Crateva religiosa

Family : Capparaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini


JPEG - 283.6 kb
Crateva religiosa is a very ramified tree of India and of South-East Asia © Giuseppe Mazza

The species is native to Asia (Cambodia, India, Indochina, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thaildnd and Vietnam) and Pacific (French Polinesia, Micronesia, Solomon Islands) where it grows in the evergreen forests, often along the banks of the water streams, from the sea level up to about 700 m of altitude.

The name of the genus refers to Crateuas (or Cratevas), physician of Mithradates VI, King of Pontus (ca. 132-63 BC), author of the oldest known illustrated herbarium, of which text remain only the quotations of Pedanius Dioscorides (1st century AD) in his text De Materia Medica.

The specific name is the Latin adjective “religiosus, a, um” = religious, due to the meaning this tree has for the Hindus.

Common names: garlic-pear, sacred barma, sacred garlic-pear, templeplant, three-leaved caper (English); tonliem (Cambodia); yu mu (China); banugan, salingbobog (Philippines); gyo-boku (Japan); barna, bila, bilasi, cinnavulimidi, maredu, nervala, setu, tellavulimidi, usiki, varno, veruna, vayvarna, vitusi (Hindi); barunday, marana (Indonesia); kumz (Laos); dala, kepayan (Malaysia); hkan-tak (Myanmar); kum nam (Thailand); bún thiêu, bún lợ (Vietnam).

The Crateva religiosa G.Forst. (1786) is a very ramified tree, unarmed, deciduous, 3-15 m tall, with trunk, up to about 40 cm of diameter, with greyish wrinkled bark.

The leaves, on a 5-10 cm long petiole and grouped at the extremities of the branches, are alternate, trifoliate with elliptic-lanceolate leaflets with pointed apex and entire margin, 5-10 cm long and 2,5-5 cm broad, of green colour above, green grey below. Terminal corymbous inflorescences, on a 2-6 cm long peduncle, bearing 10-25 flowers, of 5-7 cm of diameter, rich of nectar, white or cream on the first day, tending orange yellow on the second and last day of opening. The flower is formed by 4 ovate sepals with pointed apex, 2-5 mm long and 2-3 mm broad, greenish, 4 unguiculate petals (petals with the long narrow base similar to a stem), 2-3,5 cm long and 1-2 cm broad, with ovate-elliptic lamina, 16-30 red-purple stamina with orange anthers, 3-7 cm long, and gynophore (peduncle supporting the ovary) 3-6 cm long. The flowers are hermaphroditic, but self incompatible, therefore in need of crossed fecundation. The fruits are greyish obovoid berries with woody exocarp, 6-10 cm long and of 4-7 cm of diameter, containing numerous ellipsoid seeds slightly compressed, 1,5 cm long and 0,5 cm broad, immersed in a yellow pulp having a pungent smell of garlic.

It reproduces by seed, that must be buried as soon as possible, not having a long lasting germinability, and by semi-woody cutting.

JPEG - 214.5 kb
Medicinal plant, for food and ornamental is often cultivated close to the temples and cemeteries due to the deep meaning it has for Hinduism followers © Giuseppe Mazza

Widely diffused species in the origin sites, where is also utilized as ornamental, medicinal plant, and close to the temples and the cemeteries due to the deep religious meaning it has for the Hinduism followers. Cultivable in the tropical and humid subtropical climate zones in full sun or slight shade and is not particular about the soil, provided draining. The wood, hard, yellow tending brown with the age, easy to work, is locally used for common use objects. Parts of the plant are variously utilized in the traditional medicine, especially in the Indian one, for various pathologies, in particular in the diseases of the urinary tract and in the rheumatic ones. Leaves and buds are at times consumed cooked as vegetables.

Synonyms: Capparis magna Lour. (1790); Crateva magna (Lour.) DC. (1824); Crateva membranifolia Miq. (1861); Crateva brownii Korth. ex Miq. (1870); Crateva macrocarpa Kurz (1874); Crateva hansemannii K.Schum. (1888); Crateva speciosa Volkens (1901).


→ To appreciate the biodiversity within the CAPPARACEAE family please click here.


The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza

Photomazza : 70.000 colour pictures of animals and plants