Botanical Name: Antidesma bunius
Species: A. bunius
Common Names: Bignay, Bugnay or Bignai, Chinese-laurel, Queensland-cherry, Salamander-tree, Wild cherry, and Currant tre
Habitat: Bignay is native to Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Now growing in E. Asia – China, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, northern Australia to the Pacific Islands.
It grows in wet evergreen forest, dipterocarp forest and teak forest; on river banks, at forest edges, along roadsides; in bamboo thickets; in semi-cultivated and cultivated areas; in shady or open habitats; usually in secondary but also in primary vegetation.
Bignay is a dioecious, evergreen and perennial tree growing upto 15 to 30 meters in height with trunk diameter of 20 to 85 cm. The tree has yellow brown bark, terete branchlets which are glabrous to densely ferrugineous to pubescent. Leaves are leathery, oval shaped, evergreen which measures 20 cm long and 7 cm wide. Leaves are distichous having petiole furrowed. It is short and glabrous to ferrugineous to pubescent. It possesses pubescent, linearlanceolate and caduceus stipules. Lamina of leaf is oblong to elliptic, apex acuminate, base obtuse or rounded to shallowly cordate, glabrous and glossy green above. An inflorescence is staminate, axillary measuring 6 to 15 cm long and consists of 3 to 8 branches having deltoid to elliptic and pubescent bracts. Staminate flowers are sessile measuring 3 to 4 mm by 3 mm. Pistillate inflorescence are axillary, simple or four branched and measures 4 to 17 cm long. Pistillate flowers measures 2.5 to 3 by 1.5 mm. Pedicles are pubescent to glabrous and is about 0.5 to 2 mm long. Calyx is cupular and measures 1-1.5 by 1.5 mm. An ovary is glabrous to very sparsely pilose and ellipsoid. Fruits are glabrous, ovoid or globose in shape and are about 5 to 11 mm by 4 to 7 mm. Fruit is green which later on turns into yellow, pink, red or bluish to violet when fully ripened. It consists of hard kernel in straw colored, compressed, oval, ridged or fluted and is about 6 to 8 mm by 4.5 to 5.5 mm.
The flowers have a strong, somewhat unpleasant scent. The staminate flowers are arranged in small bunches and the pistillate flowers grow on long racemes which will become the long strands of fruit. The fruits are spherical and just under a centimetre wide, hanging singly or paired in long, heavy bunches. They are white when immature and gradually turn red, then black.
Each bunch of fruits ripens unevenly, so the fruits in a bunch are all different colors. The skin of the fruit has red juice, while the white pulp has colorless juice. The fruit contains a light-colored seed. The fruit has a sour taste similar to that of the cranberry when immature, and a tart but sweet taste when ripe. This tree is cultivated across its native range and the fruits are most often used for making wine and tea and is also used to make jams and jellies. It is often grown as a backyard fruit tree in Java.
Bignay grows best in the hot, humid tropical lowlands. It thrives at elevations up to 1,200 metres in Java. The tree is not strictly tropical for it has proved to be hardy up to central Florida. Plants can tolerate occasional light frosts.
Grows best in a sunny position or light shade in a fertile, moisture-retentive soil. Plants can succeed in a variety of soil conditions. Prefers a pH in the range 6 – 7, tolerating 5.5 -8. Wind-protection is desirable when the trees are young.
An abundant and invasive species in the Philippines.
Trees can start producing fruit in 5 – 6 years from seed, or as little as 2 – 3 years from grafted plants.
The heavy fragrance of the flowers, especially the male, is very obnoxious to some people.
Plants are dioecious – there are separate male and female forms. However, female forms fruit freely even when there is no male present for pollination. One male tree should be planted for every 10 to 12 females to provide cross-pollination.
Seed – Whenever the seeds are used, they need about one month of after-ripening and can then be sown under shade without pre-treatment. Fresh seeds need pre-treatment with sulphuric acid for 15 min followed by soaking in water for 24 hours. The viability is about 3 – 70%. Depulped and dried fruits of A.bunius may be stored for 2 – 5 years in airtight containers without a serious decrease in seed viability.
Vegetative propagation is preferred because seedlings are of uncertain sex and they do not commence cropping for a number of years.
Air layering. Plants can begin producing when three years old.
Fruits are used to make Bignay tea. It is also used for preparing jams, vines, syrups and other foods due to its nourishing and reinvigorating flavor.
The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and used in jellies, preserves etc. When fully ripe, the thin but tough-skinned fruit is juicy and slightly sweet. The fruit is likened by some people to cranberries and is eaten mainly by children. The fruit staines the fingers and mouth. The round fruit is up to 8mm in diameter with a relatively large seed, it is used mainly for jams and jellies, though it needs extra pectin added for it to jell properly. The fruit is carried in redcurrant-like clusters of 20 – 40 near the shoot tips. Some tasters detect a bitter or unpleasant aftertaste, unnoticeable to others. If the extracted bignay juice is kept under refrigeration for a day or so, there is settling of a somewhat astringent sediment, which can be discarded, thus improving the flavour.
Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads or steamed and used as a side dish with rice. A slightly sour flavour, the leaves turn brown when cooked but retain their texture well. They can be cooked with other foods in order to impart their sour flavour
Medicinal Uses: Bignay fruit is helpful to lower cholesterol, weight loss and maintain healthy heart. The leaves are sudorific and employed in treating snakebite in Asia. The leaves and roots are used as medicine for traumatic injury.
A natural pioneer species, often common in the early stages of secondary forest succession and also invading marginal grassland. The tree has occasionally been employed in reforestation projects. This species seems to be an excellent choice as a pioneer for establishing a woodland, preferably used within its native range because of its tendency to invade habitats.
The bark yields a strong fibre for rope and cordage. The timber has been experimentally pulped for making cardboard.
The timber is reddish and hard. If soaked in water, it becomes heavy and hard. Valued for general building, even though it is not very durable in contact with the soil and is also subject to attacks from termites.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.