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Characteristics of Devil’s Tree (Alstonia angustiloba) in the Wild

Characteristics of Devil's Tree (Alstonia angustiloba) in the Wild

Devil’s tree (Alstonia angustiloba) is a tree species belonging to the Apocynaceae family. It grows naturally in Malaysia and Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, and Kalimantan), in primary forests in the lowlands to an altitude of 500 m asl.

In Java, Alstonia angustiloba is referred to as “Pulai Hitam” and in Bali, it is called “Pulau Selem”. This tree is often confused with the Blackboard tree (Alstonia scholaris) which also grows widely in Indonesia.

The wood belongs to strength class IV-V and durability class V. It is used to make planks, household utensils, sculptures, carvings, and others. In Malaysia, the leaves are used to treat fever. In Sarawak, latex is used to treat boils and abscesses. Ground extract of Devil’s tree bark is an ingredient of febrifuges and vermifuges. In Thailand, latex is used to soothe toothaches. The latex is also used to treat shingles, boils, abscesses, and ringworms.

Characteristics of Devil’s Tree Leaf

Alstonia angustiloba Leaf
Source: Ong Jyh Seng

The leaves have four to nine whorls, the leaf blade is slightly rough, oval, shiny dark green on the top, pale green on the bottom, measuring 4.5-22 x 2.1-7 cm. The leaf blade has many secondary veins that are almost perpendicular to the midrib.

Characteristics of Devil’s Tree Flower

Alstonia angustiloba Flower
Source: David Tng

The flowers are small, clustered, white or cream, and fragrant.

Characteristics of Devil’s Tree Fruit

Alstonia angustiloba Fruit
Source: Ruby and Sapphire

Fruit in pairs, cylindrical, brown, and up to 35 cm long.

Characteristics of Devil’s Tree

Alstonia angustiloba Tree
Source: rafeemajid

Devil’s tree can grow as a large tree as high as 35-40 meters with a trunk diameter of up to 2 meters. Grows best in loam or sandy soil. The bark is dark gray, smooth when young, and becomes slightly fissured as it ages. The wood is pale yellow and soft. Each part of the tree has a white latex resembling milk when injured.

In Indonesia, this tree is widely planted along toll roads, main roads and in urban landscapes as an ornamental tree because of its attractive growth form. It is also tolerant of various types of soil ranging from waterlogged conditions to dry conditions.

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