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Mesua ferrea

(Ceylon Ironwood)


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Interesting Facts

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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Arabic:


Common Names in Assamese:


Common Names in Burmese:

Gungen, Kenga, ကံ့ကော်ပန်း

Common Names in English:

Ceylon Ironwood, Cobra´s Saffron, Cobra's Saffron, Cobras Saffron, Gau-Gau, Indian Rose Chestnut, Indian Rose-Chestnut, Iron-Wood Tree, Ironwood, Mesua, Penaga Lili

Common Names in German:


Common Names in Hindi:

Naghesar, Nahar, नाग केसर

Common Names in Indonesian:


Common Names in Italian:

Croco Di Cobra

Common Names in Japanese:


Common Names in Kannada:

Nagasampige, ನಾಗಸಂಪಿಗೆ

Common Names in Malay:

Nagasari (Java), Penaga

Common Names in Malayalam:


Common Names in Marathi (Marāṭhī):


Common Names in Nepalese:

Nagesvar Campa, Nagesvari, Nagkesar, Narisal, Potal, Ruk Keshar

Common Names in Russian:

Мезуя железная

Common Names in Sanskrit:

Champeryah, Nagakesara, Nagakeshara, Nagkesar, Nagkeshara, Nagkeshwar, Nagpushpa

Common Names in Sinhala, Sinhalese:


Common Names in Tagalog:


Common Names in Tamil:

Charu-Nagapu, Nagappu, Sirunagappoo, Veillutta Champakam, நாகமரம்

Common Names in Telugu:

Kesaramu, Nagashappu, నాగకేసరి

Common Names in Thai:

Bunnak, Ka Ko (Karen), Kam Ko (Shan), Saraphi Doi (Chiang Mai), บุนนาค (พืช)


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Family Clusiaceae

Trees , shrubs , or sometimes herbs containing resin or oil in schizogenous spaces or canals and sometimes black or red glands containing hypericin or pseudohypericin. Leaves simple , entire or rarely gland-fringed, opposite or sometimes whorled , nearly always estipulate. Flowers bisexual or unisexual , regular, hypogynous, solitary or in cymes or thyrses ; bracteoles often inserted just beneath calyx and then not always easily distinguishable from sepals. Sepals (2-) 4 or 5(or 6), imbricate or decussate or rarely wholly united in bud, inner ones sometimes petaloid . Petals [3 or]4 or 5[or 6], free , imbricate or contorted in bud. Stamens many to rarely few (9), in [3 or]4 or 5 bundles (fascicles) that are free and antipetalous or variously connate , with filaments variously united or apparently free and then sometimes sterile (staminodes) ; anther dehiscence longitudinal . Staminode bundles (fasciclodes) 3-5, free and antisepalous or variously connate or absent. Ovary superior, with 2-5(-12) connate carpels, 1-12-loculed, with axile to parietal or basal placentation ; ovules 1 to many on each placenta, erect to pendulous; styles 1-5[-12], free or ± united or absent; stigmas 1-12, punctiform to peltate or, when sessile, radiate , surface papillate or smooth . Fruit a septicidal or septifragal, rarely loculicidal, capsule, berry, or drupe; seeds 1 to many, without or almost without endosperm [sometimes arillate ].

About 40 genera and 1200 species: mainly in tropical regions , except Hypericum and Triadenum, which are both mainly temperate in distribution; eight genera (one endemic) and 95 species (48 endemic, one introduced ) in China.

The Clusiaceae are a rather economically important family . Many species, such as Mesua ferrea and Garcinia paucinervis, have hard wood . Numerous species in Calophyllum, Clusia Linnaeus, and Garcinia produce valuable commercial resin or gum. Gamboge is produced from Garcinia morella Desrousseaux and other species. Garcinia mangostana and Mammea americana Linnaeus produce well-known edible fruits. Other species, such as Calophyllum inophyllum and Garcinia indica Choisy, have oily seeds. Hypericum is important in horticulture and medicine.


Genus Mesua

Trees . Apical bud abortive ; axillary buds with scales . Leaves opposite, petiolate , leathery, usually with inconspicuous, translucent glands ; secondary veins many, slender; tertiary veins scalariform, not prominent . Flowers bisexual , homostylous, solitary, axillary [or in axillary thyrses]. Sepals 4[or 5], imbricate. Petals 4[or 5], imbricate. Stamens many, not obviously fascicled, in continuous ring ; filaments free , slender; anthers erect , basifixed ; fasciclodes absent. Ovary 2-loculed, with 2 erect ovules per locule; styles united , elongate ; stigma peltate. Capsule subwoody, septifragal; septae persistent . Seeds 1-4, without appendage ; embryo with broad fleshy cotyledons.

About five species: India and Sri Lanka to peninsular Malaysia, possibly Java, and China; one species (introduced ) in China.[2]

Physical Description

Species Mesua ferrea

Trees evergreen , 20-30 m tall. Trunk upright, buttressed at base ; crown conic. Bark dark gray-brown, thin, fissured , lamellate , exuding aromatic white resin when wounded. Leaves always pendulous; petiole 5-8 mm; leaf blade reddish yellow when young, becoming dark green, abaxially usually glaucous, adaxially dark green and somewhat lucid, lanceolate or narrowly ovate-lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, (4-) 6-10(-12) × (1-) 2-4 cm, leathery; secondary veins numerous , obliquely parallel, slender and indistinct; tertiary veins and veinlets reticulate , ± visible under hand lens , base cuneate, apex acuminate or long acuminate to caudate . Pedicel 3-5 mm. Flowers bisexual , solitary, axillary , 5-8.5 cm in diam. Sepals (outer 2 slightly larger than inner 2) orbicular , convex , margin membranous and sometimes white ciliate . Petals white, obovate-cuneate, 3-3.5 cm. Stamens with filaments filiform , 1.5-2 cm; anthers golden-yellow, oblong . Ovary conic, ca. 1.5 cm; style 1-1.5 cm; stigma oblique . Fruit broadly ovoid or laterally depressed globose , ca. 3 × 2.5 cm, dry, longitudinally rugose , with stoutly pointed style at apex, usually dehiscent by 2 valves , with accrescent woody sepals and many persistent filaments at base; stalk robust , 0.8-1.2 cm. Seeds 1-4, ± irregular in shape ; coat brown, fragile. Fl. Mar-May, fr. Aug-Oct. 2n = 32. [source]

Habit: Evergreen .

Flowers: Bloom Period: July, August. • Flower Color: near white, white


Size: over 40' tall.


Usually cultivated, escaped and locally naturalized in SW Yunnan (Gengma: Mengding); 500-600 m. [3].


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Culture: Space 20-30' apart.

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Full Sun .

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 10a, 10b, 11. (map)


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Calophyllum nagassarium N. L. Burman • Mesua nagassarium (N. L. Burman) Kostermans.


Publishing author : L. Publication : Sp. Pl. 515.

Place of publication: Sp. pl. 1:515. 1753

Name verified on 20-Feb-1987 by ARS Systematic Botanists. Last updated: 05-Nov-1999

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Mesua

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 3 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

M. ferrea (Ceylon Ironwood) · M. ferruginea (Ironwood Tree) · M. nervosa (Chestnut Ironwood)

More Info

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Further Reading

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  1. Xi-wen Li, Jie Li, Norman K. B. Robson & Peter Stevens "Clusiaceae". in Flora of China Vol. 13 Page 1. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  2. Xi-wen Li, Jie Li & Peter Stevens "Mesua". in Flora of China Vol. 13 Page 1, 38. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  3. "Mesua ferrea". in Flora of China Vol. 13 Page 1, 38. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
Last Revised: 2014-11-20