The Saga Tree

Coralwood tree is a beautiful and unfortunately an underutilized tree of India. This useful tree has long been an important tree in Southeast Asia since ages. It is a hardy, fast growing tree that requires relative little maintenance. The beautiful tree has red, glossy seeds due to which it is also known as Red Bead tree (Adenanthera Pavonina/रतनगुंज, थोरला गुंज).

The tree is not only used for ornamental purposes, but it has many other uses also. Firstly, Red Bead tree is very beneficial to our environment. It is a valuable agroforestry species. The tree can fix the atmospheric nitrogen and thus help rejuvenate soil. Further, it also provide useful mulch. The small leaves break down easily, giving a good green manure. It is compatible with most tropical field and tree crops, making it suitable to use in integrated production systems. It can be interplanted among field & tree crops such as spices, coffee and coconuts or along field borders as part of a windbreak . The tree resprouts new branches easily & so is not damaged by harvesting for fodder. The leaves can be used a supplemental source of fodder, as the leaves are fairly high in digestible crude protein (17-22%). It also acts as a host plant for butterflies like Plain Nawab. 

There are historical accounts from Southeast Asia and Africa of using all parts of Red Bead tree for traditional medicines. In our Ayurvedic medicine, various parts of the tree are used against rheumatism, gout, headaches, migraines, dysentery, diarrhoea, tonsillitis etc. In Ancient India, the ground seeds are used to treat boils and inflammations. The bark was used to wash hair as it contains saponin. A red dye is obtained from the tree and used by the Brahmins in India to make religious markings on their foreheads and for dyeing clothes. The tree also yields very good charcoal. 

The interesting fact about its red, glossy seeds is- They were used in ancient India for weighing gold, silver & diamonds, because the seeds are curiously similar in weight, four seeds making up about 10 gramme. In fact the name 'Saga' is traced to the Arabic term for 'goldsmith'. Isn't that funny?! The seeds are also used as beads in jewellery, necklaces, rosaries and as toys.  The ground seeds can produce an oil which was used as an industrial lubricant. Seeds are probably eaten and dispersed by birds. The seed coat is extremely hard. For cultivation, manual scarification &/or immersing the seeds in boiling water for one minute may increase the chances of germination. The hardy tree can grow on variety of soils..from deep, well-drained to shallow & rocky.

The Red Bead tree is extensively cultivated as an ornamental for planting along roadsides and in urban areas, though notably for its red, glossy seeds; the flowers are equally beautiful in light creamy yellow to orange colour, with a sweet fragrant smell. Individual flowers are small and star-shaped, with five tiny petals. The fast growth and spreading crown of light & feathery foliage offer attractive shade, making it suitable for plantation in gardens.

6 comments:

  1. Red seeds are very attractive, once collected from boot house in Mumbai. Never seen elsewhere. Good to read about trees and their varied properties other than just beautification. Thanks.

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    1. Thank You very much Madhulika Ji...!

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  2. does it require a host plant for germination and growth like the sandal tree?

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  3. Please help me..
    how to plant one such seed and grow a sapling ?

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    1. Hi Neeraj Ji...
      Just like mentioned in the article, you need to immerse the seeds in boiling water for one minute and then place them in the soil bed or polybags. Boiling ill increase the germination rate.

      All the Best!

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