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Altingia excelsa Noroña

Altingia excelsa Noroña





Vernacular Names

Trade name Rasamala.
Indonesia Mala (Java), tulasan (Sumatra), mandung (Minangkabau).
Myanmar (Burma) Nantayok.
Laos Sop.
Thailand Sop, hom (Northern), satu (Eastern).
Vietnam T[oo] h[aj]p l[as] h[if]nh tim.

Geographical Distributions

Altingia consists of 8 species and distributed from southern Tibet, Assam (India) and mainland Southeast Asia including southern China towards Malaysia area. Only a single species is represented in Malesia: Altingia excelsa. This species is distributed from the Himalayas through the moister parts of Burma towards Peninsular Malaysia (where it is extremely rare), Sumatra and West Java. It is planted for reforestation (mainly West and Central Java).


A. excelsa is a monoecious, evergreen, large and lofty tree that can reach up to 50(-60) m tall. The bole is branchless, measures 20-35 m long, measuring 80-150(-185) cm in diametre and often slightly twisted or fluted at the base. The bark surface is almost smooth, narrow, longitudinal fissures and finally irregularly flaky with long, thin, light grey to yellowish or brownish-grey flakes. The crown is irregularly globular, conical juvenile specimens and acute. The branches are generally steeply ascending.

The leaves are arranged spirally, simple, elliptical to oblong or ovate to ovate-lanceolate, measuring 6-12(-16) cm x 2.5-5.5(-6.5) cm, rounded to slightly cordate at the base, acute to acuminate or sometimes caudate at the apex and with pinnately veined. The margin is a glandular crenate-serrate. The upper surface is smooth while the lower surface is hairless to soft hairy. The petiole is usually with sessile or short stalked glandular appendages at the apex. The stipules are very small and caducous.

The inflorescence consists of male or female heads peduncled and initially enveloped by 4 bracts. The male heads are with 6-14 per inflorescence, with racemes measure 1-2 cm long, consisting of short stamens masses, perianth, with a disk and absent ovary while the anthers are 4 pollen sacs and dehisce with longitudinal slits. The female head is solitary, spherical to nearly spherical, measuring 6-9 mm x 5-8 mm and minutely pubescent with 4-18-flowers, rudimentary or absent stamens. The flowers are without perianth but with a disk which consist of a variable number of minute lobes.

The ovary is 3/4-inferior and 2-celled with numerous ovules in each cell. There are 2 styles, divergent and often strongly recurved with decurrent and stigmas which are covered with nipple-like protuberances.

The fruit head is on a peduncle measures 2-3.5 cm long, measuring 1.2-2.5 cm x 1.2-2 cm and woody. The fruit is 4-valved, surrounded by a ring of growing and hardened disk lobes which are light brown puberulous at the apex.

The fertile seeds are 0-1(-2) in each cell, with dorso-ventrally flattened, obovate, surrounded by a narrow wing and sweet scented. The sterile seeds are up to 35 in each cell. The seedling is epigeal germination. The cotyledons are foliaceous on a hairy petiole. The leaves are arranged spirally.

Ecology / Cultivation

A. excelsa is a characteristic element of humid mixed hills and montane forests. It is often occurs gregariously and forms the backbone of the forest at altitudes between 550 and 1700 m where precipitation is at least 100 mm during the driest month. When planted outside its natural distribution area, it will tolerate less rainfall. A. excelsa occurs on rich, well-drained volcanic soils or sometimes on the better soils overlying sedimentary rock. In primary forest, 10-35 specimens may be encountered per ha containing (50-)75-85% of the total timber volume. Its principal associates are Podocarpus and Quercus species and further a number of elements of this type of montane forest such as Schima, Castanopsis, Eugenia, Sloanea, Dysoxylum, Engelhardtia, Magnolia, Michelia and Elaeocarpus species.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.5(1): Timber trees: Major commercial timbers.

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