A small, erect, evergreen tree 6 to 10 m tall with knee-like above-ground breathing roots. These knee roots comprise a sponge like system of air chambers, which act as an air reservoir when the roots are submerged. These roots are also covered with numerous pores, which allow air but not water to enter the root. Bark is light to dark grey or pale pink in colour and scaly at the bottom. Leaves are simple, opposite in arrangement, lanceolate in shape, about 7 to 12 cm long, shiny, dark green in colour with pointed apex. Inflorescence is a three-flowered cyme with about 1 cm long peduncle and axillary in position. Flowers are small, white in colour with 8-lobed greenish-yellow calyx, which is persistent, forming a cap-like structure above the propagules. Propagules are spindle shaped, 10 to 15 cm long, 0.5 to 1 cm in diameter, smooth, slightly curved, cylindrical and green to purplish-green in colour, which are buoyant and dispersed by currents.
Distribution: It grows in mangroves of E. Asia - coastal areas from India and Sri Lanka through southeast Asia to New Guinea and northeast Australia. It is found either as a dominant or co-dominant species in many of the mangrove ecosystem of the Maldives. It also found in the form of pure stands. A large number of young seedlings are found growing in the areas wherever this species is dominant.
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It grows on light, medium and heavy soil but prefers silty clay soil and high- and mid- tidal zone for better performance. Its optimum soil salinity ranges from 8 to 34 ppt. It is propagated by propagules. Unlike in Avicennia spp., propagules of Bruguiera spp. are spindle shaped because hypocotyl penetrates the seed coat and elongates (called as viviparous propagules). Matured propagules are purplish-green in colour which can be collected from water or plucked from trees. They can be directly planted in the selected locations by inserting them up to one-third of their length into the soil. Nursery-raised seedlings 20 to 30 cm height can be also used for outplanting. Direct planting of propagules are economical and less time consuming.
Although there are overall range declines in many areas, they are not enough to reach any of the threatened category thresholds. The plant, therefore, is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The timber of Bruguiera cylindrica is dense, reddish and strong and is used in construction. It burns well as firewood and can be converted into charcoal. The crushed bark has an unusual odour which is repulsive to fish and this wood is not therefore used for fish traps. Nevertheless, extracts are made from the pneumatophores which are used in the manufacture of perfume. Parts of the tree are eaten; the root tips are relished in Thailand; the bark supplies a spice and the young shoots are boiled and served as a vegetable.In traditional medicine, the skin of the fruit is used to stop bleeding and the leaves are used to lower blood pressure.
In the Maldives, propagules are consumed after removing the skin and boiling them three to four times, first with ash to remove the bitterness and then with salt for taste. It is considered as a famine food and it was once planted in large areas in some islands, primarily for use during famine. It is also considered as a timber tree. Timber is hard and strong and used for boat building. Timber is normally buried in sand at the edges of the sea for about six months to prevent easy decay. Poles are used for house construction. Timber is used for parts of the hull and, especially, for the keel of canoes.