Terminalia arjuna

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© David Lee, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International Unive
© David Lee, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International Unive
Leaves and branches
© David Lee, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International Unive

Local names:
Bengali (arjhan), English (arjun,tropical almond,Malabar almond,white marudah,arjuna), Gujarati (vellamatta,sadado,sadada), Hindi (koha,arjun,arjuna,arjan,kahu), Tamil (vellai maruthu,vellamatta marutae), Thai (dhanvi,rok faa khaao,kakubha), Trade name (

Terminalia arjuna is a deciduous large-sized fluted tree to 30 m tall and 2-2.5 m dbh, with an often buttressed trunk. Its superficial, shallow root system spreads radially along stream banks. The large, spreading crown produces drooping branches. Bark grey or pinkish-green, thick, smooth and exfoliating in thin irregular sheets.

Leaves simple, opposite to sub-opposite, 5–25 × 4–9 cm, oblong or elliptic oblong, glabrous, hard, often inequilateral, margin often crenulate, apex obtuse or sub-acute, base rounded or sometimes cordate. The petiole is short (2-4 cm long), sericeous, with 2 (or 1) prominent two glands at petiole apex

Inflorescences are short axillary spikes or small terminal panicles, 9-13 cm long with 2.5-6 cm long branches. The rachis short, white and pubescent. Lower receptacle 0.8-1.5 mm long, short sericeous, upper receptacle 1.5-1.75 mm long, glabrous except at base where slightly pubescent. Flowers are small, cup-shaped, regular, sessile, polygamous, white, creamy or greenish-white and strongly honey-scented.

Fruit 2.5-6 x 1.8-2.8 cm long, obovoid-oblong, dark brown to reddish-brown fibrous woody, indehiscent drupe, glabrous with 5-7 equal thick narrow stiff-wings and striated with numerous upwards-curved veins.

The generic name Terminalia comes from Latin word ‘terminus’ or ‘terminalis’ (ending), and refers to the habit of the leaves being crowded or borne on the tips of the shoots.


It occurs naturally along banks of streams and rivers and seasonally dry water courses at low elevations. The species is a characteristic component of dry tropical riverine forests and tropical moist and dry deciduous forests

Native range
India, Sri Lanka

Tree management

Arjun, an initial slow-grower, later grows very fast to attain 2–3 m height in 3 years. Weeding and protection from fire and frost is needed for the first two years. Pruning is required to remove the weaker shoots when forking takes place due to frost damage. Selection management systems can be utilized to extract timber, which is 50-60 cm dbh.

Arjun has been successfully grown in taungya plantations. Plantations established in India for tasar sericulture, have a spacing of 1 x 2 m, and are managed by repeated pollarding. It also coppices strongly if cut when smaller than approximately 76 cm dbh, yielding poles, posts and firewood. It produces root suckers and is suitable for pollarding.

Ripe fruits can be collected from the trees themselves or from the ground below trees. They are usually dried in the shade for a month, and the fibrous ribs are usually reduced by rubbing with the hands.

Seed storage behaviour is orthodox. The mature seeds are viable for 1 year when stored in dry gunny bags or in open or closed glass bottles

It occurs naturally along banks of streams and rivers and seasonally dry water courses at low elevations. The species is a characteristic component of dry tropical riverine forests and tropical moist and dry deciduous forests

T. arjuna is usually propagated through seeds, coppicing, root-suckers, stumps and air-layering. Natural regeneration rarely occurs in semi-arid habitats due to lack of enough moisture. 

Seeds germinate early in the rainy season. Sun-exposed seeds germinate less-readily. They are soaked in hot water for 1 minute and left in cold water for 48 hours before sowing. Germination process takes 50–76 days, during which 50–60% of the seeds germinate

Direct sown plants tend to tolerate mid-season drought better than nursery seedlings. However, direct seeding is not recommended in dry areas unless irrigation is feasible, in case of a break in the monsoon. 

Roots of older seedlings can become too long and are better when made into stumps. Normally 15-month-old seedlings are used for preparing stumps. A collar diameter of about 1.2-2.5 cm is considered as the optimum size for planting stumps.

Arjan is usually used in agro and social forestry for reclamation of saline, alkaline soils and deep ravines as well as in sand dune afforestation programmes with Casuarina species.

Erosion control: The species is commonly found and planted along the banks of rivers, streams, old irrigation channels, edges of tank bunds and alluvial bars in seasonally dry water courses, helping to reduce soil erosion on the banks through its root-mass.

Fodder: It is widely planted for raising tassar silkworm and livestock fodder in India where leaves are heavily lopped. The leaves contain 9-11% crude protein and 14-20% crude fibre. 

It makes excellent charcoal and firewood, with calorific values of 5030 Kcal/kg and 5128 Kcal/kg for the sapwood and heartwood, respectively.

Timber: The sapwood is pinkish-white and the heartwood is brown to dark-brown, very hard, lustrous, strong and heavy (specific gravity 0.74; weight 816-865 kg/mn). The odourless, coarse-textured wood is streaked with dark lines and has irregularly inter-locked grains. Timber is locally used for carts, agricultural implements, water troughs, traps, boat building, house building, electric poles, tool-handles and jetty-piles. It also provides satisfactory rayon-grade pulp in mixture with other woods.

Shade or shelter: It is planted for shade or ornament in avenues and parks.

Tannin or dyestuff: The bark (22–24%), primarily, and fruit (7–20%) are used as tanning and dyeing material. The tannage can be used for making fine upper leather and excellent sole leather of light-brown or buff colour with a red tint. It yields up to 45 kg dry bark chips on a three-year cycle without injury, as it is reproduced after 2 rainy seasons.

Medicine: T. arjuna has been widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of cancer, dermatological and gynaecological complaints, heart diseases and urinary disorders. The bark is acrid, an astringent and tonic, and is useful in treatment of high blood pressure and ulcers. The cancer cell growth inhibitory constituent (luteolin) has been isolated from bark, stem and leaves of T. arjuna. Luteolin has also been shown to have specific anti-bacterial activity against Neisseria gonorrhoea. It can also be used as alexiteric, styptic, tonic and anthelmintic and it is useful in fractures, inflammation and wounds and ulcers.

Ornamental: This tree is often planted on roadsides and, and is also used for ornamentation.

Intercropping: T. arjuna is an agroforestry species, often intercropped with coconut and citrus. It is also an excellent shade tree, especially in coffee plantations.

Other services: The leaves or flowers have sacred value in India. The astrologers associate the plant with constellation Swati whose presiding deity is Vayu.

Pollution control: It is also planted near wells as roots of T. arjuna are believed to purify and cool the water in the wells.