Scientific name: Memecylon umbellatum
English name: Ironwood
Malayalam name : കായാമ്പൂ / കാശാവ്
Location of the plant: Chooral, Kannur
Conservation status: Not evaluated
Memecylon umbellatum commonly known as ironwood is a large evergreen shrub. It’s commonly present in habitats like semi-evergreen, shola, and moist deciduous forests, also in plains of peninsular India and Srilanka. The tree has a height of up to 8 meters. The bark is pale brown, fissured, thinny when it is old. It has simple, opposite, and decussate leaves. The inflorescence is a cluster of distinctly peduncled dense cymose umbrellas formed axillary or on tubercle. moreover, flowers having a beautiful deep blue color. Fruits are berry in type and yellowish in appearance.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as food, medicine, and a source of materials. It is often grown as an ornamental, valued especially for its floral display
This plant has great medicinal properties. The bark is widely used to treat bruises. The leaves are astringent and are used internally in the treatment of gonorrhea and leucorrhoea. If used externally, the leaves make a cooling astringent wash and a lotion for treating conjunctivitis. Mixing leaves with several other ingredients makes them good fomentations for external use. Their flowers are mainly also to treat inflammation of the conjunctiva. A decoction of their astringent is used in the treatment of excessive or irregular menstrual discharge and menstrual pains. Its bluish-black, globose fruit is often used as a food source.
Besides the medicinal uses its hard, strong and very flexible wood is used for piles, axes, and even for building houses and boats. The wood of many species in the genus has a high calorific value and is often flavored as a fuel and for making charcoal. It has a yellow and a crimson dye that can be extracted from the leaves and flowers. It can be used for dyeing cotton and woven goods such as mats.
Text and illustration by Divya R Prabhu