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Brucea javanica (L.) Merrill

Brucea javanica (L.) Merrill




Brucea amarissima Desv. ex Gomes, Brucea sumatrana Roxb.

Vernacular Names


Embalau padang, kusum, lada pahit (Peninsular).


Kuwalot (Sundanese, Javanese), malur (Batak), tambara marica (South Sulawesi).


Balaniog (General), magkapayos (Samar-Leyte Bisaya), manongao-bobi (Cebu Bisaya).


Damli thnang, pramat monus.


Ich kone, kom roi, phia2fan.


Ratchadat (Peninsular), ka chaplak (Northern), dee khon (Central).


C[aa]y su[oos]t, c[uws]t chu[ooj]t, s[aaf]u d[aa]u.

Geographical Distributions

Brucea javanica is widespread and occurs from Sri Lanka and India towards Indo-China, southern China, Taiwan, Thailand and quite rare in the Moluccas and New Guinea throughout the Malesian region to northern Australia. Its patchy distribution in eastern Malesia suggests that man introduced it here long ago. It has certainly been introduced in Micronesia (Ponape) and Fiji.


Brucea javanica is a monoecious or dioecious shrub or small tree that can grow up to 10 m tall with soft-haired twigs and leaves.

The leaves are arranged spirally with an unpaired terminal leaflet, which is 20-50 cm long and without stipules. There are 3-15 leaflets. The petiole is short and opposite. It is egg-shaped-oblong to egg-shaped-lance-shaped. Its margin is bluntly serrate or crenate. The secondary veins are unbranched and terminate in a marginal gland.

The inflorescence arises from the axil, hairy and composed of small cymes that are united into bracteate. The flowers are unisexual, 4-merous, small, greenish-white to greenish-red or purple. The sepals are joined at the base while petals are free. The disk is intrastaminal, thick and 4-lobed. The stamens are short, vestigial or absent in female flowers. The ovaries are superior, free, each with a single, pendent ovule, with free styles or coherent at base, awl-shaped and bent outwards over the top of the ovary.

The fruit consists of 1-4 hard fleshy drupelets. The drupe is 2-ribbed, dry, purplish-black and measures 4-5(-7) mm long when mature. The nutlet is a wrinkled endocarp.

The seed is ovoid, with thin testa and very thin endosperm. Seedling is with epigeal germination. The cotyledons are emergent and leafy. The hypocotyl is elongated with first two leaves being opposite while subsequent ones are arranged spirally. The first few leaves are 3-foliolate while later ones have increasing number of leaflets. 

Ecology / Cultivation

Brucea javanica is very common and prefers open localities such as light secondary forests and thickets, forest edges, ridges, and even occurring in sunny places on sandy dunes and on limestone. It grows under both per-humid and seasonal conditions from sea level up to 900 m altitude.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2.

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