Stelechocarpus burahol (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Stelechocarpus burahol (Blume) Hook.f. & Thomson

Protologue: Fl. Ind. 1: 94 (1855).
Family: Annonaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= unknown


  • Uvaria burahol Blume (1825).

Vernacular names

  • Kepel (En, Fr)
  • Indonesia: kepel (Malay, Javanese), burahol (Sundanese), kecindul (Javanese).

Origin and geographic distribution

Kepel is found in South-East Asia throughout Malesia as far as the Solomons; however, in the Philippines and Australia it is a recent introduction. Cultivation seems to be limited to Java.


Ripe fruit is eaten fresh. It is said that the orange, juicy pulp gives the fragrance of violets to body excretions (urine, transpiration, breath). Medicinally the pulp is a diuretic, prevents kidney inflammation, and causes sterility (temporarily) in women. Hence it served aristocratic ladies as a perfume and a family-planning agent; in Java its use was traditionally restricted to the consorts of the sultan of Yogya. The wood is suitable for household articles; the straight trunk, after immersion in water for several months, is used in house building and is said to last for more than 50 years. Kepel is a beautiful ornamental tree, the leaves of a flush changing from light pink into a burgundy red colour before turning a brilliant green. The tree habit, cylindrical or pyramidal with large numbers of systematically arranged lateral branches, and the cauliflory, add to the attraction.

Production and international trade

Kepel is cultivated mainly in central Java where the fruit is highly appreciated. It is sold in the local markets.


Observations in Kamerunga Horticultural Research Station, Queensland (Australia), established a fruit weight of 62-105 g, the edible flesh amounting to 49%, the seed to 27% of fresh weight.


  • Erect evergreen tree, up to 25 m tall. Trunk up to 40 cm in diameter, dark grey-brown to black, characteristically covered with numerous thick tubercles.
  • Leaves elliptic-oblong to ovate-lanceolate, 12-27 cm × 5-9 cm, dark green, glabrous, thin leathery; petiole up to 1.5 cm long.
  • Flowers unisexual, green turning whitish, fascicled on tubercles; male flowers on upper trunk and older branches, 8-16 together, up to 1 cm in diameter; female flowers only on the lower part of the trunk, up to 3 cm in diameter.
  • Fruit with 1-13 berry-like ripe carpels, fruit stalk up to 8 cm long; ripe carpels almost globose, brownish, 5-6 cm in diameter; pericarp brown, juicy, edible.
  • Seeds ellipsoid, 4-6, ca. 3 cm long.


Kepel occurs wild on deep, moist clay soils in secondary forest in Java. It is cultivated as a fruit tree at elevations up to 600 m, and fruits at 18°S in Queensland. It grows well among bamboo clumps where other trees would not be able to compete.


Kepel is commonly propagated by seed taken from mature fruits and sown immediately. Cuttings and air layers have been tried without success. The seed is cleaned by washing and is dried under shade. Before sowing the seed is scarified, but germination may still take many months. Eventually a high percentage of the seeds does germinate. Germination is hypogeal, the taproot swollen and unbranched for some time. Initially seedlings are slow-growing. At the 3-5-leaf stage the seedlings are potted up. When they reach a height of 0.5-1.0 m, the seedlings are transplanted into the field at 8-10 m apart. The juvenile phase lasts 6-9 years.

In Java the trees normally flower in September-October, although off-season flowering does occur; the fruit ripens 6 months later, mainly in March-April. There is usually a flush of shoot growth after harvest and another preceding bloom; each flush lasts about 2 months, during which shoots extend 2-7 leaves.

The female flowers are borne on the trunk and older portions of branches, and are visited by bees, ants and sometimes by butterflies. Percentage fruit set is high and kepel crops fairly reliably. Irregular rainy season weather is the main cause of variation in yield. A mature tree yields 1000-1500 fruit per year.

The fruit is mature if scratching its skin reveals a yellow or light brown colour underneath (if green, the fruit is still immature). To safeguard quality, the fruit is bagged 1-2 months before harvesting, using plaited sleeves of bamboo or coconut leaflets, or polythene bags. The fruit is packed in baskets or bags and handles well; it can be kept for 2-3 weeks at room temperature.

No serious pests and diseases have been reported, but the trees have to be guarded against bats and rodents.

Genetic resources and breeding

There are variations in productivity and fruit quality between trees. Trees either produce large or small fruit, the latter being called 'kepel krikil' locally; thickness, colour and taste of the pulp also vary enough to justify selection of superior types.


Kepel has been used traditionally as a perfume and a family- planning agent, but information about horticulture, selection and breeding, and detailed analysis of the aromatic properties are still lacking. Research work is needed to test the commercial viability of kepel, and to improve and stimulate its production as a crop.


  • Fachrurozi, Z., 1980. Burahol (Stelechocarpus burahol (Bl.) Hk.f. & Th.) - deodoran tempo dulu dan masalah pelestariannya. [Burahol (Stelechocarpus burahol (Bl.) Hk.f. & Th.) - the old-time deodorant and its conservation problems]. Buletin Kebun Raya 4(4): 127-130.
  • Sunarto, A.T., 1987. Burahol kosmetika alam bagi kerabat keraton. [Burahol natural cosmetic for the royal family]. Trubus 18(207): 103-104.
  • Sunarto, A.T., 1987. Melestarikan tanaman burahol. [How to plant the burahol]. Trubus 18(207): 104-105.


A.T. Sunarto