Scaphium affine or Sterculia lychnophora commonly known as Malva Nut Tree is an evergreen tree species in the family Malvaceae and subfamily Sterculioideae. The plant is native to Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo (throughout the island). It may be known as the malva nut tree, or occasionally the Taiwan sweet gum tree, Malva Nut, Makjong and Kembang Semangkok and has culinary and traditional medicinal uses, although these may also apply to the similar Scaphium macropodum. In China, malva nut is used in tea as well by mixing with other ingredients such as sugar candy, red date, haw, licorice, chrysanthemun flower, lilyturfroot, and jasmine tea. The advantage of such tea is supposed to reduce the “hotness” of the body, and nurture the body.
According to the Chinese medicine, the use of “sterculia lychnophora” is to remove heat from the lung, to cure sore throat, to counteract toxicity, and to relax the bowels. Therefore, when a person has symptoms such as hoarseness of voice, dry cough, and sore, dry throat due to heat in the lung; constipation with headache and bloodshot eyes should consume malva nut by putting it into boiling water.
Its seed is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a coolant and it also used for gastrointestinal disorders and for soothing the throat. As a result it is collected as a major non-timber forest product in Laos, and that is country’s second export crop after coffee. The flesh surrounding the dried seeds swells to eight times its original volume when soaked in water, forming an irregularly shaped, reddish gelatinous mass. After being soaked and the seed kernel removed, the flesh is mixed with granulated white sugar, ice, and soaked basil seeds, and drunk as a cooling drink in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. They are sometimes also used, along with other ingredients; in sweet, cool soups similar to the Chinese tong Sui.
Malva Nuts Facts
|Name||Malva Nut Tree|
|Scientific Name||Malva Nut Tree|
|Native||Found in Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo (throughout the island).|
|Common Names||Malva Nut, Makjong, Kembang Semangkok|
|Name in Other Languages||Borneo : Berempayang, Kambang Sulih, Kembang Semangkok, Payang Karang
Burmese : Thilaung, Samrung, Thibyu, Shaw, Thau-Thinbaw
Chinese: Pàng dàhǎi (胖大海), Ta Hai Tzeh, Tou Shai Hoi, Pandahai, Tai Hong Lam, Pong Tia Ha
French: Fruit de la Scaphiglotte
Hindi: Malva Phal (मालवा फल)
Indonesia: Kepayang, merpayang, tempayang , Tempang, Kapas-Kapasan
Khmer: Crap Chi Ling Leak, Som Rong (សំរង), Samrang Si Phle, Som Vang, Som Rong Sva
Laotian : Mak Chong Ban, Crap Chi Ling Leak, mak chong (ໝາກຈອງ)
Malay: Kembang Semangkuk
Malaysia: Kembang semangkok jantong, kembang semangkok batu, Boh Change, Makjong, Kembang Semangkok Jantong Selayar
Marathi: Niranjan Phal (निरंजन फळ)
Singapore : Cheng T’ng Tree
Swedish: Scaphium affine
Thai: Lūk s̄ảrxng (ลูกสำรอง), H̄māk cxng (หมากจอง), Phungthalāy (พุงทะลาย), phungthalai, samrong, Makjong
Vietnamese: Hạt lười ươi, đười ươi, hột lười ươi, Uoi, An Nam Tu, Dai Hai Tu, Huong Dao
|Plant Growth Habit||Large and straight upper canopy, perennial evergreen tree|
|Growing Climates||Tropical rainforest such as undisturbed mixed dipterocarp forests, (peat)-swamp forests and sub-montane forests, well-drained undulating hillsides and ridges|
|Soil||Found on fertile, well-drained, rich clay and sandy soils and on rocky and shallow soils|
|Plant Size||About 18 – 40 meters tall with bole up to 80 cm in diameter, having large and often spreading buttresses|
|Bark||Greyish-brown fissured bark and with a bole diameter up to 260 cm above the thick, spreading buttresses. Buttresses up to 2 m|
|Twigs||Stout, glabrescent, with prominently raised large leaf scars|
|Leaf||Variable in shape and size, broadly ovate, ovate, elliptical, oblong or lanceolate, 8-40 cm long and 7-30 cm wide, shallowly cordate, truncate, rounded to broadly cuneate at base, acute or acuminate at apex, with 6-11 pairs of secondary veins, glabrous, petiole up to 15 cm long. Petioles 5–21 cm long, swollen at both ends|
|Flowering season||January to April, main flowers in March|
|Flower||3-20 cm long, compact, pubescent, bearing tiny flowers, about 5 mm of diameter, with campanulate calyx with 5 curved lobes of greenish white color|
|Fruit Shape & Size||Large follicle, 18–20 by 5–6 cm, soon dehiscing, boat-shaped and membranous, glabrous or hairy near base|
|Fruit Color||Initially greenish yellow, then brown when ripe|
|Seed||Ellipsoid, 3–3.5 cm by 1.4–2 cm, glabrous, becoming wrinkled and rugose when dry|
|Taste||Light sweet, tasteless and cool|
|Season||June to August|
Malva Nut Tree is a large and straight upper canopy, perennial evergreen tree about 18 – 40 meters tall with greyish-brown fissured bark and with a bole diameter up to 260 cm above the thick, spreading buttresses. Buttresses are up to 2 m. Twigs are stout, glabrescent, with prominently raised large leaf scars. Young shoots are reddish-brown and pubescent. Stipules are subulate, ferruginous, tomentose, caduceus. The plant is found growing in tropical rainforests such as undisturbed mixed dipterocarp forests, (peat)-swamp forests, sub-montane forests, well-drained undulating hillsides and ridges. It is found growing on fertile, well-drained, rich clay, sandy soils and on rocky and shallow soils.
Leaves are variable in shape and size, broadly ovate, ovate, elliptical, oblong or lanceolate, 8-40 cm long and 7-30 cm wide, shallowly cordate, truncate, rounded to broadly cuneate at base, acute or acuminate at apex, with 6-11 pairs of secondary veins, glabrous. Petioles are 5–21 cm long, swollen at both ends.
Flower & Fruit
The blooming takes place irregularly every 3-4 years with unisexual panicle inflorescences on the same plant, terminal or axillar, 3-20 cm long, compact, pubescent, bearing tiny flowers, about 5 mm of diameter, with campanulate calyx with 5 curved lobes of greenish white color. Flowering normally takes place from January to April, main flowers in March. Fertile flowers are followed by a follicle, up to about 20 cm long and 5 cm broad, initially greenish yellow, then brown when ripe, foliaceous, dehiscent with hull shape that accelerates its dispersion through the wind, containing one only ellipsoid seed placed at the extremity, 3 cm long and of 1,5-2 cm of diameter, wrinkly, of brown color.
The seeds are commonly harvested from the wild to make a popular drink and for medicinal purposes. The wood is a source of ‘kembang semangkok’ timber and is harvested from the wild for local use and for trade. This species has been heavily exploited, and trees only flower every 1 – 3 years. Hence the number of mature trees is very low. It is often found in protected areas and conserved in some concession areas, but it is threatened by the destructive practice of chopping down the tree to collect the fruit
Traditional uses and benefits of Malva Nut Tree
- The seeds of this species and S. macropodum are used in traditional Indian medicine Ayurveda as well as traditional Chinese medicine as a coolant, for gastrointestinal disorders, and for soothing the throat.
- According to Chinese medicine, the use of Malva Nut Tree can remove heat from the lung, cure sore throats, counteract toxicity, and moisten the bowels.
- Seed produces copious mucilage which is used as medicines to treat complaints such as diarrhea, dysentery and asthma.
- It has culinary and traditional medicinal uses: in Malaysia for treating fevers, phlegm, coughs and sore throats, respiratory conditions, and to improve general health.
- Some people drink Malva nut juice as a dietary beverage because of its cooling properties and as a febrifuge.
- Malva used with cinnamon and basil is used for treating sprue and cough and mixed with bitter aloes and seeds of Vitex pteropoda is used for dysentery in Java.
- It is also used, in China, as a traditional drug for the prevention of pharyngitis, treatment of tussis and constipation.
- It is used to treat dysentery, intestinal infections, coughing and sore throats.
- Seeds, when soaked in water, swell up to 8 times their original volume to yield a transparent, mucilaginous gel. This is removed from the seeds, mixed with the soaked seeds of basil and made into a refreshing drink.
- Gel made from malva nut (seed) is edible and locally malva nuts are used as ingredients in food dishes, beverages and as medicine.
- It is used in the dessert cheng t’ng in Singapore.
- Malva seeds are sun dried and stored in ventilated conditions.
- The mucilaginous gel from the outer seed coat is used to prepare a beverage, together with sugar or fruit juice.
- Malva nut juice in a can is widely sold in Thailand as a dietary health beverage.
- Malva nut gum has been reported to have potential to improve yield and textural parameters of meat products.
- Wood is a source of ‘kembang semangkok’ timber.
- Wood is used in construction, for joinery and paneling, furniture components, boxes and crates, flooring, matches, plywood, veneer etc.
- Wood is used for fuel.
- Fibrous inner bark is sometimes used as walling for houses.
- Mast flowering and fruiting occurs every 3–4 years.
- Over-consumption symptoms include white watery phlegm, nausea, coughing, and swollen tongue.
- People with frequent digestion problems and abdominal pain or diarrhea should avoid it entirely.
- Tea should not be consumed by children and pregnant women.
- Avoid boiling more than 3 seeds per drink.