Family : Lamiaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to Andaman Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Australia (Queensland), Bangladesh, Bhutan, Borneo, Cambodia, China (Guangdong), Darjeeling, India, Java, Lesser Sunda Islands, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicobar Islands, Philippines, Salomon Islands, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Thailand and Vietrnam where it grows in the dry and deciduous forests and thickets, often along the banks of the water streams, up to about 1300 m of altitude.
The name of the genus is the Greek substantive “πρέμνον” (premnon) = stump, with reference to the disorderly posture of the species type; the name of the species is the Latin adjective “tomentosus, a, um” = tomentose, with reference to the down covering various parts of the plant.
Common names: bastard teak (Englksh); ta xu dou fu chai (Chinese); eegi, lje (Kannada); bebuas, piat,saran burong (Malay); katutekka, naithekku, pincha (Malayalam); magilik, mala api, malagas, (Tagalog); kolakattai thekku (Tamil); nagaru (Telugu)
The Premna tomentosa Willd. (1800) is a shrub or small deciduous or semi-deciduous tree, up to about 12 m tall and of 30-50 cm of diameter, with rather disorderly and dense crown and brown greyish wrinkly bark.
The leaves, on a 1,5-4 cm long tetragonal petiole coverd by short stellate hairs, are simple, opposite, oblong-ovate with acuminate apex and entire margin, 6-25 cm long and 5-15 cm broad, of intense green colour, glabrous above, pubescent below, aromatic.
Panicle terminal inflorescence, on a 1,5-3,5 cm long pubescent peduncle, formed by corimbose cymes, dichotomically ramified, bearing numerous whitish bisexual flowers.
Campanulate calyx, 2,5 mm long, with five teeth, pubescent, bilabiate corolla, of 5-6 mm of diameter, with rounded upper lip and trilobed lower one, with intermediate lobe retuse and and ovate lateral lobes with obtuse apex, and 4 prominent didynamous stamens (two longer and 2 shorter).
The fruits are globose fleshy drupes, 5-6 mm long and of 3-5 mm of diameter, initially green, then blackish purple when ripe, edible, containing 4 oblong seeds.
It reproduces by seed in draining loam maintained humid at the temperature of 24-26 °C.
Species diffused in a vast area of South-East Asia, where is also cutlivated in limited measure due to its wood, but almost unknown elsewhere, needs a tropical or subtropical climate, an exposition in full sun and draining soils; well rooted requires little care and can stand drought periods.
The leaves are utilized for flavouring the “ghee”, the clarified butter of the Indian cuisine. The wood, of pale brown colour, of average hardness and resistance, is utilized in the construction of the dwellings, for furniture, fixtures, handicrafts and artistic objects and as fuel. Roots, leaves and bark are amply utilized in the traditional medicine, in particular Indian, for various pathologies; laboratory studies have evidenced in the extracts of the plant the presence of compounds with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity of possible interest for the official pharmacopoeia.
Synonyms: Premna flavescens Juss. (1806); Premna cordata Blanco (1837); Premna adenosticta Schauer (1847); Premna cardiophylla Schauer (1847); Premna cumingiana Schauer (1847); Premna pyramidata Wall. ex Schauer (1847); Premna flavida Miq. (1861); Premna latifolia Thwaites (1861); Gumira adenosticta (Schauer) Kuntze (1891); Gumira cardiophylla (Schauer) Kuntze (1891); Gumira cumingiana (Schauer) Kuntze (1891); Gumira pyramidata (Wall. ex Schauer) Kuntze (1891); Premna stellata Merr. (1916); Premna cumingiana f. dentata Moldenke (1954); Premna cumingiana f. glabrescens Moldenke (1954); Premna involucrata Moldenke (1954); Premna cumingiana f. cordata Moldenke (1962); Premna odorata f. crenulata Koord. & Valeton ex Moldenke (1971); Premna tomentosa f. jejuna Moldenke (1978); Premna involucrata var. thailandica Moldenke (1979); Premna hylandiana Munir (1984).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza