The Beauty Leaf

As the name suggests, Indian Laurel (Calophyllum Inophyllum/उंडी, नागचाफा) has attractive and beautiful foliage. Because of its decorative leaves, fragrant flowers and spreading crown, it is best known as an ornamental plant. But this plant has more to its credit.

Also known as Sultan Champa, it is a large evergreen tree native to southern coastal India. It is a low-branching and slow-growing tree with a broad and spreading crown. Due to its slow growth & ornamental appearance, the tree is often planted in urban areas for beautification. It is valued for its deliciously scented snow-white flowers that are reminiscent of orange blossom. The fragrant flowers have been prized as an adornment and as a perfume. But the cherry on cake is its flowering can occur year-round. If not year-round, usually two distinct flowering periods are observed, in late spring and in late autumn. 

Besides being a popular ornamental  tree, its wood is hard & strong and has been used in construction or boat-building. It grows best in sandy well drained soils in coastal areas but will tolerate clays, calcareous soils and rocky soils. It is also found higher up the rivers along river margins. The tree demands light and prefers full sun. It is sensitive to frost and fire. It tolerates occasional water-logging in coastal areas.

Indian Laurel is a multipurpose plant, and is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of materials. The tree is planted for shade and for reforestation & afforestation. Also used to provide shelter from the wind and as an efficient shore protector in most places. The mature fruit is burned as a mosquito repellent. The fruit is a source for bio-diesel is used in treating skin disorders, diarrhea, osteo-arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Kapha and Pitta imbalance disorders and more.

The seeds yield viscous oil, known as Domba oil, which is of excellent quality for soap manufacture; it is also used as an illuminant and in local medicine. It may be employed as a remedy for rheumatism, ulcers and skin diseases. Bark is said to be an astringent. A decoction of the bark and latex is used medicinally, internally against diarrhoea and after childbirth, externally against skin and eye diseases and rheumatism. Leaves, flowers and seeds are sometimes also used in local medicine. 

Beauty leaf usually propagated by seeds or cuttings. It makes a good specimen for street, parking lot as a shade tree and is both wind and salt tolerant, making it especially useful for coastal locations. It becomes twisted and contorted when exposed to constant wind, creating an interesting specimen. Beauty leaf is sometimes used as a tall hedge or windbreak around tennis courts and similar places. It could be used more often as an urban street and garden tree.