Phaleria capitata (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Phaleria capitata Jack

Family: Thymelaeaceae


Drimyspermum phaleria Meisn., Phaleria cauliflora (Thw.) Beddome, P. cumingii F.-Vill.

Vernacular names

  • Indonesia: lawe (Javanese), kakapasan (Sundanese), suwa lansat (Simeuluë)
  • Philippines: salagong-gubat, bari (Tagalog), tuka (Ibanag).


From Sumatra and Java through Borneo, Sulawesi, the Moluccas (Buru), the Philippines and Irian Jaya (Waigeo) to the Caroline Islands. In Sri Lanka collected only once. Cultivated as an ornamental in Peninsular Malaysia and Java (Indonesia), and naturalized in Peninsular Malaysia.


In the Philippines and West Java (Indonesia) the tough fibre from the inner bark is used as tying material and for making cordage. The sweet fruits are edible, but the seed cotyledons contain a biting poison. In Java the seeds are applied externally against scurf in children.


A shrub or small tree, up to 9 m tall with trunk up to 16 cm in diameter. Leaves decussate or opposite; petiole 5 mm long; blade elliptic-oblong, (11-)15-21(-26) cm × (3.5-)5.5-7(-10) cm, base acute to attenuate, apex narrowly acute to acuminate, with 8-10 pairs of veins. Inflorescence usually terminal, sometimes in leaf axils of terminal node, solitary, cauliflorous, subsessile or with about 3 cm long peduncle, usually 8-flowered; flowers bisexual, 2.5-4.5 cm long, sessile; calyx lobes oblong to elliptical, 6-7 mm × 2-3.5 mm; corolla tube cylindrical, white, gradually enlarged towards the top; stamens and style exserted up to 5 mm; ovary ellipsoid, glabrous, stigma capitate, 1.5 mm × 1 mm. Fruit drupaceous, (1-)2-seeded. Seed subglobose or slightly ovate, about 1.5 cm × 1.3 mm. P. capitata is found in primary and secondary forest, up to 1200 m altitude. In Java it flowers throughout the year. The fibre is obtained by peeling the branches and scraping off the outer bark from the peel. The ultimate bast fibres are (1.5-)4.6(-7) mm long and (10-)16(-24) μm wide.

Selected sources

6, 19, 20, 39, 47, 71, 111, 115.


M. Brink, P.C.M. Jansen & C.H. Bosch