Botanical name: Polyalthia longifolia | Hindi: अशोक| Marathi: खोटा अशोक | English: False Ashoka
AboutThe False Ashoka, scientifically termed Polyalthia longifolia, is an evergreen tree native to the Indian subcontinent. Reaching heights of 15-20 meters, it boasts a tall, slender trunk with a narrow, conical crown. The lanceolate leaves are glossy green, imparting an ornamental appeal. Contrary to its name, the False Ashoka’s flowers are inconspicuous, with small greenish-yellow blooms. Its distinctive fruits are slender, cylindrical, and pendulous. Commonly cultivated as an ornamental tree in urban landscapes, the False Ashoka is admired for its graceful appearance. While it shares a common name with the true Ashoka, they belong to different botanical families.
Medicinal Uses: The False Ashoka (Polyalthia longifolia) is not widely recognized for significant medicinal uses in traditional practices. However, in some cultures, various parts of the tree, such as leaves and bark, have been explored for potential therapeutic properties. The bark is occasionally used in traditional medicine for its astringent and anti-inflammatory qualities. While not as extensively studied or employed as other medicinal plants, the False Ashoka may have niche applications in certain herbal remedies. It’s crucial to note that any use of plants for medicinal purposes should be approached with caution and under the guidance of qualified healthcare professionals.
Environmental Impact: The False Ashoka (Polyalthia longifolia) stands as an ecological ally, offering a myriad of environmental benefits. Its lush, evergreen canopy serves as a natural air purifier, filtering pollutants, reducing noise and exhaling life-enriching oxygen. The False Ashoka becomes a haven for biodiversity, attracting and sustaining various bird species and insects when it is flowering and fruiting.
- It is larval host plant for several butterflies: Graphium agamemnon – Tailed Jay, Graphium eurypylus – Great Jay, Graphium doson – Common Jay, Graphium nomius – Spot Swordtail, Graphium sarpedon – Common Bluebottle
- It’s a nectar plant for Graphium doson – Common Jay, Papilio polytes – Common Mormon
- It’s fruits are enjoyed by birds like Indian Koel and Fruit bats.
Anandvan Trivia QuizQuestion 1: Why am I also called “The Mast Tree”?
Answer: The False Ashoka, or Polyalthia longifolia, is often colloquially referred to as “The Mast Tree.” This name is derived from its tall, straight trunk, which historically made it valuable as a source of timber for ship masts. The term “mast” specifically refers to the tall, vertical spar or pole on a ship that supports sails. While the False Ashoka’s timber may not be as widely used for this purpose today, the historical association with mast production has stuck, leading to its informal designation as “The Mast Tree.”