|Posted by greene (Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) - Zone 8b) on Sep 24, 2015 10:30 AM
Alstonia was named for C. Alston, professor of Botany at Edinburgh. There are several types of Alstonia, which share the common name "Devil's Tree." There are differences of opinion as to how the name was attached to the trees. Some say that the flowers have such an overpowering sweet smell that people can be lured to sit in the shade of the tree and sleep forever. Some say that the flowers and fruit attract many animals and night pollinators to visit the tree during the night, the night/darkness being the Devil's time.
The wood of Alstonia scholaris was used to make blackboards for schoolrooms and to make slate boards for children. The wood has many varied uses from pencils and paper to coffins and corks. The wood is lightweight, so is useful in construction to make ceilings, carvings, and trim moldings. The wood is useful as fuel/firewood. Small twigs are used as toothbrushes as the wood has antibacterial properties. The pulp can be made into paper. Some wood from the lower part of the tree is used to make bottle corks and floats for fishing nets. Another common name in English is Milky Pine/Milkwood pine; the "milk" being the milky latex produced when the bark is cut. The latex has been used topically for skin ailments and is sometimes used to make chewing gum.
A. scholaris is native to southeast Asia and Australia; grown as an exotic in the US. There is one specimen at the Edison and Ford Estates in Fort Myers, Florida. In India the trees can be found planted in many cities along streets and in parks. For many people in India, the scent of the A. scholaris brings happy memories of their youth as the blooms signal the change of seasons. A single specimen tree in a garden would make a lovely shade tree and add a pleasing floral scent, but the huge numbers of trees in some cities are becoming a problem for some people. When hundreds of trees give off the strong floral scent, the smell can be overpowering; a cloyingly sweet and sickening smell for those who must live, walk, work, or attend school nearby. Once the seeds begin to fly, they can become a problem for people suffering with asthma. In India the city of Noida is making efforts to remove all of the Alstonia scholaris trees, replacing the trees with something less harmful to asthmatics. Removal of mature trees may be difficult as portions of the roots left in the ground can grow new sprouts after the tree has been felled.
Many parts of the tree have medicinal uses; too many medical uses to list here on a plant site, but one medicinal use is as a cure for asthma. :)
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