Antidesma bunius (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

flowering and fruiting branch

Antidesma bunius (L.) Sprengel

Protologue: Syst. Veg. 1: 826 (1825).
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 26


  • Stilago bunius L. (1767),
  • Antidesma rumphii Tulasne (1851),
  • Antidesma dallachyanum Baillon (1865-1866).
  • Antidesma crassifolium (Elmer) Merr.

Vernacular names

  • Bignay, Chinese laurel, salamander tree (En)
  • Antidesme (Fr)
  • Indonesia: buni (Malay), huni (Sundanese), wuni (Java)
  • Malaysia: buni, buneh (general), berunai (Peninsular)
  • Philippines: bignay (Tagalog), paginga (Ibanag), isip (Pampango)
  • Burma (Myanmar): kywe-pyisin
  • Laos: kho liên tu
  • Thailand: baa mao ruesee, mamao dong (Chiang Mai), mao chaang (Chanthaburi)
  • Vietnam: chòi mòi.

Origin and geographic distribution

A. bunius is found wild in the wetter parts of India, from the Himalaya southwards and eastwards, in Sri Lanka, Burma and Malaysia. It may not be native in the Philippines and Peninsular Malaysia, but if so it must have been introduced in prehistoric times and have become widely naturalized, at least in the Philippines.

Bignay is cultivated extensively in many parts of Indonesia, particularly in Java and also in Indo-China. In Malaysia and the Philippines the tree is rarely seen in cultivation.


Ripe fruit can be eaten raw; it stains mouth and fingers. Unripe berries are rather sour and since the berries in a bunch do not ripen evenly, the fruit is often used to make jam or jelly. Juice of fully ripened fruit serves as a refreshing drink and yields an excellent wine. Indonesians prepare a sour fish sauce from the fruit. Young leaves are also used to flavour fish or meat stew and both immature fruit and young leaves serve as substitutes for vinegar. The young leaves are also eaten in salads and cooked with rice.

Bark and leaves contain an alkaloid which has medicinal use, but is also reported to be poisonous. The timber is reddish and hard but not very useful. In the Philippines the tree is common in thickets, open places and secondary forest; like some other species in the genus it may have value for reclamation of degraded land ( A. ghaesembilla Gaertner, for instance, invades lalang-infested areas and comes to the fore in spite of annual grass fires). The fruit with its changing colours makes bignay an attractive ornamental tree.


The edible portion is 65-80% of the fruit. Per 100 g the edible portion contains: water 90-95 g, carbohydrates 6.3 g, fat 0.8 g, protein 0.7 g, calcium 37-120 mg, phosphorus 22-40 mg, iron 0.1-0.7 mg, vitamin C 8 mg, and vitamin A 10 IU. The energy value is 134 kJ/100 g. Citric acid is the predominant organic acid.


  • Dioecious tree, growing according to Rauh's architectural model, 3-10(-30) m tall, with straight trunk, usually branched near the base.
  • Leaves distichous, oblong-lanceolate, 19-25 cm × 4-10 cm, base obtuse or rounded, apex acuminate or obtuse, entire, coriaceous, shiny, midribs strongly prominent below; petiole up to 1 cm long.
  • Inflorescences terminal or axillary, narrowly spicate or racemose, many-flowered, 6-20 cm long; male flowers sessile, calyx cupular with 3-4 short, rounded, ciliate lobes, ca. 1 mm × 2 mm, stamens 3-4, reddish, ovary rudimentary on a fleshy disk; female flowers pedicelled, calyx cupular-campanulate, 3-4-lobed, ca. 1 mm × 2 mm, persistent, ovary ovoid, stigmas 3-4, disk small; in female trees often a large proportion of the flowers is perfect.
  • Fruit a globose or ovoid drupe, 8-10 mm in diameter, yellowish-red to bluish-violet, juicy.
  • Seed ovoid-oblong, 6-8 mm × 4.5-5.5 mm.

Information on growth, flowering and fruiting is lacking. There appears to be much tree to tree variation in seedlings, also in respect of time of bloom and yield; the latter may be aggravated by differences in pollination intensity. In Indonesia the main flowering period is September-October and the harvest time is given as February-March for Indonesia, July-August in the Philippines and July-September in north Vietnam.


Bignay is not a strictly tropical tree, for it grows and fruits in central Florida. In the tropics it is found from sea level to elevations of more than 1000 m. In Indonesia it is grown in the monsoon climate of the eastern provinces as well as in the humid western parts, but its distribution in India suggests that it is not by any means drought-tolerant. The tree is common in the early stages of secondary forest succession, invading marginal grassland. However, it attains optimum growth on well-drained clay loams under partial shade.


Bignay can be easily propagated from seed as well as by stem cutting, marcotting, budding, and grafting. Marcots of 2-5 cm diameter normally produce roots in 95 days. Moderately mature budwood, 3-4 cm long, smooth, green, petioled and lenticellate, should be obtained for budding. The age of the rootstock is not critical. A 6-8 m spacing in the field is recommended. Male trees may not be needed since most female trees produce enough perfect flowers for adequate pollination. Seedling trees bear fruit 4-5 years after planting. Asexually propagated plants start producing fruit within a couple of years. The fruiting season lasts only two months.

Information on pests and diseases attacking Antidesma species is scanty. Termites, mealy bugs and scales sometimes infest the tree; a report from Singapore mentions an incident of severe damage to the foliage by beetle larvae (Autoserica rufocuprea).

The bunches are harvested by hand with the help of a bamboo pole, preferably with a net bag to collect the detached bunches. The trees can bear good crops but the only indication of actual (top) yields comes from two trees in Florida bearing 270 and 400 kg of fruit in a season.


Bignay is a decorative home garden tree in Indonesia and is said to bear well. Selection, cloning and attention to pollination could boost yields and improve fruit quality. This might make cultivation more popular in other countries of South-East Asia; it is not at all clear why the tree is grown so sporadically in Malaysia. The usefulness of the tree in "regreening" programmes also deserves further consideration.


  • Carangal, A.R., Gonzalez, L.G. & Daguman, I.L., 1961. The acid constituents of some Philippine fruits. The Philippine Agriculturists 44(10): 514-519.
  • Hans, A.S., 1970. Polyploidy in Antidesma (Euphorbiaceae). Caryologia 23(3): 321-327.
  • Henkin, R.I. & Gillis, W.T., 1977. Divergent taste responsiveness to fruit of the tree Antidesma bunius. Nature (London) 265: 536-537.
  • Marañon, J., 1935. Nutritive mineral value of Philippine food plants (calcium, phosphorus and iron contents). Philippine Journal of Science 58: 317-358.
  • Merrill, E.D., 1912. A flora of Manila. Bureau of Science, Manila. pp. 287-288.

Sources of illustrations

original drawing by R.D. Tandang.


  • W.Sm. Gruèzo