to germinate. When seedlings are about I year old, they are planted out, spaced 6.6 x 6.6 m or more. Cultural practices are similar to those for A. fordii. As soon as the seedlings emerge, a sidedressing of fertilizer (5-10-5) of nitrogen and phosphorus along with commercial zinc sulfate should be applied. Fertilizer is applied at rate of 600 kg/ha, in bands along each side of row, 20 cm from seedlings and 5–7.5 cm deep. Other fertilizers may be needed depending on the soil. According to Spurling and Spurling (1974), N is the most important nutrient for tung in Malawi, irrespective of climate or soil. Most successful budding is done in late August, by the simple shield method, requiring a piece of budstick bark, including a bud, that will fit into a cut in the rootstock bark. A T-shaped cut is made in bark of rootstock at point 5–7.5 cm above ground level, the flaps of bark loosened, shield-bud slipped inside flaps and the flaps tied tightly over the transplanted bud with rubber budding strip 12 cm long and 0.6 cm wide. After about 7 days, rubber strip is cut to prevent binding. As newly set buds are susceptible to cold injury, soil is mounded over them for winter. When growth starts in spring, soil is pulled back and each stock cut back to within 3.5 cm of the dormant bud. Later care consists of keeping all suckers removed and the trees well-cultivated. Trees may be planted 125–750/ha. When trees are small, close planting in rows greatly increases the bearing surface, but at maturity the bearing surface of a crowded row is about the same as for a row with trees further apart. However, it is well to leave enough space between rows for orchard operations. In contour-planting, distances between rows and total number of trees per hectare vary; rows 10–12 m apart, trees spaced 3.3–4 m apart in rows, 250–350 trees/ha. Tops of trees must be pruned back to 20–25 cm at planting. As growth starts, all buds are rubbed off except the one strongest growing and best placed on the tree. A bud 5 cm or more below top of stump is preferred over one closer to top.


Trees begin bearing 2–5 years after transplanting with maximum production reached in 8 years and continuing for 40 years. In northern Burma, it has been observed to be more vigorous and disease-resistant than A. fordii. In Indochina, it has been successfully planted and its oil is now being produced on commercial scale, replacing that of A. fordii. Fruits mature and drop to ground in late September to early November. They are gathered and dried to 15% moisture before processing. Fruits should be left on ground 3–4 weeks until hulls are dead and dry, and the moisture content has dropped below 30%; fresh they are about 60% moisture. Fruits are gathered by hand into baskets or sacks.

Yields and Economics

A. montana is reported to give much higher yields of fruits than A. fordii. The percentage of kernels in the seeds is about 56%, and of oil in the kernels, about 59.3%. Major producers of the oil from A. montana are Burma, Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), Malawi, Congo, East Africa, South Africa, Malagasy Republic, India, and U.S.S.R. It has been considered for introduction in Florida.


Yields of oil per tree in China is reckoned to be about 3.2 kg; in Florida, 4.5–9 kg. Trees yield about 45–68 kg nuts/year, these yielding about 35–40% oil. In one Malawi trial, N treatments gave an increase of 519 kg/ha dry seed over a trial mean of 1070 kg/ha. With tung cake and ammonium sulphate, air dry tung seed yields of 12–17 year old trees was 2013 to 2367 kg/ha, of 6–9 year olds 766–1546 kg/ha (Spurling and Spurling, 1974).

Biotic Factors

Fungi reported on A. montana include the following: Armillaria mellea, Botryodiplodia theobromae, Botryosphaeria ribis, Cephaleuros mycoidea, C. virescens, Cercospora aleuritidis, Colletotrichum gloeosporioides var. aleuritidis, Corticium oleroga, C. solani (Rhizoctonia solani), Corynespora cassiicola, Diplodia theobromae, Fusarium arthrosporioides, F. lateritium, Glomerella cingulata, Haplosporella aleurites, Mycosphaerella aleuritidis, Periconia byssoides, Pestalotiopsis disseminata, P. glandicola, P. japonica, P. versicolor, Pestalotia dichaeta, Phyllosticta microspora, Pseudocampion fasciculatum, Rhizoctonia lanellifera, Schizophyllum commune, Thyronectria pseudotrichia, Trametes occidentalis, Ustilin zonata.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update December 19, 1997