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Star Flower Tree

Common name of a medium-sized, ornamental, evergreen tree, with a height of up to 25 meters. It is found in throughout tropical South Asia, Southeast Asia and up to northern Australia. It provides dense shade and is regularly found in temple yards. Its Latin botanical name is Mimusops elengi and it is also commonly known as Spanish Cherry Tree, Bullet Wood, Medlar Tree and Tanjong Tree. It bears small creamy white flowers (fig.) that are scented, and somewhat look like tiny white water lilies (fig.). In Myanmar, these small flowers (fig.) are stringed onto very thin, almost rope-like bamboo strips akin to the Thai tok (fig.), that are made into garlands (fig.) and used as a welcome gift, to pay homage and as an offering in Buddhist temples (fig.). In Burmese, the Star Flower Tree is known as hkray bain and hkya ra bain, a name also used for the circular ornament with horizontal radiating beams (fig.), which is sometimes found just underneath the chattra or plih, i.e. the multi-layered royal umbrella (fig.) atop a bell-shaped zedi, i.e. a pagoda enshrining sacred objects in Burma. In Thailand, the tree is known as ton phikun and is the provincial tree, as well as the provincial flower of Lopburi. Its ovoid fruit is softly hairy and khaki green in colour when young, somewhat reminiscent of the fruit of the Lagerstroemia, which in Thai is known as ton inthanin (fig.), but when ripe, it is bright red-orange, smooth and edible (fig.). Its elongated oval leaves are pointed, glossy and bright to dark green in colour, and between 5 to 14 centimeters in length and around 2.5 to 6 centimeters wide. The dark brownish black to grayish black bark is thick with striations and some cracks on the surface. While its wood is used in construction and recognized as luxury timber for its extremely hard, strong and tough quality, its bark and dried flowers are said to have medicinal value and are used in Ayurveda and traditional medicine to treat fever, headache, sore throat, as well as dental ailments, such as bleeding gums, caries and loose teeth, whilst an extract of its flowers used against heart disease.