Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cerbera manghas

Cerbera manghas

Scientific name: Cerbera manghas Linn.
Synonym: Cerbera lactaria Ham. Cerbera odollam Gaertn.   
Family: Apocynaceae

Common name:
 Sea mango, Madagascar ordeal bean, Odollam tree, Pink eyed cerbera, Dog-bane.
Marathi: Sukanu; Tamil: Kodalma, Kattarali, Kottuma, Caat aralie; Malaylam: Utalam,Chattankaya; Kannada: Chande,Monde.

Geographic distribution
Cerbera manghas is naturally distributed from the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean eastward to French Polynesia. It occupies lowland and coastal habitats and is often associated with mangrove forests. This tree has been introduced to Hawaii other tropical locations as an ornamental.

Characteristics of this plant family:

1. Leaves Stem & Roots - Leaves are simple and undivided, and are either opposite or in rings around the stem.
2. Flowers – There is a calyx with five parts, either separate or joined to form a tube. The flowers are in clusters and are often large and showy. They usually have five petals joined into a tube at tahe base. There are five stamens joined together.
3. Seeds – The seed capsule has two parts and may be either inside the flower or not. Seeds are very variables, and may be small with a hairy tuft (nerium) or large and woody (Allamanda).
4. Family usually has: simple leaves, Milky sap, five part calyx, Clusters of flowers, five large petals joined at the base, five stamens.
5. Most parts of many members this family is POISONOUS.

Cerbera manghas is a small evergreen coastal tree growing up 12 m tall. The shiny dark-green leaves are alternate, ovoid in shape. The flowers are fragrant, possessing a white, tubular, 5 lobed corolla about 3 to 5 cm in diameter, with a pink to red throat. There are five stamens, and ovary is positioned above the other flower parts. The fruit are egg-shaped, 5 to 10 cm long, and turn purple-red at maturity. All parts of the flower contain latex.


Cerbera manghas is native to Madagascar, South-East Asia, and many Pacific islands.

Flowering period: April- August.
Fruiting period: July – December

Cerbera species are generally associated with water and occur along rivers or streams, in swamp forest and behind mangroves, but May also be found in shrubby savanna or in secondary forest edges.


The seed oil in plasters applied to the skin is effective for scabies and prurigo, applied to hair kills head-lice. The glycosides extracted from the seeds are active on hearty failure. The trunk bark or the leaves are occasionally used as a purgative, but strict precautions must be taken because of their high toxicity.

Other uses
In Sri Lanka this wood is used for making masks particularly because it is a lighter wood.


The leaves and the fruits contain the potent cardiac glycoside cerberin, which is extremely poisonous if injested.People in olden times used the sap of the tree as a poison for animal hunting. The fruit was reportedly eaten to commit suicide in the Marquesas Islands.


Because of its deadly poisonous seeds, the genus name is derived from Cerberus, the hell dog from the Greek mythology, thus indicating the toxicity of the seeds. In Madagascar, the seeds were used in sentence rituals to poison kings and queens. In Hawaii Cerbera manghas is called suicide apple.