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Litsea glutinosa (lauraceae) Common Names : Indian Laurel (Australia) Pond Spice

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Common Names : Indian Laurel (Australia)

Pond Spice (Hong Kong)

Bollygum; Bolly beech; Brown beech; Brown bollywood;

Soft bollygum; Sycamore
Synonyms : Litsea sebifera Pers.; L. leefeana; L. reticulata
Origin : Europe & Asia
Form : Tree/Shrub
Reproduction : Seeds
Description: Deciduous tree that grows up to 10m, occasionally 16m.

Bark mottled grey, smooth to finely fissured.

Leaves alternate, elliptic, 10-18 cm long, 4-9 cm wide,

margins often wavy, venation pale and distinct, foliage strongly aromatic; petiole 6 cm long.

Flowers green-cream, 5-7 mm diameter, in small clusters.

Fruit globular, fleshy; 1 cm diameter, red-brown when ripe.

Seed globular, hard, shiny brown, 6-7 mm diameter.

Peculiar aroma from freshly crushed leaves.

Native range:  From India and S. China to Malaysia, Australia and the western Pacific islands; introduced and established in Mauritius and other tropical regions" (Dassanayake, 1995).
Presence: Pacific rim: Australia (Northern Territory, Queensland) (native), China (native), Indochina (native), Indonesia (native), Malaysia (native), Philippines (native)

Indian Ocean islands: La Réunion, Mauritius, Rodrigues Island

Uses: The aromatic leaves are crushed in the hands and the aroma inhaled to treat nausea and vomiting.

Alternatively, leaves may be boiled I water and liquid taken orally in small doses.

A decoction of the bark may be applied to sores and scabies and a leaf & bark decoction may be applied eternally to treat aches and pains.
Chewed leaves may be applied directly to sores, cuts and skin infections.
Juice from crushed leaves may also be applied to relieve the symptoms of sore eyes.
The bark of the roots produces a yellow-orange dye, used to dye fiber.
Notes: Litsea refers to “Letse”, the Hiunese name for this group.

Glutinosa means sticky or viscid; the applicability of which is uncertain.

Tree description and natural occurrence

A medium to tall tree attaining a height of between 25 to 40 m and a stem of diameter of 1 to 2 m.  The trunk is not prominently buttressed.  The bark is coloured brown or sometimes grey.  It is rough textured and sheds in roundish flakes leaving shallow depressions, giving it a rough scaly appearance.

Distributed mainly in the coastal rainforests of northern New South Wales and Queensland.

L. glutinosa: north of Cairns, north Queensland.

L. leefeana: Bellinger River, New South Wales to Endeavour River, north Queensland.

L. reticulata: Hawkesbury River, New South Wales to Cairns, north Queensland.

Sawn timber of these species is sometimes available from timber outlets handling rainforest timbers.

Wood appearance

Colour.  The heartwood varies from light cream to pale straw and normally there is no marked colour variation between sapwood and heartwood.

Grain.  A firm, straight grained species with open vessel lines.  Usually there is no pronounced figure.

Wood properties

Density.  480 to 530 kg/m3 at 12% moisture content; approximately 2.0 m3 of seasoned sawn timber per tonne.

Strength Group.  S7 unseasoned; DS7 seasoned for L. leefeana.  S5 unseasoned, SD6 seasoned for L. reticulata.

Stress Grades.  F4, F5, F7, F8, F11 (unseasoned), F5, F7, F8, F11, F14 (seasoned), when visually stress graded in accordance with AS 2082:2000 ‘Visually stress-graded hardwoods for structural purposes.’

Shrinkage in 12% MC.  3.6% (tangential); 1.4% (radial) for L. leefeana. 5.0% (tangential); 2.0% (radial) for L. reticulata.

Unit Shrinkage.  0.27% (tangential); 0.14 % (radial) for L. leefeana.  0.23% (tangential); 0.14% (radial) for L. reticulata.

Durability.  Class 4 – Suitable for use only in continuously dry situations under cover, well ventilated, clear of the ground and fully protected from the weather and other dampness.

Lyctid Susceptibility.  Untreated sapwood susceptible to lyctid borer attack.

Preservation.  Sapwood readily accepts preservative impregnation but penetration of heartwood is negligible using currently available commercial processes.

Seasoning.  Can be satisfactorily dried using conventional air and kiln seasoning methods.

Hardness.  Soft (rated 5 on a 6 class scale) in relation to indentation and ease of working with hand tools.

Machining.  Machines and turns well to a smooth surface.

Fixing.  No difficulty has been experienced with the use of standard fittings and fastenings.

Gluing.  Can be satisfactorily bonded using standard procedures.

Finishing.  Seasoned timber surfaces will readily accept stain, polish and paint.


Construction.  Once used in general house framing, linings, mouldings and non-structural joinery, but rarely used in these applications now.

Decorative.  Plywood, furniture, turnery, carving, picture frames.

Others.  Boat building (light).  Has been used for aircraft components, beehives, brush stocks, roller and venetian blinds, boat oars, pattern making, cooperage.

Identification features

General characteristics

Sapwood.  Not significantly different from heartwood.

Heartwood.  Light cream to pale straw colour.

Texture.  Medium, straight grained.

Wood structure

Growth Rings.  Generally absent.

Vessels.  Medium sized, some solitary but mostly in short radial multiples of up to four.  Vessel lines distinct on dressed surfaces.

Parenchyma.  Absent or indistinct under a lens.

Rays.  Fine.

Other features

Burning Splinter Test. Burns completely to a minute buff grey filament.

Surface Characteristics.  Dressed surfaces of this timber are highly lustrous.

Odour.  Exhibits a faint spicy odour from freshly cut surfaces.

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