Record display

Record Number


PROSEA Handbook Number

5(3): Timber trees; Lesser-known timbers


Gardenia Ellis


Philos. Trans. 51: 953, t. 23 (1761).



Chromosome Numbers

x = 11; G. tubifera: 2n = 22

Vernacular Names

Malaysia: chempaka hutan, mentiong (Peninsular).

Origin and Geographic Distribution

Gardenia comprises about 120 species and is distributed in Africa, and in India, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, southern China, Japan, Thailand and throughout Malesia, northern Australia and the Pacific islands. About 10 species occur within the Malesian region but only few reach timber size.


The wood of Gardenia is suitable for turnery, carving, implements and specialty items such as mallet heads; it is locally used in house building.
Many species are beautiful ornamentals which flower profusely; both G. carinata and G. tubifera are planted along roads, in gardens and parks. Several species have significant medicinal value; the most important being the shrub G. jasminoides Ellis, the white gardenia, which is also much valued as ornamental and dye-producing plant. The fruits of some species (e.g. G. carinata) are edible.

Production and International Trade

Gardenia timber has no importance within Malesia, but in adjacent regions (e.g. in India and Thailand) it is occasionally traded commercially, e.g. as a substitute for boxwood (from Buxus spp.).


Gardenia yields a medium-weight hardwood with a density of 630-830 kg/m3 at 15% moisture content. Heartwood creamy-white to pale yellow-brown or pale brown, not distinct from the paler or straw-coloured sapwood; grain usually straight, occasionally irregular or wavy; texture very fine and even. Growth rings indistinct to sometimes distinct, boundaries indicated by denser wood with few vessels and without wood parenchyma; vessels very small to moderately small, predominantly solitary, indistinct to the naked eye; parenchyma rather sparse to moderately abundant, apotracheal diffuse, diffuse-in-aggregates less marked, and scanty paratracheal, indistinct with a hand lens; rays extremely fine to moderately fine; ripple marks absent.
The wood is probably strong and durable under cover but only moderately durable when exposed to the weather or in contact with the ground. The sapwood is most probably non-susceptible to Lyctus due to the small size of the vessels.
See also the table on microscopic wood anatomy.


Shrubs or small to medium-sized trees up to 25 m tall; bole up to 25(-35) cm in diameter; bark surface smooth to cracking or slightly scaly, sometimes lenticellate, greyish-brown, inner bark pale brown, shoots sometimes conspicuously resinous; young twigs and leaves often with a glossy wax-like layer. Leaves opposite or whorled, simple, entire or repand, usually obovate to elliptical, subsessile or stalked; stipules entire and connate into an amplexicaul ocrea or cup. Flowers solitary or sometimes in clusters, terminal, fragrant; calyx cylindrical, truncate or with 5-6(-10) linear lobes, sometimes ribbed; corolla with a long tube and 5-9 lobes, imbricate and contorted in bud, white to yellowish, often turning orange; stamens 5-9, anthers sessile, inserted below the sinuses of the corolla lobes; ovary inferior, unilocular with many ovules, style clavate. Fruit berry-like, globose to ellipsoid or obovoid, indehiscent but sometimes irregularly dehiscent (G. tubifera), with numerous seeds embbeded in a brightly coloured mass. Seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons leafy, green.
The branching of the trees is sympodial, but G. tubifera develops according to Roux's architectural model, i.e. with a monopodial trunk showing continuous growth. Tree-like species can start flowering as early as about 3 years old. Most species can be found flowering and fruiting throughout the year. The fragrant flowers open during the night and are probably pollinated by moths; they last for about 3 days. The seeds are eaten and dispersed by birds and mammals such as squirrels which are attracted by the brightly coloured pulp.
Within the tribe Gardenieae, several genera which also have a unilocular ovary such as Ceriscoides and Kailarsenia, have recently been split off from Gardenia.


Gardenia trees are found in lowland and hill forest and can be locally common. G. tubifera occurs frequently on river banks near the coast.

Silviculture and Management

Gardenia may be propagated by seed. About 25% of the seeds of G. carinata germinated in 23-43 days after sowing. Seeds of G. tubifera have 55-90% germination with one seedlot germinating in 2-4 weeks, but another lot continued to germinate up to 9 months. Gardenia is comparatively immune to damage from grazing.

Genetic Resources and Breeding

The tree-like Gardenia species seem not to be endangered or liable to genetic erosion because they are, at least locally, common and not much sought after for their timber. Moreover, they are rather commonly planted as an ornamental or a roadside tree.


Gardenia trees are usually too small to be of much importance for their timber. However, they might have good prospects for the production of wood for carving and turnery in combination with their great ornamental value.


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B. Ibnu Utomo W.

Gardenia carinata
Gardenia longiflora
Gardenia tubifera

Correct Citation of this Article

Ibnu Utomo, B.W., 1998. Gardenia Ellis. In: Sosef, M.S.M., Hong, L.T. and Prawirohatmodjo, S. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 5(3): Timber trees; Lesser-known timbers. PROSEA Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia. Database record:

Selection of Species

The following species in this genus are important in this commodity group and are treated separatedly in this database:
Gardenia carinata
Gardenia longiflora
Gardenia tubifera

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