July 7, 2017

Tree Jasmine: Millingtonia Hortensis


The name Millingtonia (Hortensis) honours Thomas Millington, an English botanist of the 18th Century and hortensis means "grown in gardens". Common names for this tree are Tree Jasmine, Cork Tree and in Tami—Mara Malli. Although this tree is indigenous to Burma and the Malay Archipelago, it now grows wild in most parts of India as well as being extensively cultivated both in gardens and avenues. 

Tall and straight, with comparatively few branches its claim to popularity lies in its ornamental value rather than any shade-giving properties. It is fast growing tree, with brittle wood, liable to be damaged by storms. In favourable positions it can reach 80 feet in height, but can be grown as a small compact tree if trimmed or as a nice container specimen. The ashy bark is cracked and furrowed and numerous fissures make removal of the cork an easy matter. 

From April until the rains and again in November and December, a profusion of silvery-white, fragrant flowers crown the foliage. The tree flowers at night and sheds flowers early in the morning; fragrant blooms falling and carpeting the ground around. The waxy characteristic of the flowers ensure their freshness for a long time. 

Between January and March the leaves are shed and renewed during April and May, although the tree is never quite naked. The fruit is very long and narrow, pointed at both ends and contains thin, flat seeds. Trees do not seed very easily in India. 

The tree grows to height of between 18 and 25 metres and has a spread of 7 to 11 metres. It reaches maturity between 6 and 8 years of age and lives for up to 40 years. It is a versatile tree which can grow in various soil types and climates with a preference for moist climates 

The tree is evergreen and has an elongated pyramidal stem. The soft, yellowish-white wood is brittle and can break under strong gusts of wind. 

The fruit is a smooth flat capsule and is partitioned into two. It contains broad-winged seeds. The fruits are fed on by birds which aid in seed dispersal. In cultivation, the viability of seeds is low unless they are sown immediately after the fruit ripens, so the plant is generally propagated through cuttings. 

The tree is considered ornamental and the pleasant fragrance of the flowers renders it ideal as a garden tree. The wood is also used as timber and the bark is used as an substitute for cork. The leaves are also used as a substitute for tobacco in cigarettes. Extract of the leaves of Millingtonia hortensis have good antimicrobial activity and the dried flower is effective as a bronchodilator—root-lung tonic. 

Flowers of the beautiful Tree Jasmine

Flowers before blooming on the Tree Jasmine 

The waxy flowers of the Tree Jasmine

Brittle bark of the Tree Jasmine

Fruit of the Tree Jasmine


According to mythology, this is a heavenly tree brought to earth by the god Krishna. A quarrel over it ensued between Satyabhama and Rukmini, Krishna's wives. But Krishna planted the tree in Satyabhama's courtyard in a way that when the tree flowered, the flowers fell in Rukmini's courtyard. 

Another romantic story woven around the tree is about Parijataka, a princess. She fell in love with the sun but when he deserted her she committed suicide and a tree sprung from the ashes. Unable to stand the sight of the lover who left her, the tree flowers only at night and sheds them like tear-drops before the sun rises. 

Jasmine Tree Sapling on my Roof Garden

My Sapling
This tree is a particular favourite of mine because of the enchanting, intoxicating, heady aroma of its flowers late in the evening. For this reason I have a potted Tree Jasmine sapling on my root garden, which will be transferred and planted into the ground by the end of the year. 

No comments: