Society ladies of old have a graceful way of swishing around, and the Angsana (Pterocarpus indicus), a regular on Malaysian streets, evokes this with its drooping branches. Its hardiness towards pollution and heavy pruning, plus its shade-providing foliage, make it a popular roadside tree.
Unfortunately, the Angsana is susceptible to the Fusarium sp. fungus, which spreads quickly and is responsible to the blight of Fusarium wilt befalling many of our Angsana trees today. One way of preventing the spreading of the disease is to space out Angsana trees with other tree species.
During the dry season, two to three times a year, the Angsana is swathed in glorious yellow, scented blossoms which only last for a day. Angsana trees in one area seem to burst into bloom at the same time, a phenomenon which is explained by its flowering habits—the flowers start to form at the start of the dry season, but the blooming is triggered by drops in temperature, such as during heavy rains.
The Angsana is native to Malaysia, but is almost extinct in the wild due to heavy logging. Part of the Red Sandal-wood family, its timber is prized for its beauty and rose-like scent, and is used to for furniture and, due to the wood’s low shrinkage, to make precision and musical instruments.
The Angsana has flaky bark which, when injured, produces red gum known as ‘dragon’s blood’. This gum has medicinal properties and is used against diarrhoea. A reddish-fawn coloured dye can also be obtained from the bark.
The leaves are oval in shape, with slightly ruffled edges. The very young leaves and flowers are edible. The fruit is familiar to many—brown, circular and flat, surrounded by a wavy wing. This trait is reflected in its genus name: Greek for ‘pteron’ (wing) and ‘karpos’ (fruit).
The Angsana is planted all over UM, but you can see some magnificent individuals at the Dewan Tunku Canselor parking lot, although, as most of these have been weakened by disease, will have to be removed sometime in the future.
All photographs by Benjamin Ong
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