Antidesma bunius

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Foliage and fruit
© Trade winds fruit
Detail of leaves and unripe fruits.
© unknown

Local names:
Burmese (kywe-pyisin), English (currant tree,Chinese laurel,nigger's cord,salamander tree), Filipino (bignay,bignai), French (antidesme), Indonesian (hoon,wooni), Javanese (wuni), Malay (buni,berunai), Thai (ma mao luang), Vietnamese (ch[of]im[of]i,choi

Antidesma bunius may be shrubby, 3-8 m high, or may reach up to 15-30 m. It has wide-spreading branches forming a dense crown. 

Leaves evergreen, alternate, oblong, pointed, 10-22.5 cm long, 5-7.5 cm wide, dark-green, glossy, leathery, with very short petioles. 

Flowers tiny, odorous, reddish, male and female on separate trees, the male in axillary or terminal spikes, the female in terminal racemes 7.5-20 cm long. 

 Fruits round or ovoid, up to 8 mm across, borne in grape-like pendent clusters (often paired) and which are extremely showy because the berries ripen unevenly. Skin thin and tough but yields an abundance of bright-red juice which leaves a purple stain on fabrics, while the pulp, only 3 mm thick, is white with colorless juice. Whole fruits very acid, much like cranberries, when unripe, sub-acid and slightly sweet when fully ripe. Some tasters detect a bitter or unpleasant aftertaste, unnoticeable to others. 

There is a single, straw-colored, ridged or fluted very hard seed, 3cm long, 6 mm wide.

The generic name Antidesma is derived from the Greek ‘anti’-against and ‘desma’-a band or constriction, alluding to its use as anti-snake venom in India.


The tree is not strictly tropical for it has proved to be hardy up to central Florida. It thrives in Java from sea-level to 1 200 m. It grows well and flowers but does not set fruit in Israel.

Native range
Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam

Tree management

The trees should be spaced 12-14 m apart, each way. One male tree should be planted for every 10 to 12 females to provide cross-pollination. Wind-protection is desirable when the trees are young. Otherwise they require very little cultural attention.

Depulped and dried fruits of A.bunius may be stored for 2-5 years in airtight containers without a serious decrease in seed viability. There are about 2 800 seeds/kg.

The tree is not strictly tropical for it has proved to be hardy up to central Florida. It thrives in Java from sea-level to 1 200 m. It grows well and flowers but does not set fruit in Israel.

Occasionally, seeds may be non-viable due to inadequate pollination. Seedlings may turn out to be male, and female seedlings may not bear for a number of years. Vegetative propagation is therefore preferred. The tree is readily multiplied by cuttings, grafting or air-layering. The air-layers have borne fruit in 3 years after transplanting. Grafting is recommended in the wet season because scions will remain dormant in dry weather. Most female trees will bear some fruit without the presence of a male because many of the flowers are perfect. 

Whenever the seeds are used, they need about 1 month of after-ripening and can then be sown under shade without pre-treatment. Fresh seeds need pre-treatment with sulphuric acid for 15 min followed by soaking in water for 24 hours. The viability is about 3-70%.

Poison: The bark contains a toxic alkaloid. The heavy fragrance of the flowers, especially the male, is very obnoxious to some individuals. 

A. bunius has occasionally been employed in reforestation projects.

 Mostly children eat the fruits. Indonesians cook the fruits with fish. Elsewhere the fruits (unripe and ripe together) are made into jam and jelly though the juice is difficult to jell and pectin must be added. Some cooks add lemon juice as well. If the extracted bignay juice is kept under refrigeration for a day or so, there is settling of a somewhat astringent sediment, which can be discarded, thus improving the flavor. For several years, the richly colored jelly was produced on a small commercial scale in southern Florida. The juice makes excellent syrup and has been successfully fermented into wine and brandy. In Indonesia and the Philippines, the leaves are eaten raw or stewed with rice. They are often combined with other vegetables as flavouring.

Fibre: The bark yields a strong fiber for rope and cordage. The timber has been experimentally pulped for making cardboard. 

Timber: The timber is reddish and hard. If soaked in water, it becomes heavy and hard. 

Medicine: The leaves are sudorific and employed in treating snakebite in Asia.

Ornamental: The dark green and glossy, alternate leaves make the tree an attractive ornamental.