Oroxylum indicum

In Indonesia this plant is known as wood sword (Minahasa), kapung-kapung (Palembang), pongporang (Sundanese), bungli (Javanese). While outside this plant is known as a broken bone plant (China), bonglai (Malaysia), shayonak kul / trumpet plant (India).

This plant is a tree that can reach a height of 12 m (40 ft). stem erect, woody, dirty green color. Large withered leaf stalks that fall from the tree near the base of the trunk, will look like a pile of broken limb bones. The fruit is long curved downwards and resembles a large bird’s wing or dangling sickle or sword shape. The fruit is box-shaped and brown with thin wings. This plant has compound leaves with an oval shape, a pointed tip, a blunt base and a green color. Bungli plants have compound flowers, tube-shaped petals, trumpet-shaped crowns and brown fruit.

This plant originates from India and is the most widely used plant as an ingredient in religious ceremonies in India. Its distribution is in the Philippines, Indochina, Siam and India, Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, Maluku. This plant is found in primary forests and secondary forests or in open areas, at an altitude of 1-800 m above sea level. Is a plant with rarity status “rare”. This species is threatened because almost all parts of the plant are often used as ingredients for medicines or other purposes without being followed by cultivation.

The large leaf stalks wither and fall from the tree and gather near the base of the trunk, looking like a heap of broken limb bones. The pinnate leaves are about 1 meter (3.3 ft) long and comparable in width, borne on petioles or petioles up to 2 meters (6.6 ft) long, making them the largest of all dicot tree leaves, which are quadripinnate (leaflets displaying four branching sequences).

The tree blooms at night and the flowers are adapted to natural pollination by bats. They form enormous seed pods – the fruit – up to 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) long which hang from bare branches, resembling swords. The long fruit curves downward and resembles the wings of a large bird or a scythe or a sword that hangs down at night, giving it the name “Damocles tree”. The seeds are round with thin wings.


Kingdom: Plantae (Plants)
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (vascular plants)
Super Division: Spermatophyta (Produces seeds)
Division: Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida (dicots)
Sub Class: Asteridae
Order: Scrophulariales
Family: Bignoniaceae
Genus: Oroxylum
Species: Oroxylum indicum (L.) Vent

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Tree
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic


Native Distribution From India, Tropical China to Southeast Asia.
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Non-native

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a semi-deciduous tree, up to 27 m tall. The trunk has grey-brown bark and large leaf scars.
Foliage Leaves are compound, 2 – 4-pinnate, imparipinnate, about 50 – 130 (200) cm long. Leaflets are ovate to oblong (4 – 11 cm long and 3 – 9 cm wide) with entire leaf margin, acute to acuminate leaf tip, unequal to cuneate leaf base and 4 – 5 pairs of lateral veins. Glands are present and scattered on the underside of young and some mature leaves, near the veins axils. The leaflets wilt starting from the tip to the base of the leaf. The leafless stalks break apart at the joints and resemble limb bones as they falls.
Flowers Inflorescence occurs at the terminal in raceme, about 25 – 150 cm long. Flowers are large (7 – 10 cm long), brownish yellow to dirty violet colour, funnel-shaped. Each flower has 5 reflexed lobes, 5 stamens which is hairy at the base, 1 style which is 4 – 6 cm long, and superior ovary. The flower is bad-smelling, opens at night and wilts before sunrise. Each raceme has 1 – 2 flowers opening at any one time. The calyx persist and turn woody after the flowers have faded.
Fruits The fruit is a woody capsule that is sword-shaped (45 – 120 cm long and 6 – 10 cm wide) and pendulous. The pod turns black when ripe. Seeds are round and large (5 – 9 cm long and 2.5 – 4 cm wide), with thin transparent wings. Flowers and fruits may be found on the same tree as each branch can blooms independently of the others.
Habitat It grows in secondary forest, mostly below 1000 m altitude.
Associated Fauna The flowers are pollinated by bats such as Cave Nectar Bat (Eonycteris spelaea).
Cultivation It may shed its leaves during dry season and remain leafless for many months.
Etymology Oros, in greek, means mountain, and xylon means wood or tree. indicum refers to the country India, where the tree is naturally found there.
Ethnobotanical Uses Medicinal ( In Myanmar, a decoction of <i>Oroxylum indicum</i> bark, along with other herbs, to treat various ailments such as arthiritis, jaundice, dysentery, diarrhea, indigestion and rheumatism. In Malaysia, a decoction of the leaves is drunk to relieve stomachache, rheumatism, and wounds.)

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Vertebrates (Bat))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate


Foliage Retention Drought / Semi-Deciduous
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Foliar Type Compound
Foliar Margin Entire
Foliar Apex – Tip Acuminate

Non – Foliar and Storage

Bark Colour(s) brownish-grey.

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Location Terminal
Inflorescence Type Raceme
Flowering Opening Time Night (dusk to dawn)

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Fruit Type 1 Dehiscent Dry Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Capsule


References Van Steenis, C.G.G.J. (1977). Bignoniaceae. In:Van Steenis, C.G.G.J. (ed) Flora Malesiana, ser. 1, vol. 8, pp. 114–186., Alphen aan den Rijn: Sijthoff & Noordhoff International Publishers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!