A large- to medium-sized, slow-growing evergreen tree that grows 8 to 20 m in height but is capable of reaching 45 m in favourable environment. Crown is spreading with many large irregular branches and is round or pyramidal in shape. Bark is thick and light grey to grey in colour with alternately arranged diamond- shaped fissures and flat ridges. Leaves are stiff, shiny and oval, oblong-oval shaped. They are arranged oppositely along the branches and dark green in colour with close set of parallel veins. Both the tip and base of the leaves are round. Inflorescence is a stalked raceme. Flowers are white and small with four oblong, spreading petals. Stamens are golden yellow in colour and pistil is pink coloured. Flowers are fragrant and sparkling like stars against the dark green background of the leaves. Fruit, which grows in a cluster, is a round, ping-pong ball-like drupe with leathery skin. It is green when young, turning to yellow and then brown and wrinkles when ripe. Fruit skin covers a hard woody shell with corky inner layer, containing a seed. Trunk exudes a gum when wounded, which solidifies quickly.
Alexander Laurel wood's Behavior & Ecology
It tolerates a wide range of soils but grows best in well-drained sandy soil in coastal areas. It is a hardy species, tolerates high wind, aerosol salt spray, drought and even brief period of water logging. It is also tolerant of shallow and saline soils. Propagation is mainly by seeds. Seeds may be sown directly or seedlings can be raised in nursery for outplanting. In order to increase the rate and timing of germination, ripe fruits may be soaked in water overnight, which will facilitate easy removal of skin and then shells can be cracked just prior to sowing. Nursery raised seedlings can be outplanted after one to three months. Seedlings should be hardened off before outplanting. Performance of transplanted wildlings is poor.
Alexander Laurel wood's Relationship with Humans
It is one of the finest timber trees of the Maldives and widely used in boat building. Wood is hard, durable and fine textured with moderately dense and interlocked grain. It shrinks appreciably upon drying and thus is difficult to work with. Seed is roasted and made into a paste by grinding with the charcoal from the coconut husk and this paste is applied in between the plates in boats as waterproofing. Seed oil is poisonous but used to light lamps, as it lasts for a long time. The seed oil is also used in ayurvedic medicines. It is also a handsome ornamental and shade tree.
Alexander Laurel wood habitat
Found on sandy beaches near the coast and sometimes inland on sandy soils up to 200 m altitude.
Alexander Laurel wood threats
The good quality timber is cut in fairly large amounts and is often traded separately as 'beach calophyllum'.