Ashok, Saraca asoca

Ashok (Saraca asoca, family: Caesalpiniaceae) is one of the most beautiful flowering trees in Bangladesh. The tree is widely distributed in the hilly area of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Malaya area. It gives fragrant flower profusely in the months of February-May, though it may be found round the year. This is as an avenue & garden tree in Bangladesh. It grows well in partial shade and rich porous soil.

Common names: Asoka, Ashok.

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It is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree with dark brown, rough bark and spreading, drooping branches. Leaves are compound, leaflets alternate, 3-5 pairs, oblong-lanceolate, glabrous, coriaceous, petiolate, 15-39 cm long. 3-7 cm wide.

The tree is regarded as a sacred one to the buddhist community of  Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, & Nepal. Emperor Ashoka was born under the tree. The plant has many folkloric, religious and literary associations in the regions.

Flowers are bright orange-yellow or reddish yellow in paniculate corymbs on old wood, rarely axillary; petals 4, sepals 5. Stamens numerous, quite long, exserted from the petal base.

The Sanskrit word Ashoka means being without sorrow.

Pods are linear-oblong, flat, glabrous, coriaceous, veined. Seeds are ellipsoid-oblong, slightly compressed, brown, smooth, glabrous. Fruits matures in August-September. Though flowers and fruits can be seen together in some trees in summer. Propagation of the plant is caused by seeds.

In Indian subcontinent saraca asoca has been used as a medicinal plant from thousands of years. The bark, flower  s and fruits are prescribed for the treatment of snakebite and scorpion sting. The bark is bitter, acrid, refrigerant, astringent, alexiteric, anthelmintic, demulcent, cures dyspepsia, burning sensation, diseases of the blood biliousness, enlargement of the abdomen, colic, piles, ulcers. Bark and seeds are also useful in urinary discharges.

 Jonesia asoca, Jonesia confusa, Jonesia pinnata, Saraca confusa, Saraca indica

The spectacular young leaves are almost bronze in color.


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