Elaeocarpus floribundus (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Elaeocarpus floribundus Blume

distribution in Africa (planted and naturalized)
wood in transverse section
wood in tangential section
wood in radial section
Protologue: Bijdr. fl. Ned. Ind. 3: 120 (1825).
Family: Elaeocarpaceae

Vernacular names

  • Rugged oil fruit, Indian olive (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Elaeocarpus floribundus occurs from India eastward to Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia (to Borneo) and the Philippines (Palawan). It has been introduced in Madagascar and Mauritius. In Mauritius it is fairly commonly cultivated and occasionally naturalized.


The wood is used for light construction and for indoor uses such as furniture. The acidulous fruits are eaten fresh or pickled in vinegar or brine, whole or as chutney. In Mauritius a leaf decoction is used to treat hypertension and diabetes. An infusion of the bark and leaves is used in Sumatra as a mouthwash against inflamed gums. In Malaysia the bark and leaves are used in a poultice to treat ulcers, and an extract is drunk as a tonic.


The heartwood is whitish to greyish brown or olive-brown, occasionally purplish grey with a pinkish tinge, and not distinctly demarcated from the sapwood. The grain is straight or sometimes wavy, texture fine to medium. The wood is somewhat lustrous. It is lightweight to moderately heavy, with a density of 400–700 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, and soft to moderately hard. The wood is generally easy to air dry. It is easy to saw and work, and can be planed to an even surface. It holds nails well, stains and glues satisfactorily, and has excellent bending properties. The wood is fairly durable under cover, but not when exposed to the weather or soil.

Acidic fractions of water-soluble dietary fibre of the fruits contain rhamnose (11%), arabinose (26%), galactose (35%) and uronic acid (27%). The polymeric fraction is composed of α-n-galactopyranosyl uronic acid chains with side chains of arabinose, galactose and rhamnose residues. A skin care product containing extracts from Elaeocarpus floribundus showed excellent active-oxygen scavenging actions, and is claimed to have excellent anti-aging and skin-whitening activities. The flavonoid mearnsetin, a rare methyl ester of myricetin, was isolated from the leaves, along with myricetin and myricitrin.


  • Evergreen small to medium-sized tree up to 30 m tall; bole usually straight and cylindrical, up to 80 cm in diameter; bark surface rough to fissured, brown, inner bark pale yellow to reddish brown; twigs hairy but soon becoming glabrous.
  • Leaves arranged spirally, often crowded at the ends of twigs, simple; stipules minute, early caducous; petiole 1–5.5 cm long, with joint at apex; blade oblong to elliptical or obovate, 6.5–19 cm × 3–8.5 cm, base cuneate to obtuse, apex acuminate, margin slightly toothed, papery, glabrous, with small dots, pinnately veined with 5–7 pairs of lateral veins.
  • Inflorescence an axillary raceme up to 22 cm long, many-flowered.
  • Flowers bisexual, regular, (4–)5-merous, pendulous; pedicel 4–12 mm long; sepals lanceolate or narrowly triangular, c. 6 mm long, often warty; petals free, triangular, 5–7 mm long, finely fringed to the middle, whitish; stamens 25–40, free, c. 4 mm long; disk lobed; ovary superior, conical, 3-celled, short-hairy, style elongate.
  • Fruit an ellipsoid to spindle-shaped drupe up to 4 cm × 2 cm, glabrous, often with yellow dots; stone woody, slightly grooved.
  • Seedling with epigeal germination.

Other botanical information

Fruit development shows distinct phases. During 4–9 weeks after flowering fruits grow fast, during 9–17 weeks they grow rather slow, and from 17 weeks onwards growth is again fast until maturity is reached about 26 weeks after flowering. Birds, bats, rodents and pigs eat the fruits and may disperse the seeds.

Elaeocarpus comprises about 300 species occurring from Madagascar to tropical Asia, Polynesia, Australia and New Zealand, with centres of diversity in Borneo and New Guinea. In Madagascar 8 species have been found, all endemic.

Elaeocarpus angustifolius

Elaeocarpus angustifolius Blume is a medium-sized to large tree up to 40 m tall of the evergreen rainforest of north-eastern India, Myanmar, Peninsular Malaysia, Java and Sulawesi. It has been introduced into West Africa. The wood is suitable for light carpentry. In tropical Asia leaf sap, bark and seeds are occasionally used in traditional medicine. The fruit is edible and the tree is occasionally planted as ornamental or shade tree. In Asia the stones are used as beads.

Elaeocarpus alnifolius

Elaeocarpus alnifolius Baker is a small to medium-sized tree up to 15(–30) m tall, occurring in eastern Madagascar. Its wood is locally used in construction and as fuel.

Elaeocarpus capuronii

Elaeocarpus capuronii Tirel is a small to medium-sized tree up to 15 m tall, occurring in humid forest in eastern Madagascar. Its wood is locally used in construction.

Elaeocarpus subserratus

Elaeocarpus subserratus Baker is a small to medium-sized tree up to 25(–40) m tall, occurring in northern, eastern and central Madagascar. Its wood is used locally in construction and carpentry. The flowers yield nectar for honey bees. The bitter bark is used to flavour local rum.


In its natural area of distribution, Elaeocarpus floribundus occurs in lowland rainforest and lower mountain forest, up to 1500 m altitude.


Elaeocarpus floribundus can be propagated by stones, which should be sown in the shade and have about 15% germination in 4–8 months.

Genetic resources

There are no indications that Elaeocarpus floribundus is in danger of genetic erosion in its natural distribution area. There is no information on the genetic variation in the planted trees in Mauritius.


Elaeocarpus floribundus is likely to remain of limited importance in Mauritius for use as timber and edible fruit, and for medicinal purposes. However, as a multipurpose tree it deserves more research, the more so because other Elaeocarpus spp. showed rapid growth in tropical Asia. Not much is known about the endemic species of Madagascar, but most of them are characteristic for humid primary forest in eastern Madagascar, which is a forest type under much pressure because of ongoing deforestation. There seems to be little scope for intensification of timber exploitation of Elaeocarpus spp., unless they would show good results in cultivation trials.

Major references

  • Aggarwal, S., 2001. Elaeocarpus L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 241–246.
  • Chowdhury, K.A. & Ghosh, S.S., 1958. Indian woods, their identification, properties and uses. Vol. 1: Dilleniaceae to Elaeocarpaceae. Manager of Publications, Delhi, India. 357 pp.
  • Gurib-Fakim, A., Guého, J. & Bissoondoyal, M.D., 1996. Plantes médicinales de Maurice, tome 2. Editions de l’Océan Indien, Rose-Hill, Mauritius. 532 pp.
  • Keating, W.G. & Sosef, M.S.M., 1998. Elaeocarpus L. In: Sosef, M.S.M., Hong, L.T. & Prawirohatmodjo, S. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 5(3). Timber trees: Lesser-known timbers. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 204–209.
  • Tirel, C., 1985. Elaeocarpaceae. Flore de Madagascar et des Comores, famille 125. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 53 pp.

Other references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
  • Corner, E.J.H., 1988. Wayside trees of Malaya. 3rd Edition. 2 volumes. The Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 774 pp.
  • Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
  • Gasson, P., 1996. Wood anatomy of the Elaeocarpaceae. In: Donaldson, L.A., Singh, A.P., Butterfield, B.G. & Whitehouse, L.J. (Editors). Recent advances in wood anatomy. New Zealand Forest Research Institute, Rotorua. pp. 47–71.
  • Gurib-Fakim, A., Guého, J., Sewraj, M.D. & Dulloo, E., 1994. Plantes médicinales de l’île Rodrigues. Editions de l’Océan Indien, Rose-Hill, Mauritius. 580 pp.
  • Janick, J. & Paull, R.E. (Editors), 2006. Encyclopedia of fruit and nuts. CABI, Wallingford, United Kingdom. 954 pp.
  • Osumi, K., Sakaida, T., Katada, T. & Nakata, S., 2003. Skin care preparation comprising a stable extract obtained from plant of genus Elaeocarpus. Japan Kokai Tokkyo Koho patent application JP 2003095857 A 20030403.
  • Pande, P.K., 2010. Wood anatomical variations in the genus Elaeocarpus Linn. and Sloanea Blume. Indian Forester 136(1): 95–106.
  • Rahman, S.M.M., Nahar, N. & Mosihuzzaman, M., 2005. Structural studies of water-soluble acidic polysaccharides of Zizyphus mauritiana Lamk and Elaeocarpus floribunda Blume fruits. Journal of the Bangladesh Chemical Society 18(2): 187–191.
  • Whitmore, T.C. & Ng, F.S.P. (Editors), 1972–1989. Tree flora of Malaya. A manual for foresters. 2nd Edition. 4 volumes. Malayan Forest Records No 26. Longman Malaysia Sdn. Berhad, Kuala Lumpur & Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.


  • L.P.A. Oyen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Oyen, L.P.A., 2011. Elaeocarpus floribundus Blume. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Louppe, D. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands.

Accessed 23 January 2021.