Michelia champaca

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Habit at Kepaniwai, Maui, Hawaii.
© Forest & Kim Starr (USGS)

Local names:
Bengali (champaka,champa), Burmese (mawk-sam-lung), Cantonese (sampige), English (golden champa,yellow champa,fragrant champaca,orange chempaka), Filipino (champaca), French (ilang-ilang), Gujarati (rae-champo), Hindi (chempaka), Indonesian (cempaka kuni

Michelia champaca is an evergreen or semi-deciduous, small to medium-sized tree up to 50 m tall; bole straight, cylindrical, up to 200 cm in diameter, without buttresses; bark surface smooth, grey to greyish-white, inner bark fibrous, yellow to brown, crown conical to cylindrical.

Leaves simple, entire, arranged spirally; stipules adnate to or free from the petiole.

Flowers on short, axillary brachyblast, solitary or rarely in pairs, large, tepals 6-21, in 3-6 usually subequal whorls, white to yellow; stamens many, anthers with a short to prominently elongated connective; gynoecium stipitate, with spirally arranged, free or connate carpels containing many ovules.

Fruiting carpels dehiscing along the dorsal suture when free or fused and forming a fleshy or woody syncarp. Seed hanging from its funicle.

The genus is named after Italian botanist Peter A. Michel (1679-1737); the specific epithet after the Hindu name.


M. champaca is found scattered in primary lowland to montane rain forest, up to 2 100 m altitude. The absolute maximum temperature is 35-40 deg C, the absolute minimum temperature 3-10 deg C.

Native range

Tree management

Trees propagated from seed take 8-10 years to flower whereas asexually propagated trees flower in 2-3 years. In Java the mean annual increment of 10-27-year-old trees is 1-1.8 m in height and 1.5-2 cm diameter, annual increment of 20-25 cu m/ha during the 1st 10 years are possible. It is planted at 3 m x 2.5-3 m but the open canopy makes weed control necessary. A rotation of 50 years is recommended to produce sawn timber. The tree is a light demander and is susceptible to fire; it coppices well.

There are 10 000-29 500 seeds/kg. Seed storage behavior probably orthodox. Seed viability can be maintained by moist storage at 5 deg C for about 7 months or in pits at 13 deg C for about 4 months.

M. champaca is found scattered in primary lowland to montane rain forest, up to 2 100 m altitude. The absolute maximum temperature is 35-40 deg C, the absolute minimum temperature 3-10 deg C.

M. champaca can be propagated by seed. Germination of seed is generally poor and they should be treated with insecticide/fungicide. Seed should be sown in the shade, which should be removed after germination. For ornamental purposes it is propagated vegetatively.

Poison: Leafs extract is toxic to the rice fungus, Pyricularia oryzae. Fatty oils extracted from the seeds show antibacterial activity against Bacillus pumilus, B. subtilis, Salmonella typhosa, S. paratyphi, Micrococcus pyogenes var. albus and Staphylococcus aureus.

The tree is used to reforest badly eroded areas in Java.

Leaves are fed to silkworms.

The gross energy value of the heartwood is about 21 070 kJ/kg and the tree is used as fuelwood.

Timber:  Heartwood, olive-brown turning to dark brown with a greenish tinge upon exposure, is clearly differentiated from the pale brown, up to 8 cm wide sapwood. Grain straight or slightly interlocked, texture fine to moderately fine and even. Michelia wood is nicely figured and is used for furniture, cabinetwork, carvings, turnery and pattern making; it has also been used for cement-bonded wood-wool board.  In India it has been recommended to ring girdle trees about 3 years before felling to prevent possible warping and checking of the wood.

Medicine:  A decoction of the bark and leaves is given after childbirth; the bark is used as a febrifuge. In Myanmar the flowers are used to treat leprosy and leaves used against colic.

Nitrogen fixing:  Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae have been observed on the roots.

Ornamental:  M. champaca is planted as a wayside tree, and near temples for ornamental.

Soil improver: Soil under tree cover shows an increase in pH, soil organic carbon and available phosphorus.

Essential oil:  Flowers yield an essential oil used in perfumery. Analyses of seeds showed low (20%) kernel contents but high oil contents of kernel (32.2%) and 6.44% of seed. It has potential for commercial exploitation for oil production for various use