Terminalia catappa: Indian almond tree

Family: Combretaceae
Common name: Indian almond, Almond tree, Badam tree, Malabar almond, Tropical almond, Beach almond, Country almond

Indian Almond trees are very commonly seen on Indian roads, parks and gardens. They usually grow to a height 30-35 meters, with large oval-shaped, green, leathery leaves. The branches grow almost horizontally, with multiple branches radiating to the sides from the same point on the tree trunk, giving the tree a symmetrical, tiered appearance.

Their leaves can change color depending on the season, sometimes turning yellow, or even deep red. Indian almond trees produce small, white flowers that are white or cream in color. The fruits are what gives the tree its name ‘almond tree’. They start off small and green, about 2-3 cms long and flattened, and later turn yellow to red to purple.

The outer covering is fibrous and slightly sweet, making it a favorite among birds who peck on it, eating the flesh and leaving the fibrous tissue. The inner part of the fruit is also edible. They look and and taste like almond; but you have to break through the thick outer covering to reach it.

Almond tree seeds also have some oil in them; but they are not used widely due to the small size of the seeds and difficulty in extraction. Indian almond tree is fast-growing and good-looking, making it a favorite in gardens. They are mostly grown as ornamental trees, though they also have many other uses. The roots spread horizontally over a large area making it a good choice to prevent soil erosion. The fruits are buoyant and can be carried long distances in water, making propagation easy.

This garden favorite also has medicinal uses; the leaves being used to treat skin conditions, wounds, eye irritations, liver problems and even cancer. The nut, though difficult to extract is rich in rich in potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper and other trace elements. Timber is used to make furniture and cabinets, since it’s strong and water-resistant.

Propagation is from seeds. Small plants usually grow around the parent plant when the seeds fall down and germinate. These can then be uprooted carefully and replanted elsewhere.

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