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Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Persoon

Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Persoon




Laurus cubeba Lour., Litsea citrata Blume, Tetranthera polyantha Wallich ex Nees var. citrata Meissner

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Medang ayer, medang melukut
English May chang (originally Chinese), pheasant pepper tree
Indonesia Krangean (Javanese), lado-lado (Sumatra), baling la (East Kalimantan)
Thailand Chakhai-ton (Northern), takhrai (Southwestern), takhrai-ton (Northeastern)
Vietnam C[aa]y m[af]ng tang

Geographical Distributions

L. cubeba occurs wild from the eastern Himalayas to continental Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia (Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra), southern China (up to the Yangtze river) and Taiwan. It is cultivated for its essential oil mainly in Japan, China and Taiwan. In Java it is grown on a small scale.


This is a small, deciduous tree or shrub up to 5-10(-15) m tall. The trunk is cylindrical, up to 6(-20) cm in diametre. The bark is 1 mm thick, very tough, green on the outside and yellow on the inside, smooth and with large lenticels, lemon-like scent and pungent taste. Its branch is slender, hairless but apical parts are rust-coloured, long with weak hairs.

Leaves are alternate, simple and aromatic. The stalk is 8-18 mm long with blade lance-shaped to oblong, 7-15 cm x 1.5-3 cm. The base is acute while apex is long acuminate, thin, semi-transparent or papery and finely pellucid-dotted. They are brownish-green when young. When matured, they are shiny dark-green above and waxy-bluish green below. The plant has unisexual flowers.

Inflorescence is 4-5-flowered, arising from axils, indeterminate raceme that is about 1 cm long. Their primary flower stalk is increasing in size, up to 1 cm long. The secondary flower stalk is thin, 5-8 mm long, with basal, lance-shaped bract and apex of any structure. The secondary flower stalk is a spherical ring of flower stalk that consist of 4 decussate bracts surrounding the umbel like a flower bud. Other individual flower stalk is 3-4 mm long and minutely hairy. The yellowish-white flower is 3-4 mm in diametre. The segment of floral leaves is 5-6, broadly ovate, 1.5-2.5 mm long and smooth on the outside. The male flowers are with 9 stamens in 3 whorls with filaments are sparsely hairy, those of 3rd whorl with 2 basal glands that are almost without stalk and anthers are quadrangular. The female flowers are with 9 abortive stamens with imperfect anthers and a large smooth ovary with very short style and a large, multi-lobed stigma.

Fruit is a spherical berry, 5-6 mm across, ending abruptly in a short point when young while blackish when mature. It is seated on a flower stalk that 3-5 mm long which is slightly thickened at the apex into a cup-shaped receptacle.

Seed is spherical and white.

Ecology / Cultivation

L. cubeba is found in hilly areas and grows well at altitudes of 700-2300 m; in East Kalimantan it occurs at 400-600 m. In Java it is found on fertile loams and also near sulphur lakes.

Line Drawing / Photograph


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1) Essential Oil


  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 19: Essential-oil plants.

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