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What is Calophyllum?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Calophyllum is a genus of hardwood trees found widely distributed throughout the tropics of the world and known by a variety of common names including guanandi, teitai, and bintangor tree. These trees have a number of commercial and medicinal uses, in addition to being grown as ornamentals throughout their native range. People interested in growing a Calophyllum species can obtain a specimen from a nursery or through a gardener with an established tree.

Members of this genus produce simple evergreen leaves, relatively unobtrusive white flowers, and small green fruits. They can vary in height when mature, depending on the species, and have slightly flaky gray to brown bark. When stressed, a Calophyllum may lose its leaves, but under normal conditions, the foliage should remain in place and stay very healthy. Browning, yellowing, or drooping foliage is an indicator of ill health and may be caused by excessive sun, low temperatures, too much water, not enough water, or dark growing conditions.

There are around 200 species in this genus. All are hardy tropical plants, able to grow in a variety of conditions, and they also grow rapidly. Calophyllum is sometimes used for reforestation projects and to prevent soil erosion, and it is not uncommon to see the trees planted near roads in some tropical nations, where they help to keep soil in place and prevent issues like mudslides and sinkholes. Trees are also established for shading, the creation of privacy hedges, and as specimen plantings.

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Commercially, Calophyllum wood can be valuable for construction, furniture, and other projects. The wood is close grained, strong, and very attractive. The trees also produce oils that can be used in a variety of products, including lamp oils. In traditional medicine, Calophyllum is applied topically to treat inflammation and skin conditions, and some research suggests the trees may produce anti-inflammatory compounds with medical uses.

Nurseries and catalogs of tropical trees and plants may stock members of this genus or can order them by special request. People interested in a particular cultivar should gather as much information as possible to help nursery staff locate it. Having the scientific name is helpful, as it will reduce the risk of confusion between common names or plants that appear superficially similar. People who know gardeners with established plants may be able to obtain seeds or cuttings. Depending on the species, cuttings may not be successful for propagation and an experienced gardener should be able to provide more information about the best way to cultivate a Calophyllum species.

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