Selected Trees and Shrubs
Alstonia scholaris, Common name: Ditta Bark, Pulai, Japanese Pagoda Tree
Plant Family: Belongs to the Apocynaceae family, which includes Frangipani (Plumeria rubra) and Oleander (Nerium oleander).
Description: Large, erect, handsome tree, some specimens growing to 40 m tall (130 ft) in their natural habitat, with furrowed trunk, a marked contrast to its smaller, more shrub-like cousins, Frangipani and Oleander; bark is about 1.3 cm thick (0.5 in), almost odorless, contains alkaloids, and sap is very bitter; leaves arranged in whorls of 5-10, are dark green, leathery and can be as much as 20 cm long (8 in); flowers, cream or light green, very small, 1 cm long (0.4 in), numerous, born in dense terminal clusters or panicles; pod-like fruit slender and over 30 cm long (1 ft), with numerous seeds.
Natural Habitat: Tree is tolerant of a variety of soils, and is common in lowland coastal areas with annual rainfall of 1000-3800 mm (40-150 in), but is also found at higher elevations up to 1000 m (3300 ft); propagation is by seed or cuttings.
Origin and Distribution: A native of Trop. Asia, with wide distribution throughout this region and tropical Australia.
Uses: Has light, fine grained, white wood, used for coffins in Sri Lanka; bark produces a yellow die used on cotton fabrics; also grown as an ornamental in the Southern USA; medicinally, in India, bark sold in marketplace, yields Ditta Bark tonic, used for malaria, diarrhoea and dysentery.
Indigenous Legends: Name "scholaris" derived from the fact that its planks, when sanded, were used by school children for tracing letters; in India there is reverence for this tree, and a belief that all the forest trees assemble once a year to pay homage to it.
Anon. Official Guide to the Botanic Gardens, Dominica. 1924?
M. Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Dover Press, New York, NY 1971
Dorthe Joker, Alstonia scholaris. Danida Forest Seed Center, Humlebaek, Denmark 2000
Dan H. Nicolson. Flora of Dominica, Part 2: Dicotyledoneae. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.1991