CALOPHYLLUM or BALLNUT is a large, evergreen, ornamental tree. Products obtained from its nuts, flowers, bark and root find multiple uses in medicines, cosmetics and pest and disease control.

Coastal regions

It grows well in coastal regions, nearby low land forests, and inland at moderate altitudes. Flowering starts at 6-8 years age, mostly twice a year. Sometimes agroclimatic conditions trigger round the year flowering as well. Individual flowers are white, fragrant and hence it is treated as an ornamental plant in some countries. Fruits are drupe with a thin and sweet fleshy pericarp, which is often eaten by squirrels and flying mammals.

Single seed

The nut has a single seed. When ripe, the fruit rind turns yellow, then brownish red and gets wrinkled at overmaturity. A full-grown tree may yield 90-100 kg of nut balls per year. The thick hard shells of the fruits are broken and then dried under sun for 15-18 days.

Oil yield

Oil yield is only 5-8 per cent of dry seed depending upon locations. Ball nut oil is thick, dark green and contains resins, which are to be removed through a long process of purification.Raw oil is used for lighting, medicines, and body massage and as hair grease. Steam distillation of flowers yields pale yellow oil.The most promising use of the raw oil is as an efficient bio diesel. The average yield estimated is 4.5 tonne per hectare. The entire bio diesel requirement of our country can be met from this plant, if it is grown on the 25 million hectares of wastelands of east and west coast of the Indian sub continent. N.K. SASIDHARAN

Kerala Agricultural University
Regional Agricultural Research Station Kumarakom, Kottayam district, Kerala