Narra Tree

Scientific Name

Pterocarpus indicus (Willd.)

Physical Characteristics

Narra Flowers

Narra is a big tree, growing to 33 meters in height and two meters diameter. The trunks are usually fluted and buttressed to seven meters diameter at the base. Narra bears many long branches that are at first ascending, but eventually arching over and sometimes drooping at the ends.

Its leaves bear about 12 alternate leaflets. The leaflets are rather large—about 7 x 3.5 to 11 x 55 centimeters—and ovate to elliptic in shape.

The flowers are small, yellow, fragrant and borne in large axillary panicles. When flowering, the buds do not open in daily sequence. Instead, as the buds come to full size, they are kept waiting, to be triggered into opening. The opened flowers last for one day. After that, several days may pass before another batch of accumulated “ready” buds open. Whole avenues of such trees, blooming in unpredictable synchrony make a splendid display.

The fruits, which take four months to mature, are disc-shaped, flat, and have winged margins. About five centimeters across, the fruit have a central woody-corky bulge containing several seeds. Unlike most legumes trees, the fruit is indehiscent and is dispersed by wind. It also floats in water and can be water-dispersed. There are 1-3 seeds in each fruit


Narra is found in primary and secondary forests at low and medium altitudes throughout the Philippines.

Narra Trunk

Methods of propagation

Narra can be propagated by seeds and cuttings. It grows best in open areas. Seedlings are slower in terms of growth than the cuttings. A strict culling program would be necessary to ensure that only the best stocks are planted out. Rooted cuttings can be established readily on nearly all kinds of soils, from coastal sands to inland clays, in urban and garden situations, and even in quite small planting holes dug into pavements. Few species can match narra in its ability to produce well-crowned instant trees within one or two years.

Traditional uses

Bark and resin extracts is used to treat diarrhea while root extract is applied on syphilitic sores. The wood increases urination, cures diarrhea, and has antimalarial properties.

The fruit kernel can induce vomiting.

The red latex is used in folk remedies for tumors and the plant for cancers, especially of the mouth. The kino obtained from this tree contains kinotannic acid and can be administered for diarrhea, often combined with opium. It is also used as a folk remedy for bladder ailments, dropsy, headache, sores, stones, thrush, and tumors of the abdomen.

The young leaves are applied on ripening boils, skin ulcers and prickly heat. Leaves soak on water relieves stomach trouble, sprue (a tropical disease affecting mouth, throat, and digestion), palpitation of the heart, rheumatism, abnormal mucous discharge from the vagina and fever.

Contemporary Uses

The flowers are sources of honey. Although the wood is not necessarily recommended as firewood, it certainly could be used for firewood. Traditionally, it has so much in demand for cabinet class furniture that nearly everywhere its existence in the wild is precarious. In the Philippines, it is the national tree and the favorite timber for the manufacture of fine furniture, cabinetry, cart wheels, carving, construction, and musical instruments.

Leaves are used to make lotion, shampoo, disinfectant, and insecticide.

There is a distinctive sweet smell when working with the wood. It is little used for ornamental turning, but because the burl is so exquisitely figured, it makes a nice compliment to a piece to use it for finials or a cabochon-like inlay on a flat box top.