Alstonia scholaris (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Alstonia scholaris (L.) R.Br.

Protologue: Mem. Wern. Nat. Hist. Soc. 1: 76 (1811).


  • Echites scholaris L. (1767),
  • Tabernaemontana alternifolia Burm. (1768),
  • Echites pala Ham. (1822).

Vernacular names

  • White cheesewood, milkwood pine, blackboard tree (En)
  • Shaitan (Fr)
  • Brunei: pulai lilin
  • Indonesia: pulai (general), pule (Java), rite (Ambon)
  • Malaysia: pulai (Peninsular), kacau gitik (Kiput, Sarawak)
  • Papua New Guinea: white cheesewood, milky pine, katung (Buang, Morobe Province), kambuu (Kanganaman, Sepik Province), herina (Hisui, Central Province)
  • Philippines: dita (general), dalipaoen (Iloko), tanitan (Bisaya)
  • Burma (Myanmar): taung meok, lettok
  • Laos: tinpet
  • Thailand: sattaban, tin pet (central), hassaban (southwestern)
  • Vietnam: cây mò cua, cây sữa.


A. scholaris is the most widely distributed Alstonia species, found from Sri Lanka and India through mainland South-East Asia and southern China, throughout Malesia, to northern Australia, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Solomon Islands. It has been planted elsewhere.


A. scholaris is the most important source of pulai timber. The wood yields a good-quality pulp. In Java the wood was formerly used for school blackboards (hence "scholaris").

The thin roots and the bark have a bitter taste; the bark contains many alkaloids. In the Philippines, a decoction of the bark is used as a febrifuge and tonic, as an emmenagogue, anticholeric and vulnerary. The latex is applied to ulcers and for rheumatic pains. In Thailand, the bark is used as an antidysenteric, astringent, and a remedy for colds and bronchitis. In Indo-China, the bark is used as a strengthening tonic, a febrifuge, in the treatment of abdominal pains, irregular menstruation, dysentery, diarrhoea and arthritis. A decoction is applied as a wash for skin diseases, and as a gargle. It is believed to be a galactagogue, but this may well be an example of doctrine of signs. In Papua New Guinea, the leaves or bark are widely used as a febrifuge, to relieve stomach complaints, diarrhoea and dysentery. The latex is drunk in small amounts as a poison antidote. Mention is made of its use for coughs, asthma, pneumonia and lung cancer, gout, and hypertension. In New Britain, bark sap squeezed into water is occasionally drunk to combat anaemia. Bark sap, drunk three times daily, is said to induce abortion. Trobriand Island girls chew the leaves as an oral contraceptive. A poultice made from the leaves has been reported as a good remedy against skin diseases.

The latex also provides a good-quality chewing gum. The tree is sometimes planted as an ornamental.


  • A medium-sized to large tree 10-50(-60) m tall, bole cylindrical, in older trees massively fluted, up to 125 cm in diameter, with stout buttresses up to 10 m tall which spread out at the base for up to 4 m, outer bark brown or yellowish-white, smooth but coming off evenly in small papery flakes, with horizontally enlarged lenticels and hoops, inner bark yellow to brown, usually tinged yellowish, with copious white latex.
  • Leaves in whorls of 4-8(-9), narrowly elliptical to obovate, (5-)6-17(-22) cm × (1.5-)2.5-7.5(-8.5) cm, apex obtuse or rounded, with 25-45(-55) pairs of secondary veins, petiole 5-20(-25) mm long.
  • Inflorescence mostly formed of dense bunches of flowers, many-flowered, pedicel 0-2 mm long, calyx pubescent, corolla pubescent outside.
  • Follicles glabrous.

Two varieties can be recognized: var. scholaris, having glabrous leaves, and var. velutina Monach., having strigillose-pilose leaves beneath. The latter variety occurs in Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and New Guinea. A. scholaris is most abundant in monsoon areas, and it tolerates a variety of soils and habitats, including secondary vegetation. It occurs up to 500(-1000) m altitude. As an ornamental it has proved adaptable to the climates of southern Florida and California (United States). The density of the wood is 270-490 kg/m3 at 15% moisture content. See also the table on wood properties.

Selected sources

33, 35, 67, 100, 175, 177, 307, 315, 318, 359, 370, 440, 455, 461, 481, 484, 496, 560, 579, 608, 619, 625, 671, 704, 753, 779. timbers

118, 197,

  • Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1985. The wealth of India: a dictionary of Indian raw materials & industrial products. Revised Edition. Vol. 1. Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi, India. 513 pp.263, 334, 419, 425, 427, 431, 433, 503, 588, 672, 739, 786, 810, 867, 950, 1046. medicinals

Main genus page


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  • Stephen P. Teo