Arch over river banks

This majestic tree indigenous to Sri Lanka and India shows to best advantage along river banks and tanks in the low country dry and intermediate zones. The Kumbuk is known in Tamil as the Marudu. Its scientific name is Terminalia arjuna.

It is a tall tree, growing upto 25m, with a prominently buttressed trunk and spreading branches. The tree has a slightly droopy appearance. The bark is smooth and greenish white with a distinct pink tinge. It flakes off in large flat pieces. This feature is one which helps identify the tree. The leaves of the Kumbuk are broad and rounded at both ends. They turn red before falling off. The tree flowers in April and May. The small greenish white flowers are heavily honey scented and are a favourite of the bees.

The fruits of this tree have been described as follows: "'Great oaks from little acorns grow' goes the saying. Hence one should not be surprised to find that the diminutive 5 ribbed bead shaped, floating seed…gives rise to this noble tree." (The Handbook for the Ceylon Traveller published by Studio Times).

Like so many of our indigenous trees parts of the Kumbuk too are used as a cure for many illnesses. Decoctions of the bark are used to wash ulcers, taken internally for bilious attacks or as an antidote to poisons.

A juice made of the leaves is used for earache. Powdered bark with milk is given for fractures and contusions. In Sri Lanka, preparations of the bark are given for heart and lung diseases and fractures and contusions.

In some countries the ash of the burnt Kumbuk wood is used as a substitute for lime. The tree also provides heavy construction timber. In the ecosystem the Kumbuk tree plays a very important role by affording protection to the banks of rivers with their root systems. The tree is also planted near wells to clear the water.

As mentioned earlier the Kumbuk can often be seen lining river banks throughout the country. One of our rivers, the Kumbukkan Oya has even been named after it. Kumbuk wila in Wilpattu is ringed by Kumbuk trees which arch over the tank with the reflections of their pinkish barks creating a beautiful image in the water. Here in Colombo look out for these trees along Alexander Place (C.W.W. Kannangara Mw) in front of the Town Hall.

Compiled by: Ruk Rakaganno, The Tree Society of Sri Lanka.
Phone- 2554438; email:

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