Indian Laurel: Beware of Toxins and Safety Measures

Indian Laurel

Indian Laurel (Botanical name - Calophyllum inophyllum) is a broadleaf evergreen tree found along the southern plains and foothills of Nepal. It is an introduced species, native to coastal regions of South and Southeast Asia. The tree is grown for its ornamental value and timber.

However, all parts of the Indian Laurel, especially the fruits, contain toxins that can be dangerous for humans and animals if ingested. The toxins include calophyllolide and tacamahac, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, salivation, and neurological effects like dizziness and lethargy. In large doses, the toxins can be fatal.

Tourists visiting Nepal should be aware of the Indian Laurel and avoid ingesting any part of the plant. The yellow-green fruits may seem tempting to eat but contain the highest concentration of toxins. Even small amounts can make adults and children sick.

If any part of the plant is ingested accidentally, immediately seek medical assistance. Rinse the mouth, drink milk or water to dilute the toxins, and try to vomit out the contents. Supportive care and monitoring of symptoms are required in case of poisoning.

While the Indian Laurel adds beauty to Nepal's landscapes, tourists should steer clear of this toxic plant. Do not ingest any part, warn children, and be cautious during flowering/fruiting season. Seek advice from guides if in doubt regarding unknown plants in the wild.

Growth Habits

  • Grows up to 35 m tall with a broad spreading crown
  • Evergreen tree with leathery leaves clustered at branch ends
  • Smooth grey bark that exfoliates in thin flakes
  • Produces small greenish flowers and clusters of yellow fruits

Distribution in Nepal

  • Found in the Terai plains, Chure hills, and lower Mahabharat Range
  • Abundant in community forests, roadsides, remnant forests
  • Also cultivated as an avenue tree and for reforestation

Traditional Uses

  • Oil extracted from seeds used topically for skin and hair
  • Leaves used as cattle fodder during winter months
  • Timber used for light construction and handicrafts
  • Used in Ayurvedic medicine system

Identification Tips

  • Distinctive branching pattern and clustered leaves
  • Crushed leaves have a spicy fragrance
  • Cut trunk exudes white latex

Safety Precautions

  • Do not ingest any part, especially fruits which contain the highest toxin
  • Seek immediate medical help if poisoning symptoms appear
  • Keep livestock away from fallen fruits and leaves
  • Avoid contact with latex from bark and roots

Reproduction and Growth

  • Flowers are small, greenish-white, and fragrant
  • Pollinated by insects and bats
  • Fruits take 4-6 months to ripen after flowering
  • Exhibits fast growth as a young tree but slows down with age

Ecological Role

  • Provides habitat and food for birds, bats, and primates
  • Leaf litter enriches soil nutrients
  • Host plant for the Common Jezebel and other butterflies


  • Grown from seeds or cuttings
  • Requires full sun and regular watering
  • Tolerates saline conditions, drought, and floods
  • Plantation crops exist in some regions

Pest and Diseases

  • Prone to leaf spot, canker, fungal infections
  • Attacked by defoliator insects and leaf miners
  • Can get root rot in waterlogged conditions


  • Grown from seeds, cuttings, grafting, and air layering
  • Seeds exhibit poor viability if dried or stored for a long
  • Vegetative methods yield trees true to parent characteristics

Genetic Diversity

  • Exhibits high phenotypic diversity across the native range
  • Multiple provenances and cultivars exist
  • Being studied for use in targeted breeding programs
  • Priority species for conservation