Blistering Varnish Tree
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Blistering Varnish Tree
ative Photo: Siddarth Machado
Common name: Blistering Varnish Tree • Kannada: doddaela holegaara, kankana gaala • Malayalam: Nai-cheru, Vellacheru, Balwuli, Cheru, Bipti • Marathi: biboi
Botanical name: Holigarna grahamii    Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew family)
Synonyms: Holigarna wightii, Catutsjeron grahamii

Blistering Varnish Tree is a large evergreen tree, up to 30 m high, bark 20-25 mm thick, surface yellowish-grey, mottled with green and white, smooth, warty. Outer bark is 1-2 mm thick, dead, corky, inner bark thick, brittle, inner layers fibrous, Blaze is red, and the tree exudes scanty, colourless sap which becomes black on drying. Sap of the tree is acrid and can cause variable responses to skin. Rangeing from blackening, blistering, to contact demititis, to even sever allergic reactions and body anaphylaxis. Branchlets are brown velvety. Leaves are simple, alternate, clustered at the tips of branchlets. Leaf-stalks are 1.5-5 cm long, stout, broadened at base, brown velvety. Leaf-blade is 15-70 x 7-25 cm, inverted-lanceshaped, suddenly broad above the middle, base wedge-shaped or acute, tip long-pointed, margin entire, hairless above, densely golden brown velvety below, leathery. Lateral nerves are many, parallel, prominent. Flowers are small, polygamous, dull white, in terminal rusty velvety panicles. Calyx is cup-shaped, shortly 5-toothed. Petals are 5, cohering at the base and with the edge of the disc, hairy within. Disc lining the calyx tube, obscure in bisexual flowers. Stamens are 5, inserted outside the disc. Fruit is a drupe, 2/3-3/4th included in hypocarp, vertically shallowly grooved, ovoid, reddish-purple. Blistering Varnish Tree is endemic to Western Ghats. Flowering: October-March.

Identification credit: Siddarth Machado
Photographed in Sakleshpur, Karnataka.
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