Terminalia catappa L.
Mant. Pl. 1: 128, in: Syst. Nat. ed. 12, 2: 674 (err. 638) (1767).


2n = 24

Synonyms Terminalia moluccana Lamk (1783), Terminalia procera Roxb. (1832), Terminalia latifolia Blanco, non Swartz (1837).

Vernacular names Indian almond, Singapore almond (En). Badamier (Fr). Indonesia: ketapang (general). Malaysia: ketapang (general), lingkak (Peninsular). Papua New Guinea: reddish-brown terminalia (Pidgin). Philippines: talisai (Tagalog, Bisaya), dalinsi (Bicol), logo (Ilokano). Cambodia: chm'bk barang'. Laos: huu kwaang, smz moox dng. Thailand: khon (Narathiwat), dat mue (Trang), taa-pang (Phitsanulok, Satun). Vietnam: bng bin, bng nu''c.

Origin and geographic distribution Indian almond is native to South-East Asia, where it is common throughout the area, but apparently rare in Sumatra and in Borneo. Indian almond is commonly planted in northern Australia, Polynesia, as well as in Pakistan, India, East and West Africa, Madagascar and the lowlands of South and Central America.

Uses Indian almond is a multipurpose tree. The bark and leaves and sometimes roots and green fruits are locally used for tanning leather and provide a black dye, used for dyeing cottons and rattan and as ink. The timber is of good quality and is used for house and boat building. It is susceptible to termites. The seed is edible and considered delicious, and contains a pale odourless oil, similar to almond oil. The oil is employed medicinally as a substitute for true almond oil to relieve abdominal inflammations, and, cooked with the leaves, in treating leprosy, scabies and other skin diseases. The flesh of the fruit is also edible, but is often fibrous and not tasty in spite of the pleasant smell. The tree is often planted in avenues and gardens as a shade tree. It is very well suited for this purpose because of its pagoda-like habit, with long, horizontal branches and large leaves. The leaves have a sudorific action and are applied to rheumatic joints. The tannin from bark and leaves is used as an astringent in dysentery and thrush. It is also regarded as diuretic and cardiotonic and is applied externally on skin eruptions. In the Philippines a decoction of the leaves is employed as a vermifuge.

Properties The bark yields a brownish-yellow to olive-grey dye and contains 1123% tannin. Bark and wood contain (+)catechin, ()epicatechin, gallic acid, ellagic acid, and (+)leucocyanidin. In the leaves a total of 12 hydrolyzable tannins have been detected. Leaves and fruits contain gallic acid, ellagic acid, corilagin, and brevifolin carboxylic acid. The flesh of the fruit contains 75% moisture and 5% protein. The sun-dried kernel yields up to half of its weight as a yellow oil, that contains several fatty acids such as palmitic acid (55.5%), oleic acid (23.3%), linoleic acid (7.6%), stearic acid (6.3%) and myristic acid (1.6%). The protein and sugar content of dried kernels are 25% and 6% respectively, and about 16 amino-acids have been demonstrated.|The heartwood is light brick red to brownish-red, light to moderately heavy, with a volumetric mass of 465675 kg/m3, fairly hard and tough, but not very durable; the sapwood is greyish, often blotched with yellow, in young trees, in old trees hardly distinguishable from the heartwood; texture medium; grain shallowly interlocked, often curly or twisted; without characteristic odour or taste.

Description Deciduous, moderate-sized tree, 1025(35) m tall, with pagoda-like habit, particularly when the tree is young. Stem often buttressed at the base, diameter up to 1.5 m; bark dark grey-brown, fissured; branches arranged in tiers, spaced 12 m apart, long and horizontal, giving the tree a curiously regular appearance; young branches thickened, densely pilose, but usually quickly glabrescent. Leaves alternate, short-petioled, clustered at branch tips, usually obovate, but sometimes more or less elliptic, (8)1525(38) cm x (5)815(24) cm, papery to thinly leathery, shiny, more or less glabrous and minutely verruculose, with a subcordate base usually provided with 2 glands, and a rounded or shortly acuminate apex. Flowers in axillary 816 cm long spikes, in which the majority is male, a few bisexual flowers being present only towards the base, very small, greenish-white, with a barbate disk, 5 calyx lobes, usually 10 stamens and a style; petals absent. Fruit an ovoid or ellipsoid drupe, 3.57 cm x 25(5.5) cm, slightly flattened, with a prominent keel, usually glabrous, green to yellow and red at maturity. Stone surrounded by a 36 mm thick layer of juicy flesh.|The Indian almond can generally be recognized at once by its stiff outstanding branches and its big leaves arranged in rosettes.

Growth and development Seeds may remain viable for a long time. They germinate readily, even after floating in salt water for a considerable period, and may be dispersed by sea-water over long distances. The buoyancy is caused by the corky rind and the numerous tiny air cavities in the outer part of the stone. They are also dispersed by fructivorous bats. With adequate rainfall the tree is fast-growing. It sheds its leaves all at once, after they have turned yellow to red, in South-East Asia usually twice a year, e.g. JanuaryFebruary and JulyAugust in Peninsular Malaysia. When all twigs develop new leaves, the tree becomes conspicuous because of the vivid fresh foliage. Indian almond flowers irregularly, but the tree never flowers when defoliated.

Other botanical information Fruits vary greatly in shape, size and colour. The quality of the fruits differs considerably, the flesh being edible and sweet to bitter. The leaves are also variable in shape. Apparently there has been some selection, especially towards large-fruited, good tasting cultivars, although no registered cultivar names are known.

Ecology Indian almond occurs naturally on sandy or rocky beaches. It is tolerant of saline soils and not averse to ocean spray; it is very wind-resistant and it prefers full sun or medium shade. It survives only in tropical and near-tropical regions with a more or less humid climate. In its natural habitat the annual precipitation is about 3000 mm. Indian almond grows well on all soils providing there is good drainage. It is frequently cultivated up to 800 m altitude.

Propagation and planting Often fresh entire fruits are planted in nurseries, as the stone cannot be easily separated from the flesh. Germination rate is then about 25%. Seeds should be set 25 cm x 25 cm apart in nursery beds. Transplanting to the field is done during the rainy season in the next year.

Husbandry Before planting, fertilizers are applied to poor soils. A recommended mixture is 1520 l of horse manure, 200 g superphosphate, 150 g chloride of potassium, 300 g bonemeal, 100 g ammonium sulphate or potash, and 500800 g of lime per hole. Weeding is necessary for a few months after planting but there will soon be sufficient cover to shade out competition.

Diseases and pests Indian almond does not suffer much from diseases and pests. Seedlings defoliated by grass hoppers, beetles and thrips have been recorded, and in Thailand full-grown trees are sometimes a host to fruit flies (Dacus dorsalis and Dacus correctus). In Papua New Guinea there is a record of trees being killed after attack by beetles of the genus Agrilus which are cambial feeders.

Harvesting The bark is usually stripped off only when trees are felled for their timber. Depending on area and climate, there may be one or two crops of fruits per year, or there is more or less constant fruiting. Ripe fruits are usually gathered from the ground.

Handling after harvest The unripe, green fruits of Indian almond are sometimes collected for tanning, as are the fruits of other Terminalia species such as Terminalia chebula Retz. and Terminalia bellirica (Gaertner) Roxb., collectively called myrabolans or myrobalans. They are spread out in a single layer on a bare piece of ground, and regularly turned to facilitate drying. The dried fruits are sold to tanneries, but sometimes they are first crushed and stoned. When collected for the kernel, fruits are defleshed and sun-dried. Thoroughly dried stones can be cracked by a sharp blow on the keel or when hit with a hammer on the pointed apex. The kernel needs no roasting and may be used like any other nut.|Rattan material is dyed black by burying the wickerwork in mud for some days and then, after drying, dipping it in a decoction of the bark and burying it again in mud.|The timber has to be sawn into boards and kiln-dried as soon as possible after felling to avoid splitting. The sawn material needs to be open-stacked and well protected from hot wind and the sun.

Prospects The uses of Indian almond as dye and tan-stuff are limited. The tannin content is comparatively low, and synthetic dyes are easily available and easier to apply. However, the versatility of the uses justifies more extensive planting in the future, especially where soil salinity limits other options. Selection of types with large fruits having palatable flesh and large kernels, and development of methods for vegetative propagation deserve research priority.

  • Burgess, P.F., 1966. Timbers of Sabah. Sabah Forest Records 6. Forest Department, Sabah, Malaysia. pp. 8285.
  • Corner, E.J.H., 1988. Wayside trees of Malaya. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. The Malayan Nature Society. United Selangor Press, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. pp. 193194.
  • Exell, W.A., 1954. Combretaceae. In: van Steenis, C.G.G.J. (Editor): Flora Malesiana, Series I, Vol. 4(5). pp. 566568.
  • Morton, J.F., 1985. Indian almond (Terminalia catappa), salt-tolerant, useful, tropical tree with 'nut' worthy of improvement. Economic Botany 39(2): 101112.

Author: J.L.C.H. van Valkenburg & Eko B. Waluyo

Source of This Article:
van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Waluyo, E.B., 1991. Terminalia catappa L.In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J. and Wulijarni-Soetjipto, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 3: Dye and tannin-producing plants. Pudoc, Wageningen, The Netherlands, pp. 120-122

Recommended Citation:
van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Waluyo, E.B., 1991. Terminalia catappa L.[Internet] Record from Proseabase. Lemmens, R.H.M.J. and Wulijarni-Soetjipto, N. (Editors).
PROSEA (Plant Resources of South-East Asia) Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia. http://www.proseanet.org.
Accessed from Internet: 15-Dec-2019