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Litsea glutinosa (Lour.) C.B. Rob. 1911
pronounced: LIT-see-uh gloo-tin-OH-suh
(Lauraceae – the laurel family)
common name: Indian Laurel
The name Litsea comes from the Chinese litse or li, small; glutinosa is from the Latin gluten, glue – like glue. In French-speaking areas, the tree is known as avocat marron (maroon avocado) and bois d’oiseau (bird wood).
The native range of this plant is from India and south China to Malaysia, Australia, and the western Pacific islands. It has been introduced and established in Mauritius and other tropical regions. It is generally found in mixed primary and secondary forests and thickets, and on the banks of streams, in altitudes up to about 1,300 m.
This is a moderately-sized dioecious tree that can grow up to 20 m tall. The bole may be either straight or curved, up to 60 cm in diameter. The surface bark is greyish brown, and the inner bark yellowish. The leaves are arranged spirally, and are very variable in size,10–30 cm long by 3–13 cm wide; they may be blunt or rounded. There are minute fine hairs on both surfaces of young leaves; but when, the leaves are older, the hairs remain only on the mid-vein on the upper surface, and the hairs become yellowish on the under surface. The midrib is raised or flattened above, with 6–11 pairs of secondary veins which are not sunken above; tertiary venation is prominent below. The petioles are 1–3.5 cm long.
There are numerous flower umbels, covered with short grey hairs, and they are 4–5 mm in diameter. The peduncles are up to 5 mm long, slender, densely pilose on slender, short branches up to 14 mm long. The perianth tube is silky, infundibuliform, with up to 20 stamens with slender, very hairy filaments, and glands on long stalks.
This is a tree with many uses in its area of origin as well as in some of its areas of introduction. Its impact on the environment in most areas of introduction is severe. It has a high invasion potential, and displaces regenerating native plants in disturbed environments.
The fruits have a sweet, creamy edible pulp. The young leaves are eaten by livestock. The pounded seeds are applied medicinally to boils; and the leaves and the mucilage in the gum from the bark have been used for poultices. The bark also has a soothing effect on inflamed skin, and is used as a mild astringent in diarrhoea and dysentery.
The timber from this tree is firm and straight-grained, usually with no pronounced figure, and growth rings are usually absent. The heartwood varies from light cream to pale straw in colour, and normally there is no marked colour variation between sapwood and heartwood. It is not very durable: life expectancy above ground is reckoned to be less than 7 years, and in ground less than 5 years. Untreated sapwood is susceptible to lyctine borer attack, and is not resistant to termites. The sapwood readily accepts preservative impregnation, but penetration of the heartwood is negligible with currently available methods. The timber can be dried satisfactorily using either air or kiln drying.
The wood is soft, and easily worked with hand tools. It machines and turns well to a smooth surface, and seasoned timber will readily accept stain, polish and paint. It was formerly used in general house framing, linings, mouldings and non-structural joinery, but nowadays is rarely used for these purposes; it is still used for plywood, furniture, turned items, carving and picture frames.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken at Nelly Bay 2010, Picnic Bay 2013
Page last updated 23rd December 2016