Canarium indicum

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Related Links
Mature kernels-in-testa
© French B
Immature fruit on tree (close up)
© French B
Canarium indicum leaves
© French B
Immature kernels-in-testa
© French B
Section of immature fruit
© French B

Local names:
English (red canariun,pili nut,java almond,canarium nut), French (noix de kanari,la nangaile), Indonesian (lawele,galip), Malay (upi,seladah,kerantai), Tamil (rata kekuna)

Canarium indicum is an evergreen, dioecious, medium-sized to fairly large tree to 40 m tall and a diameter of up to 100 cm. The crown is large, dense crown and buttresses are upto  m high. The bark is grey or brownish-grey to yellow-brown, smooth to scaly and dippled; inner bark laminated, reddish-brown to pinkish-brown, exuding a milky resin.

Leaves imparipinnate, arranged spirally with 7-15 opposite leaflets; leaflets oblong, 13.5-36 by 4.4-21 cm, base rounded and slightly asymmetrical, apex acuminate, margin entire, glabrous; petiole 9 cm long. The stipule ovate to oblong, persistent, large and prominently dentate, rarely inserted on the petiole.

Inflorescence terminal or axillary, broadly paniculate, 15-30 cm long; flowers numerous, creamy white, 3 merous; male flower 10 mm long, stamens 6, female ones up to 15 mm long.

Fruit blue-black drupe, 35-60 mm by 15-30 mm, endocarp hard, thin and brittle, ovoid, circular to slightly triangular in cross-section, glabrous, and in groups of 6-12.

Seeds brown, 3.5 by 2 cm, oily, palmatifid to 3 foliolate and variously folded cotyledons.

The family Burseraceae consists of 16 genera and about 550 species in the tropical regions of both hemispheres. The genus Canarium (derived from the Malay name ‘kanari’, the local name for one of the species), contains about 75 species of trees which are mainly found in tropical Asia and the Pacific, and a few species in tropical Africa.


C. indicum occurs in primary and secondary rain forest on both well drained and poorly drained sites but is uncommon in grasslands.

Native range
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand, Vanuatu, Vietnam

Tree management

C. indicum trees are planted at a spacing of about 9 m in the Solomon Islands. In these plantations trials, the growth rates averaged 2.8 m/year in height and 3 cm/year in diameter. A total of two seedlings should be set in a hole, and all male trees should be cut down as soon as their sex can be determined, leaving only one male tree for every 20-25 female trees.

Little is known about the cultural requirements of the tree. Marcots usually form lateral branches early and do not require training. Seedling, grafted and budded trees initially tend to grow upright and need to be trained at an early age to induce the formation of lateral branches. This is done by pinching off the terminal bud when the tree is about 0.5-1 m tall. This should be done repeatedly on all the subsequent shoots, until the youngest set of shoots becomes reproductive, a process that may take 5-6 years. Once the tree starts fruiting, very little pruning is necessary.

Mature trees yield at least 100 kg/year of fruits when open grown and under plantation conditions they can be expected to yield 7700 kg/ha of fruits annually (the kernels account for about 15% of the total weight)

C. indicum occurs in primary and secondary rain forest on both well drained and poorly drained sites but is uncommon in grasslands.

C. indicum is usually propagated through seed and seedlings, or by asexual methods, such as marcotting, grafting and budding. Vegetative propagation methods like budding and grafting are practiced for the fruit production. Marcotting, or air-layering is the simplest propagation method for this species. However, it is a very slow process, both in terms of the time it takes to root the branches and the number of propagules that can be produced from one tree.

When grafting, the seedling rootstocks need to be established in large black polybags (at least 25 cm x 35 cm) or directly in the field, so that they attain sufficient stem girth faster, to match the diameter of the terminal shoots to be used as scions. It is better to use previously defoliated shoots as scions. Grafting is suitable done in the cool and dry months of November to February

 The oily nuts (seeds) are eaten raw or roasted as a dessert after the removal of testa .The fresh seed oil is mixed with food. Nut contains 70-80% oil, 13% protein and 7% starch. The young shoot is edible and can be used in cooking and in making green salads.

The resin-rich wood is soft and makes an excellent firewood. The hard, stony shell of the seed is chiefly used in cooking, for which it makes an excellent fuel.

Timber: The wood density is 500-650Kg/m3 at 12% moisture content. The wood is used for light construction, mouldings, house-framing, interior finish and canoes construction.

Shade or shelter: It makes an excellent roadside or avenue and border tree, and a verdant shade tree for lawns.

Lipids: Oil extracted from the seeds serves as a substitute for coconut oil for cooking or as an illuminant. Oil distilled from it is an ingredient in perfume and cosmetics.

Medicine: The bark is used in traditional medicine for treatment of vomiting, and the young leaves for the treatment of scabies and ciguatera poisoning.

Gum or resin: A lemon-scented pale yellow resin is collected from incisions made in the bark is used in incense. It is also used as an ingredient in plasters and ointments.

Its remarkable resistance to strong winds makes it a good living windbreak for other crops such as bananas and papayas.

Intercropping: The tree is cultivated in home gardens together with other crops.