Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Brucea javanica (L.) Merr.

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Male flowers. CC-BY J.L. Dowe
Female flowers. CC-BY J.L. Dowe
Fruit. CC-BY J.L. Dowe
Leaves and Flowers. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Merrill, E.D. (1928) Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 9: 3.

Common name

Macassar Kernels


A small tree not exceeding 30 cm dbh.


Leaflet blades about 4.5-11 x 1.5-5.5 cm, with hairs on both the upper and lower surfaces. Leaflet stalk of the terminal leaflet much longer than those on the lateral leaflets. Midrib slightly raised on the upper surface of the leaflet blades. Terminal bud densely clothed in pale, +/- prostrate hairs.


Anthers usually red. Disk thick, 4-lobed. Stamens inserted between the lobes under the outer margin of the disk.


Fruiting carpels about 6-8 x 5-6 mm. Endocarp +/- reticulate or wrinkled, but difficult to separate from the pericarp.


Cotyledons glabrous, about 5-9 x 3-5 mm, petioles hairy or petioles absent. Hypocotyl hairy. First pair of leaves trifoliolate, margins ciliate, lateral leaflets shorter than the middle leaflet. At the tenth leaf stage: leaves compound with three, five or seven leaflets. Margin serrate, crenate or smooth, both the upper and lower surfaces hairy. Terminal buds and stem clothed in golden hairs. Seed germination time 130 to 312 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ and CEQ. Altitudinal range from sea level to 500 m. Grows as an understory tree in monsoon forest and beach forest. Also occurs in Asia and Malesia.

Natural History & Notes

This species may have medicinal properties.

In Chinese herbal medicine, the kernels are prescribed in amoebic dysentery and as a remedy for intestinal worms. Although there is no record of the kernels being used in Australian traditional medicine, the leaves and roots were used as an analgesic by Aborigines in north Queensland. Cribb (1981).

Rhus javanica L., Species Plantarum 1: 265(1753), Type: Java, Osbeck s.n. Brucea amarissima (Lour.) Merr., Philippine Journal of Science 10C (Botany) : 18(1915). Brucea sumatrana Roxb., Flora Indica 1: 469(1820), Type: A native of Sumatra. From thence Mr. Ewer sent the seeds to the Botanic Garden. Gonus amarissimus Lour., Fl. Cochinch. 2: 658(1790), Type: India & China, collector unknown.
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