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Mimusops elengi L. 1753
pronounced: MIM-you-sops ell-en-nee
(Sapotaceae – the sapote family)
common names: Red Coondoo, Spanish Cherry, Bullet Wood, Bakul Tree
Mimusops is from two Greek words, μιμος (mimos), an imitator, mimic, andοψις (opsis), the face – the corolla and the shape of the flowers resemble a monkey’s face; elengi is the Malayalam name of the species.
This is a large, spreading evergreen tree that can reach a height of up to 16 m, with an umbrella-shaped canopy. It grows in the tropical forests of south and south-east Asia and northern Australia. It is often found on dunes, sandy banks and near mangroves. It can tolerate large amounts of salt, sand and sun.
The bark of the trunk is thick, and dark brownish black or greyish black in colour, with striations and a few cracks on the surface. The trunk can grow up to about 30 cm in circumference. When cut, the branchlets exude a white latex.
The small flowers are star-shaped, cream, hairy, and scented. They have a central cone formed from the petals and stamens.
The fruit, green at first, ripens to orange-red, with a sweet yellow pulp, and usually contains only a single seed. The fruits are attractive to birds. The tree is the food plant for wild silkworms.
There are some trees in the coastal vine scrub at the southern end of Nelly Bay, and a couple planted as street trees in Yule Street, Picnic Bay. Red Coondoo is used as a street tree in parts of Townsville.
As one would expect from the common name of Bullet Wood, the timber of this tree is extremely hard, strong and tough, with the heart wood strongly defined from the sap. The heart wood works easily, and takes a beautiful polish. In Asia it is well known as suitable for heavy general construction, bridge building, boat and shipbuilding, marine construction, flooring, bearings, doors and framing. It has also been used for poles and piles, foundation sills, railway sleepers, paving blocks, mine timber, furniture and cabinet work, vehicle bodies and wheels, turnery, tool handles, walking sticks, weaving shuttles, toys, sporting goods and musical instruments. In Africa the wood is considered good for mortars. A good-quality veneer and plywood can be manufactured from the wood. The heartwood is deep red or dark red-brown, often with darker streaks, not sharply demarcated from the paler 5–7 cm wide sapwood. The grain is straight, wavy or slightly interlocked, texture very fine to fine and even; occasionally with watered-silk figure on the tangential face of sapwood. The wood is liable to end-splitting, warping and surface checking if not carefully seasoned.
The tree’s chief claim to fame, however, is in its medicinal uses. It is mentioned in all the ancient scriptures of Ayurveda, as it is a common tree in many parts of India. The flowers contain volatile oils, and the oil from the seeds is non-volatile. The bark, flowers, fruit and seeds are all used medically, and are used externally as well as internally. Being astringent and styptic, it is used extensively in India for treating dental problems like bleeding gums, pyorrhea, caries, and loose teeth. In such conditions, the tender stems are used as toothbrushes, or the powder of bark skin is used as a tooth powder. A gargle made from a decoction of its bark skin and that of khadira (Acacia catechu), is used for treating bleeding and swollen gums. The unripe fruit is chewed, and is said to help fix loose teeth. The flowers are used for preparing a lotion for wounds and ulcers. The powder of dried flowers is used as a brain tonic, and also as a snuff to relieve headaches. The astringent and styptic properties of the bark skin and flowers make them useful in preparing medicines to treat menstruation and urinary tract problems. The ripe fruits are used to make a general tonic.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay & Nelly Bay 2010
Page last updated 27th January 2018