Botanical Name: Vernicia montana
Species: V. montana
Common Names:Abrasin oil tree, Mu oil tree, Chine wood oil tree
Habitat: Vernicia montana is native to E. Asia – southern China, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam It grows in the depleted forest along the road, in dry, sandy soils, at elevations up to 1,200 metres in Laos.
Vernicia montana is an evergreen deciduous tree about 20 m in height. It has large leaves with three lobes. The trunk is straight and can be up to 25 cm in diameter. The flowers are white arranged in clusters. The fruit is a globular drupe, wrinkled, and green to yellow in color. Each fruit is consist of three seeds that are rich in oil. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Butterflies. The plant is not self-fertile.
A plant of the subtropics and tropics, in tropical areas it is usually grown at elevations from 800 – 2,000 metres. It grows best in areas that are frost-free, with an average annual temperatures in the range 15 – 27°c; and where the mean annual rainfall is 850 – 2,000mm. The plants requirement for low temperatures in order to initiate flowering is less than that of Vernicia fordii. Prefers a slightly acid soil, tolerating a pH in the range 5.5 – 8. Adequate soil fertility is needed for good production. It is often grown on slopes, but grows well on flat land provided it is well-drained. Harvesting by manual collection of the fallen fruits is the most common method, but in China green fruits are also picked from the trees. Careful selection of clones can extend the harvesting season. During the rainy season, fruits should be collected every 10 days, and during the dry season about once a month. Average yields of seeds are 3.5 tonnes per hectare in China and 1.8 tonnes in Malawi. In Malawi annual yields of air-dry seed of the best clonal material gradually increase from 280 kg/ha in 3 – 6-year-old plantations to 2.200 kg/ha in 11 – 14-year-old plantations and 3,000 kg/ha in 20-years-old plantations; yields of plantations of unselected seedling material are about half these amounts. Plantations with a close planting system reach maximum production at an earlier age, but the maximum yields are the same as those from trees that are more widely spaced. Regular weeding around the plants is needed for ease of harvesting. In hedgerow systems, pruning and training are recommended to obtain a frame of a few main branches and open crown. There are two main forms of this species, recognized in Malawi as types A and B. Similar types are also recognized in Indonesia as the Indo-China type and the China type:- Type A is a fast-growing tree with a tall, straight trunk forming tiers of 5 spreading branches at regular intervals. Secondary branches form at relatively long intervals. The trees take 3 – 5 years to come into bearing. Type B is more shrub-like. When the main stem has produced 1 or 2 tiers of branches, it loses its dominance. Secondary branches are formed at short intervals. The trees come into bearing after 3 years. Several high-yielding vigorously growing clones have been selected from this form. This species can hybridize with Vernicia fordii in the wild. Occasionally monoecious, but more normally a dioecious species, in which case both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.
The oil is used to treat parasitic and other skin diseases and is a strong purgative. It is a component of nearly all Chinese plasters. The oil contains eleostearic acid, which is a virulent purgative when taken internally. Other components of the fruits include tannins, phytosterols and a poisonous saponin.
Agroforestry Uses: Young trees are often intercropped with food crops such as maize, groundnut or soya bean in China. In Malawi intercropping with annuals or planting of cover crops is common. Prolonged intercropping with annual crops may cause damage to the shallow root system, but in China even mature trees are sometimes intercropped with winter crops. Other Uses The seeds contain 14 – 20% of a quick-drying oil, called ‘abrasin oil’ or ‘Chinese wood oil’. (The original text was somewhat misleading, saying that the fruit contained 14 – 20% oil, which was found in the seed, which made up 33% of the fruit. This could easily mean that the seeds themselves contain 42 – 60% oil.) Because of its similarity to ‘tung oil’ (from Vernicia fordii), the oils are often treated together as tung oil. The oil is used traditionally in the manufacture of paints and Chinese black ink; for waterproofing cloth and paper; caulking and painting ships; and as a lamp oil. It was also formerly used for insulating electric wires. Currently, its main use is in the production of paints and inks, while low-quality oil is processed into soap or linoleum. Teak oil which is sold for maintaining fine furniture is usually refined tung oil. Developments in environmental and health regulations have led to an increasing use of tung oil to line containers for food, beverages and medicines with an insulating coating. The main fatty acid of the oil is alpha-eleostearic acid . In eleostearic acid, the 3 double bonds are conjugated making them highly reactive. Under the influence of light or catalysts such as sulphur and iodine, alpha-eleostearic acid converts to beta-eleostearic acid, which is even more reactive and spontaneously polymerizes into a solid mass. The fatty acid composition of the oil is: _-eleostearic acid 75 – 80%, palmitic acid 4%, stearic acid about 1% and oleic acid 15%. Traditionally, the fruits are collected when still green, placed in heaps and covered with straw or grass. The fruit pulp is allowed to rot until the seeds can be easily removed. The seeds are then crushed in a mill and roasted for a short time in shallow iron pans. The crushed mass is then thoroughly steamed and subsequently the fluid is pressed out of the cake yielding commercial wood oil. In modern processing, hulling of fruits is done by hand or mechanically. The seeds are then dried and shelled mechanically, after which the kernels are ground with some shell added to facilitate oil extraction. Cold-expression is done in screw presses yielding a clear, light-coloured oil. The cake may subsequently be warm-pressed or solvent-extracted to increase the yield, but the product is of lower quality. The press cake, after extraction of the oil, is a good fertilizer, but it is poisonous and cannot be used as animal feed. The wood is white, soft and perishable. It is only suitable for simple construction, core-stock for plywood, paper pulp. The wood is used for fuel.
Known Hazards: The whole plant is poisonous. Animals, including cattle, horses and chicken that have eaten the leaves or seed cake show haemorrhagic diarrhoea accompanied by anorexia. In severe cases, they become emaciated and may die in 1 – 3 weeks. The fruits are attractive in appearance and taste, but ingestion by humans of even a single seed causes severe abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea and general exhaustion after 3 – 5 hours.
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.