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Neolamarckia cadamba

Neolamarckia cadamba
Tree in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
Close-up of flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Subfamily: Cinchonoideae
Tribe: Naucleeae
Genus: Neolamarckia
Species: N. cadamba
Binomial name
Neolamarckia cadamba
(Roxb.) Bosser
  • Nauclea cadamba Roxb.
  • Anthocephalus cadamba (Roxb.) Miq.
  • Anthocephalus chinensis auct., non Anthocephalus chinensis (Lam.) A.Rich. ex Walp.[2]
  • Anthocephalus indicus var. glabrescens H.L.Li
  • Anthocephalus morindifolius Korth.
  • Nauclea megaphylla S.Moore
  • Neonauclea megaphylla (S.Moore) S.Moore
  • Samama cadamba (Roxb.) Kuntze
  • Sarcocephalus cadamba (Roxb.) Kurz

Neolamarckia cadamba, commonly called kadam, is an evergreen, tropical tree native to South and Southeast Asia. The genus name honours French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. The species has been widely but incorrectly called Anthocephalus chinensis. It has scented orange flowers in dense globe-shaped clusters. The flowers are used in perfumes. The tree is grown as an ornamental plant and for timber and paper-making. Kadam features in Indian religions and mythologies.


  • Description 1
  • Taxonomy 2
  • Uses 3
  • Cultural significance 4
    • Folklore 4.1
    • Religious significance 4.2
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


A fully mature kadam tree can reach up to 45 m (148 ft) in height. It is a large tree with a broad crown and straight cylindrical bole. It is quick growing, with broad spreading branches and grows rapidly in the first 6–8 years. The trunk has a diameter of 100–160 cm, but typically less than that. Leaves are 13–32 cm (5.1–12.6 in) long. Flowering usually begins when the tree is 4–5 years old. Kadam flowers are sweetly fragrant, red to orange in colour, occurring in dense, globular heads of approximately 5.5 cm (2.2 in) diameter. The fruit of N. cadamba occur in small, fleshy capsules packed closely together to form a fleshy yellow-orange infructescence containing approximately 8000 seeds. On maturing, the fruit splits apart, releasing the seeds, which are then dispersed by wind or rain.[3][4]

Some botanical features are detailed below:

  • Leaves glossy green, opposite, simple more or less sessile to petiolate, ovate to elliptical with dimensions of 15–50 cm (5.9–19.7 in) by 8–25 cm (3.1–9.8 in).
  • Flowers inflorescence in clusters; terminal globose heads without bracteoles, subsessile fragrant, orange or yellow flowers; Flowers bisexual, 5-merous, calyx tube funnel-shaped, corolla gamopetalous saucer-shaped with a narrow tube, the narrow lobes imbricate in bud.
  • Stamens 5, inserted on the corolla tube, filaments short, anthers basifixed. Ovary inferior, bi-locular, sometimes 4-locular in the upper part, style exserted and a spindle-shaped stigma.
  • Fruitlets numerous with their upper parts containing 4 hollow or solid structures. Seed trigonal or irregularly shaped.

N. cadamba is native to the following areas:

It is an introduced species in Puerto Rico at Toro Negro State Forest.[5]


The botanical name of this species has been the subject of a long taxonomic debate, beginning in the 1930s. The problem arose because scientific names are based on type specimens. In 1785 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck described a specimen under the name Cephalanthus chinensis, stating that it came from Madagascar. In 1830, Achille Richard created the name Anthocephalus indicus, stating that the species came from Asia and that his description was based on the same specimen as Lamarck's Cephalanthus chinensis.[6] (Under the rules of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, Richard should have used the name A. chinensis rather than A. indicus, as he should not have changed the specific epithet.)

The issue is whether Richard was indeed using the same specimen as Lamarck; the geographical origin is said to be different, and the descriptions do not match; for example in Lamarck's Cephalanthus chinensis the inflorescences are axillary whereas in Richard's Anthocephalus they are terminal. If specimens were the same, then Anthocephalus is a synonym of the Madagascan Cephalanthus and cannot be a generic name for the Asian kadam tree. If they were different (in spite of Richard's claim that they were the same) then Anthocephalus could be a generic name for the kadam tree. Based on the latter view, the name Anthocephalus chinensis has been widely used for the kadam tree.[6]

The current view taken by most taxonomic sources is that Richard's Anthocephalus indicus or Anthocephalus chinensis is a synonym of Cephalanthus chinensis (now transferred to the genus Breonia as Breonia chinensis (Lam.) Capuron), and that the widespread use of Anthocephalus chinensis for the kadam tree is an error. (This erroneous sense of the scientific name is shown by writing A. chinensis auct., where "auct." is an abbreviation of the Latin for "of authors", i.e. rather than of the correct authority.)[1][2][6]

Given that Richard's name for the kadam tree is incorrect, the earliest name is William Roxburgh's 1824 Nauclea cadamba. In 1984, Jean Marie Bosser created the new generic name Neolamarckia, honouring Lamarck, for the Asian genus which matched Richard's description of his Anthocephalus, transferring Nauclea cadamba as Neolamarckia cadamba (Roxb.) Bosser.[6] However, not all botanical sources have accepted this taxonomic analysis and the name Anthocephalus is still in use for the Asian genus.[7]


The caterpillars of the Commander (Moduza procris), a brush-footed butterfly, utilize this species as a foodplant. The fruit and inflorescences are reportedly edible to humans. The fresh leaves are fed to cattle. The fragrant orange flowers attract pollinators. Its sapwood is white with a light yellow tinge becoming creamy yellow on exposure and is not clearly differentiated from the heartwood.

Leaves & flowers

N. lamarckia is grown as an ornamental, and for low-grade timber and paper. The timber is used for plywood, light construction, pulp and paper, boxes and crates, dug-out canoes, and furniture components. Kadamba yields a pulp of satisfactory brightness and performance as a hand sheet. The wood can be easily impregnated with synthetic resins to increase its density and compressive strength. The wood has a density of 290–560 kg/cu m at 15% moisture content, a fine to medium texture; straight grain; low luster and has no characteristic odor or taste. It is easy to work with hand and machine tools, cuts cleanly, gives a very good surface and is easy to nail. The timber air dries rapidly with little or no degrade. Kadamba wood is very easy to preserve using either open tank or pressure-vacuum systems.

Kadamba is stated to be one of the most frequently planted trees in the tropics. A yellow dye is obtained from the root bark. Kadamba flowers are an important raw material in the production of ‘attar’, which is Indian perfume with sandalwood (Santalum spp.) base in which one of the essences is absorbed through hydro-distillation. An extract of the leaves serves as a mouth gargle.

The tree is grown along avenues, roadsides and villages for shade. Kadamba are suitable for reforestation programs. It sheds large amounts of leaf and non-leaf litter which on decomposition improves some physical and Cation-exchange capacity, available plant nutrients and exchangeable bases.

Cultural significance


Kadamba is mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana. In North India, it is associated with Krishna while in the south it is known as "Parvati’s tree". Radha and Krishna are supposed to have conducted their love play in the hospitable and sweet-scented shade of the kadamba tree.[8] In the Sangam period of Tamil Nadu, Murugan of Tirupparankundram Hill of Madurai was referred to as a centre of nature worship. He was in the form of a spear under a kadamba tree.[9]

An episode from the life of Krishna narrates of when he stole the garments of gopis when they were bathing in a pond near Vrindavan. Varuna, the sea-god, had forbidden nude bathing in rivers, ponds and other public places, but gopis often resorted to it. One day, to teach them a lesson, Krishna reached the bank of the pond where they were taking a bath and took away their garments and spread them on the branches of nearby kadamba tree. He himself climbed the tree and hid there behind a branch. After the gopis had bathed, they looked for their garments but found them missing. Suddenly their attention was drawn to the nearby kadamba tree by the stirring of its branches. When they looked up, they saw Krishna hiding there and their garments scattered all over the branches of the tree. Krishna insisted that they come out naked to receive their garments. This episode is portrayed in song, story, painting and artifacts, in the backdrop of the kadamba tree.[10]

Kadamba tree at the entrance to the Meenakshi temple

The kadamba lends its name to the Kadamba Dynasty that ruled from Banavasi in what is now the state of Karnataka from 345 CE to 525 CE, as per Talagunda inscription of c.450 CE.[11] The kadamba tree was considered a holy tree by the Kadamba dynasty.[12]

Religious significance

Karam-Kadamba is a popular harvest festival, celebrated on the eleventh lunar day of the month

  • The sacred fig tree and the North star
  • Krishna, the Gopi girls and the Kadamba Tree - "Chir-Harana" or "Vastraharan Lila"
  • Mythical Trees and Deities
  • The Hindu
  • USDA database
  • ARS-GRIN database

External links

  • Bull. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat., B, Adansonia 6: 247 (1984).
  • ARS-GRIN database: retrieved on 29 June 2007
  • Pollard, J.F.,1969. A note on the nursery treatment of two species of Sabah. Malay.Forester 32(3), pp 269–271
  • USDA database: retrieved on 29 June 2007


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Horticulture/Suryanarmada, Agriculture Arbitration Consultant, Chennai, India.
  4. ^ - The Environmental Information System(ENVIS), Ministry of Environment and Forests - Centre of Mining environment
  5. ^ Bosques de Puerto Rico: Bosque Estatal de Toro Negro. Hojas de Nuestro Ambiente. July 2008. [Publication/Issue: P-030] Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d
  7. ^ Cited in .
  8. ^ Kadamba vriksh
  9. ^ -Sacred Groves and Sacred Trees of Uttara Kannada
  10. ^ - Krishna, the Gopi girls and the Kadamba Tree ("Chir-Harana" or "Vastraharan Lila")
  11. ^ George M. Moraes (1931), The Kadamba Kula, A History of Ancient and Medieval Karnataka, Asian Educational Services, 1990, p.10
  12. ^
  13. ^ - TuLu Studies: December 2007
  14. ^ Kadambotsava
  15. ^ -Natures Unsung heroes
  16. ^ -Tree worship
  17. ^ The Hindu : Metro Plus Madurai : Nature’s unsung heroes
  18. ^ Tripura Sundari Ashtakam - Audarya Fellowship
  19. ^ Your star, your tree
  20. ^ අට විසි බුදුවරු


  • Nauclea orientalis, the Leichhardt tree. A species commonly confused with the kadam tree.

See also

In Theravada Buddhism, the kadamba tree was where Sumedha Buddha achieved enlightenment.[20]

It claimed that the 27 nakshatras, constituting 12 Houses (Rasis) and nine planets, are specifically represented precisely by 27 trees —one for each star. The kadamba tree is said to represent Shatabhisha (Aquarii).[19]

The kadamba tree is also associated with a tree deity called Kadambariyamman.[15][16] The kadamba, which is considered the sthalavruksham ("tree of the place") of the city that is otherwise known as Kadambavanam (kadamba forest) and is present in Meenakshi Amman Temple.[17] A withered relic of the kadamba is also preserved there.[18]


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