Record display

Record Number


PROSEA Handbook Number

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


Nauclea L.


Sp. pl., ed. 2: 243 (1762).



Chromosome Numbers

x = unknown; N. orientalis: 2n = 88, for 2 African species 2n = 44

Vernacular Names

Bangkal (trade name). Malaysia: mengkal (Peninsular).

Origin and Geographic Distribution

Nauclea comprises 10 species, 4 of which occur in Africa and Madagascar and 6 in Asia with 1 species extending to northern Australia. All 6 Asian species are found in Malesia; 3 of them have a large area of distribution, of the other 3, one is endemic to Borneo, one to the Philippines and one to New Guinea.


The wood of Nauclea is used for light framing, interior joinery, weatherboard, flooring, furniture, cabinet work, mouldings, veneer and plywood, sculptures, implements, shuttering, toys, packing cases and match splints. It is sometimes used for house construction, e.g. N. orientalis in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. In Indo-China the wood is considered suitable for making a good pulp for paper production.
The fruits are edible but not tasty. The leaves are used as a febrifuge in local medicine. Leaves and bark of N. orientalis are used medicinally against abdominal pain and wounds. They contain indole alkaloids with anticancer activity. Branches are planted in Indonesia and Malaysia as a live fence, as they root easily. An intensely yellow dye can be obtained from the root-bark. In the Philippines N. orientalis and N. subdita are planted to stabilize river banks and slopes. Young leaves and fruits of N. subdita are edible and the trees are occasionally planted as a hedge.

Production and International Trade

The supply of Nauclea timber is limited and is mainly used locally. When traded, it is often mixed with timber of Neonauclea, Ochreinauclea and Pertusadina and sold as "bangkal"". In 1987 the amount of bangkal round logs exported from Sabah was 3450 m3 with a value of US$ 220 000 (US$ 64/m3), and in 1992 it was 4150 m3 (only 1% as sawn timber, 99% as logs) with a total value of US$ 320 000 (US$ 76/m3 for logs). In 1996 Papua New Guinea exported about 1700 m3 of "yellow cheesewood"" (N. orientalis) logs at an average free-on-board (FOB) price of US$ 99/m3.


Nauclea yields a lightweight to medium-weight hardwood with a density of 335-750 kg/m3 at 15% moisture content. Heartwood rather bright orange or orange-yellow to dark orange or dark yellow, not sharply differentiated from the wide, pale yellow sapwood; grain slightly interlocked, occasionally straight; texture moderately fine to slightly coarse and even; wood with some stripe figure on radial surface, with bitter taste and greasy to the touch. Growth rings indistinct or distinct and boundaries indicated by zones without vessels or parenchyma; vessels moderately small to medium-sized or sometimes moderately large, solitary in varying amounts and in radial multiples of 2-3(-6), open but heartwood vessels with orange-brown gum-like contents; parenchyma fairly abundant, apotracheal diffuse and diffuse-in-aggregates, distinct only with a hand lens; rays very fine to moderately fine, indistinct to the naked eye; ripple marks absent.
Shrinkage is low and care is needed to prevent warping during seasoning especially in back-sawn material. The wood is moderately hard and moderately weak to moderately strong. It is easy to work and finish and turns excellently. It is rated from durable to non-durable when exposed to the weather or in contact with the ground. The wood is fairly resistant to insect attack, but it is also reported to be susceptible to termites. The sapwood is susceptible to Lyctus and to blue stain. Heartwood is moderately resistant to blue stain. The sapwood is permeable to impregnation, the heartwood is usually permeable but may be moderately resistant in some instances.
See also the tables on microscopic wood anatomy and wood properties.


Small to fairly large trees up to 35 m tall; bole usually straight, up to 80(-100) cm in diameter; bark surface smooth to irregularly fissured and cracking, sometimes scaly, greyish-brown to reddish-brown, inner bark yellow turning orange or brown upon exposure. Terminal vegetative bud usually strongly flattened. Leaves opposite, simple, entire, leathery, with short petioles; stipules appressed, usually caducous. Flowers in an axillary and terminal, stalked head with simple peduncles, 4-5-merous; hypanthia mutually connate; calyx lobes triangular to oblong or spatulate, persistent; corolla funnel-shaped with imbricate lobes; stamens inserted in the upper part of the corolla tube; disk indistinct; ovary inferior, 2-locular with many ovules in each cell, style exserted, with spindle-shaped stigma. Fruits connate into an indehiscent, globose syncarp. Seed ovoid to ellipsoid, sometimes slightly bilaterally compressed, not winged. Seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons emergent, leafy; hypocotyl elongated; all leaves decussate.
The fruits are eaten by wild pigs.
Nauclea belongs to the tribe Naucleeae and is most closely related to Ochreinauclea and the African genus Sarcocephalus which also have a syncarp (or pseudosyncarp). It differs from Ochreinauclea in the usually flattened terminal vegetative bud, the appressed stipules, the comparatively shorter calyx lobes, and wingless seeds. Nauclea used to be a large genus, but many species have been transferred to other genera such as Adinauclea, Anthocephalus, Haldina, Ludekia, Metadina, Neonauclea, Ochreinauclea and Uncaria.


Nauclea parva (Havil.) Merr. – 1, flowering twig; 2, flower; 3, fruiting twig; 4, fruit; 5, longitudinal section of fruit.


Nauclea occurs in lowland and hill forest, sometimes up to 1100 m altitude, often along streams, and also in swampy locations. In the Philippines it is found mainly in secondary forest. In Papua New Guinea it is locally common in fire-induced grassland and secondary vegetation.

Silviculture and Management

Nauclea may be raised from seed. Seeds of N. subdita germinate in 13-59 days. N. orientalis may be suitable for soils with a periodically high groundwater table. It is considered a true pioneer and in northern Queensland it is one of the most abundant trees represented in the soil seed bank. The larvae of the beetle Alcidodes cinchonae have been found living in the shoots of N. orientalis, but they cause little damage.

Genetic Resources and Breeding

Although the supply of the timber of Nauclea is limited, it is rather common in many regions and most species are widespread. There is no indication of a threat of genetic erosion.


Nauclea may have potential for the future. The feasibility of using species such as N. orientalis (a pioneer species) to establish timber plantations should be studied. Information is needed on its silvicultural characteristics.


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Nauclea officinalis
Nauclea orientalis
Nauclea parva
Nauclea subdita

Correct Citation of this Article

Wardah, 1998. Nauclea L.. 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:
Nauclea officinalis
Nauclea orientalis
Nauclea parva
Nauclea subdita

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