Scholar Tree
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Scholar Tree
ative Photo: Tabish
Common name: Scholar Tree, Dita bark, Devil tree, Blackboard Tree • Bengali: ছাতিম Chattim • Hindi: सप्तपर्णी Saptaparni, शैतान का झाड Shaitan ka jhar, चितवन Chitvan • Kannada: ಏೞೆಲೆ ಹಾಲೆ Aelele Haale, ಬಂತಲೆ Bantale, Doddapala, ಮದ್ದಾಲೆ Maddaale, ಸಪ್ತಪರ್ಣಿ Saptaparni, ಸಪ್ತಚ್ಛದ Saptacchada, ಜಂತಾಲ, ಜಂತಾಳ, ಜಂತಲ Jantala • Malayalam: Daivappala • Marathi: Satvin • Sanskrit: सप्तपर्ण Saptaparna • Nepali: छतिवन Chhatiwan, छलामैन Chhalaamain, पालिमारा Paalimaaraa • Tamil: ஏழிலை பிள்ளை Ezilai piLLai முகும்பலை mukumpalai • Telugu: Daevasurippi • Mizo: Thuamriat
Botanical name: Alstonia scholaris    Family: Apocynaceae (Oleander family)
Synonyms: Echites scholaris

Scholar Tree is an elegant evergreen tree, found in most parts of India. The generic name commemorates the distinguished botanist, Prof. C. Alston of Edinburgh, 1685-1760. The species name scholaris refers to the fact that the timber of this tree has traditionally been used to make wooden slates for school children. In October small, greenish white yet fragrant flowers appear. After sunset the fragrance of the flowers prevails in the surroundings, leaving most people wondering about the source of the scent as the flowers themseleves are not very noticeable. All parts of the tree can be considered poisonous. It is a tall elegant tree with greyish rough bark. Branches are whorled, and so are the leaves, that is, several of them coming out of the same point. The tree is really elegant whether it is flowering or not. The slightly rounded, leathery, dark green leaves form whorls of 4-7. And a very regular branching gives the tree a beautiful shape. The wood is too soft for making anything - so it is usually used in making packing boxes, blackboards etc. On the Western Ghats, tribal people are reluctant to sit or pass under this tree, for the fear of the devil. Local superstition about its devilish character mainly stems from the fact that its milky sap is rich in poisonous alkaloid, and thus the tree is shunned by cattle.
Medicinal uses: Its bark, known as Dita Bark, is used in traditional medicine to treat dysentery and fever. In Ayurveda it is used as a bitter and as an astringent herb for treating skin disorders, malarial fever, urticaria, chronic dysentery, diarrhea, in snake bite and for upper purification process of Panchakarma . The Milky juice of the tree is applied to ulcers.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed in Delhi.

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