Family : Leguminosae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to Java, New Guinea and Sumatra where it grows in the humid forests, often in swampy areas, from the sea level up to about 400 m of altitude.
The name of the genus comes from the name used by New Guinea natives; the specific name is the combination of the name of the genus Brownea Jacq. and of the Greek suffix “-οειδής” (-oeidés), from “εἶδος“ (êidos) = shape, look, due to the resemblance with some species belonging to the genus.
Common names: handkerchief tree (English); daun saputangan (Indonesia); pokok saputangan (Malaysia); indeke, sekadjaka (Papua New Guinea); asòhk kăao, asòhk mai pĥāchĕdnā (Thailand).
The Maniltoa browneoides Harms (1902) is a shrub or an evergreen tree that may reach the 30 m of height in the old specimens in nature, but that is kept much lower in cultivation, 6-12 m, with erect trunk, of up to 40 cm of diameter, provided at the base with tabular roots (roots similar to buttresses), up to 1 m tall, and brown-reddish bark.
The leaves, on a short petiole, are alternate, paripinnate, with 6-22 cm long rachis, and (2-)3(-4) pairs of sessile leaflets, opposite, ovate-elliptic, asymmetric with respect to the central rib, with entire margin and obtuse apex, of dark green colour and glossy above, paler below, 5-20 cm long and 3-8 cm broad. The new vegetations initially hang from the branches, with the young leaves strictly overlapped between them and of white colour with a light green tinge, that after some days turn gradually dark green and stretch.
Racemose terminal inflorescences, globose, compact, produced at the same time of the new vegetation, initially covered by imbricate bracts, formed by numerous white flowers, delicate, that quickly turn brown after the pollination, with about 1,5 cm long sepals, 1,2-1,8 cm long petals and numerous (60-80) prominent stamina 2-3 cm long. The fruits are indehiscent woody legumes, curved, about 7 cm long, with rough surface of pale brown colour containing ine seed only.
It reproduces by seed, previously kept in water for two days, in draining loam maintained humid at the temperature of 26-28 °C, and by air layering.
Species little known outside its origin areas and some souh-eastern Asian countries, where has been introduced, where on the contrary is frequently utilized as ornamental in public parks and gardens, especially due to the characteristic of the young buds that from far away look like white handkerchiefs hanging from the branches (hence the English common name), as shade tree in rest areas and parkings and as road tree. Cultivable in the tropical and humid subtropical regions, with average high and constant temperatures and atmospheric humidity, requires an exposition in full sun or slightly shaded and draining soils, rich of organic substance and maintained almost constantly humid.
The wood, of brown reddish color and with good characteristics of hardness, density and resistance, is used locally in the constructions, for floors, panellings, external and internal fixtures, furniture, tools and handicrafts, and also as fuel and for the production of charcoal.
Synonyms: Pseudocynometra browneoides (Harms) Kuntze (1903); Maniltoa gemmipara Backer (1911).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza