This post is fifth in the Native Trees of Pakistan series. Today, I am featuring Polyalthia longifolia.
Polyalthia longifolia var. pendula or The Mast Tree is one of the prime choices of landscape designers. This evergreen, tall and slender tree grows symmetrically and produces fresh and shining green foliage. A Polyalthia longifolia tree grows as tall as 12 meter. The entire length of the plant is covered by long and wavy leaves. The beautiful contrast of new golden and coppery brown leaves against old dark-green leaves make a spectacular show.
Polyalthia longifolia flowers during spring for a brief period (approximately two to three weeks). During this period, the entire tree is covered with small star-shaped flowers of pale green color. The flowers grow in clusters and attract birds and butterflies.
Flowering is followed by egg-shaped fruits that are visited by bats and flying foxes.
Polyalthia longifolia can be easily trimmed in to a straight columnar growth covered with a lot of leaves. For this reason, it is suitable for landscapes, as a hedge tree, and as visual dividers or wind blockers in open spaces.
The trunk of Polyalthia longifolia has grey bark. Both the trunk and the bark are used in manufacturing of fiber. Timber is used for making boxes, pencils and long masts – that is why it is also known as the mast tree. In India and Sri Lanka, where the mast tree is held in high esteem, its leaves are used in religious ceremonies and for decorating arches and doorways.
Sometimes, Polyalthia longifolia, is incorrectly identified as Ashoka tree (Saraca Indica) because of closely resembling leaves of both species. Other names of the mast tree are Asupala or the Buddha tree.
Polyalthia longifolia can be grown easily from seed or cuttings. It is a fast growing tree and requires good exposure to sunlight and moderate watering.
Polyalthia longifolio or the Mast Tree belongs to the Annonaceae family, which is one of the largest families of flowering plants and usually known as the custard apple family.