09 Sep

Michelia – The Champa Tree

This post is eighth in the Native Trees of Pakistan series. In this post, I am featuring a lovely flowering tree, Michelia.

Michelia is one of the most popular flowering trees. It belongs to the Magnoliaceae family, the family of sub-tropical bushes and small trees; It is also one of the ancient families of the plant kingdom having existed since 95 million years. Today more than 40 species of Michelia are distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions of Pakistan, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.

The most popular species are Michelia Champaca and Michelia Alba. Michelia Champaca, also known as Champa, Yellow Champa, Golden Campa or Fragrant Champa is highly revered by the followers of Hinduism and Buddhism. They use Michelia flowers during religious ceremonies. Tibetans believe that the Buddha of the next era will find enlightenment under the white flower canopy of the champaca tree.

orange flower of michelia champaca

Michelia has several ornamental, commercial and medicinal uses too. For gardeners, it is an excellent choice as a houseplant or as companion plant in landscapes.  Commercially, the timber of Michelia is used for almost anything from cabinet-making to firewood and flowers are grown to sell at cut flower shops. The extract from the flowers of Michelia Alba is used in preparation of the famous ‘Joy’ perfume. Medicinally, the tree has wide applications; the bark is used to prepare tonic, the oil extracted from flowers is used to cure toughs and rheumatism, and for relieving eye troubles and gout.

Michelias are easy to grow and maintain. They love a lot of light and warmth but filtered sunlight. The best location for Michelia is the place where it receives direct and ample sunlight in early morning but partial light for the rest of the day. Suitable for containers, Michelias has shallow and brittle root system. It likes moderate watering in acidic and well-drained soil. As a general rule, water lavishly when the plant is young to allow it to develop good root system. Water mature trees moderately and feed with a general purpose fertilizer during spring. Prune in winter when plant goes dormant.

Michelia can gain a height of 30 meters in suitable conditions. The tree bears large leaves that resemble the leaves of Mango tree. The tree booms from May to October and produces abundance of star-shaped flowers that fill the entire surrounding with mesmerizing scent. Flowers are usually golden-yellow, golden-orange and creamy-white. Michelia can be grown from seeds; however, some species grow well when grafted. Flowering is followed by fruition. The tree develops abundant of flowers. In fact, it consumes most of its energy in producing seeds and requires a few years of rest for the next flowering, that is why, commercial growers remove most of the fruits before they start hatching seeds.

The tree was named by a Florentine botanist, P. A. Micheli.

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2 thoughts on “Michelia – The Champa Tree

  1. Hi, I am Canadian, but now live and work in a small city in Southern Thailand. I’ve been looking for the Champa tree for several years but could not find the Thai – English translation, but finally found it. Your information was / is very helpful ! Thank you !

    Markie

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