Gum Karaya
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Gum Karaya
ative Photo: Prashant Awale
Common name: Indian-tragacanth, gum karaya, Indian gum tragacanth • Hindi: Kulu कुलु • Kannada: Kurdu, ಕಂದೋಲಿ Kandoli, ಕೆಂಪುದಾಳೆ Kempudaale • Konkani: Pandruk • Tamil: Kavalam Tam • Malayalam: Paravakka • Telugu: Kavili • Marathi: Sardol • Rajasthani: Katila • Assamese: Odla • Gujarati: Kogdol • Oriya: Gudalo
Botanical name: Sterculia urens    Family: Sterculiaceae (Cacao family)

Gum karaya is a medium-sized, deciduous tree to 15 m in height, usually with a clean, crooked, short bole up to 2 m DBH; branches large, spreading; bark thick, greyish-white or reddish, smooth, shining with a thin, white transparent outer coat, peeling off in papery flakes. Leaves on long petioles, crowded at the ends of branches, palmately 5-lobed, 20-30 cm diameter; tomentose beneath, glabrous above, entire, acuminate; stipules caducous. Flowers greenish yellow, small, in terminal panicles; follicles 4-6, ovoid-oblong, about 2.5 cm diameter, coriaceous, red, covered with stinging hairs. Infact, the specific name urens means stinging in reference to the hairs on flowers. Fruit consists of 5 sessile, radiating, ovate-lanceolate hard, coriaceous carpels, 7.5 cm long, red when ripe, covered outside with many stiff bristles. Trees exude gum karaya used in foodstuffs as emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners. Seeds are eaten after roasting. Seeds and young tender roots are eaten in times of famine.

Identification credit: Dinesh Valke, Prashant Awale Photographed in Maharashtra.

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