Index | Search | Home

new crop logo

Pterocarpus indicus Willd.

Malay padauk

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 unpublished.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


Sometimes recommended as an ornamental avenue tree. The reddish hard wood is an excellent timber in southern Asia. Listed among the most valuable timbers in the Philippines. Used for cabinetry, cart wheels, carving, construction, furniture, and musical instruments. Planted occasionally in Puerto Rico for shade and ornament (Little and Wadsworth, 1964). The young leaves and flowers are said to be eaten. The flowers are a honey source. The leaf infusion is used as a shampoo. The beautiful, termite resistant, rose-scented timber is marketed as Amboyna, Blanco's Narra, Burmese Rosewood, Malay Padauk, Narra, Philippine Mahogany, Prickly Narra, and Tenasserim Mahogany. The wood gives a reddish dye, more fugitive than that of Pterocarpus santolinus. It is also a source of kino.

Folk Medicine

According to Hartwell (1967–1971), the red latex is used in folk remedies for tumors, the plant for cancers, especially of the mouth. Endo and Miyazaki (1972) reported that the leaves "significantly inhibited the growth of Ehrlich ascites carcinoma cells in mice. A dried cold water extract of the leaves injected in mice bearing Ehrlich ascites carcinoma. All controls died within 21 days; of the treated group, 40/50 survived more than 84 days. The nuclei and cytoplasm of tumor cells became soft and larger, and then disintegrated. The active principle was isolated by gel filtration of aqueous extract. It was an acidic polypepticide, consisting of 17 amino acids. The LD50 in mice is 122 mg/kg i.p. Malayans apply the kino to sores of the mouth, and the root juice to syphilitic sores (Burkill, 1966). Javanese apply the young leaves to boils, prickly heat and ulcers. In the Carolyn Islands, finely powdered leaves are applied to a ruptured vagina. The kino, containing kinotannic acid, was once administered in diarrhea, often combined with opium (Lewis and Elvin-Lewis, 1977). Reported to be antibilious, emetic, and sternutatory, Malay padauk is a folk remedy for bladder ailments, diarrhea, dropsy, headache, sores, stones, thrush, and tumors of the abdomen (Duke and Wain, 1981). Lignum nephriticum (Latin for kidneywood) was the wood of this Philippine species and also of kidneywood (Eysenhardtia polystachya) from Mexico. It was known throughout Europe from the 16th to early 18th centuries for its reputed diuretic properties but is no longer employed in medicine. However, infusions of the wood are fluorescent, and this odd response to light may have been associated with remedies.


Wood contains the red coloring matters, narrin and santalin, and angolensin. Narrin is a dark red amorphous powder which yields phloroglucinol and resorcinol on fusion with alkali. Hager's Handbook (List and Horhammer, 1969–1979) reports pterocarpin and pterostilben homopterocarpin, prunetin (prunusetin), formonoetin, isoliquiritigenin, p-hydroxyhydratropic acid, pterofuran, pterocarpol, and b-eudesmol. Distilled wood gives a moderately heavy tar. Cups made from the wood and chips of wood impart to water a beautiful blue and yellow color, which changes in light and shadow (Little and Wadsworth, 1964).


Large, deciduous tree, 30 m or more high, with large and high buttresses. Stipules caducous, linear, ca 7–15 mm long, hairy on both sides. Leaves ca 12–22 cm long in all, the petiole ca 2–4 cm, the rachis ca 6–18 cm, sparsely hairly, glabrescent; leaflets 5–13, chartaceous to subcoriaceous; surfaces concolorous, greyish-brown, sometimes greenish, above slightly shiny, glabrous, beneath slightly dull, sparsely hairy, glabrescent, petiolules ca 3–5 mm long, blade generally ovate, ca 1.6–2.5 times as long as wide, ca 4–5 by 6–10 cm; base generally rounded or sometimes obtuse to acute or very rarely attenuate, apex usually acuminate, sometimes acute, rarely obtuse, tip generally pointed. Inflorescences of laxly branched axillary panicles, sometimes together with a terminal one or with axillary racemes. Flowers few to numerous; calyx ca 5–6 mm long, hairy, all the lobes hairy inside towards the top, corolla with standard ca 16–18 mm long. Fruit orbicular or semiorbicular, brown to blackish, densely hairy, ca 4–6.6 cm in diameter, stipe ca 5–9 mm long, the style (beak) lateral. Wing more or less membranaceous. The seed-bearing part ca 1 1/2–3 cm in diameter, thickened, ca 6–9 mm thick, more or less woody. Seeds 1–2, ca 2–5 by 8–10 mm, widest at or below the hilum; testa dark brown, smoothish.


Reported from the Hindustani and Indochina-Indonesian Centers of Diversity, Malay Padauk, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate waterlogging. The variety echinatus differs only in having prickles on the seed bearing part of the fruit. It does poorly in lalang wasts, shallow soils, and stiff clays. (2n = 20)


According to Rojo (1977) its western limit is southern Burma, extending eastward to peninsular Thailand to Vietnam, farther eastward reaching the Solomons (eastern limit) in the Pacific via Sumatra, West Java, Borneo, Philippines, Sunda Islands, the Moluccas, New Guinea, and the Pacific (Ryukyu, Carolines). Rojo suggests that most species of Pterocarpus "prefer" seasonal climate, but P. indicus is a rainforest or evergreen forest species (able to withstand dry areas).


Probably ranging from Tropical Very Dry to Wet through Subtropical Dry to Wet Forest Life Zones, Malay Padauk is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 9.6 to 21.8 dm (mean of 10 cases = 16.4), annual temperature of 24.3 to 26.6°C (mean of 6 cases = 25.2), and estimated pH of 4.0 to 7.5. According to Rojo, it grows in forests, mostly evergreen, in the lowlands up to 600 m.Seems to prefer a seasonal climate, more everwet in New Guinea. Flowers (Philippines, N. Borneo, Malay Peninsula) mostly in February–May, occasionally in August–November and (Celebes, Moluccas, Carolines, Solomons, and New Guinea) mostly in July–December, occasionally in February–May; fruit seems to ripen within 4–6 months.


Grows rapidly from seeds and cuttings. Probably best started in seed nurseries and then outplanted with the rainy season.


The kino, the resin, and the timber are usually harvested as needed. Those people who eat the flowers and leaves probably concentrate such meals during the leaf flush and flowering periods.

Yields and Economics

Although this is regarded in the Philippines e.g. as one of the best furniture timbers, I find no yield data.


Although the wood is not necessarily recommended as firewood, it certainly could be used for firewood. Some Pterocarpus burn green. The wood is hard and heavy (625 kg/m3), and can be air seasoned without difficulty. Studies in Hawaii, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, indicate that the species fixes nitrogen (Allen and Allen, 1981).

Biotic Factors

Browne (1968) lists Ganoderma lucidum, Ganoderma pseudoferreum, Schizophyllum commune, and Sclerotium rolfsii (fungi); Hypomeces squamosus (coleoptera); Parasa lepida (lepidoptera), and Sus scrofa (mammalia). According to Arroyo, Pterocarpus is visited by large numbers of bee species, representing many different genera.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Thursday, January 8, 1998 by aw