Bignay is a species of fruit tree in the family phyllanthaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Its common Philippine name and other names include ,
bugnay or bignai, Chinese-laurel,
wild cherry, andcurrant tree. This is a variable plant which may be short and shrubby or tall and erect, approaching 30 metres in height. It has large oval shaped leathery evergreen leaves up to about 20 cm long and seven wide. They are attached to the twigs of the tree with short petioles, creating a dense canopy.
The species is dioecious, with male and female flowers growing on separate trees. The flowers have a strong, somewhat unpleasant scent. The staminate flowers are arranged in small bunches and the pistillate flowers grow on long racemes which will become the long strands of fruit. The fruits are spherical and just under a centimetre wide, hanging singly or paired in long, heavy bunches. They are white when immature and gradually turn red, then black.
Each bunch of fruits ripens unevenly, so the fruits in a bunch are all different colors. The skin of the fruit has red juice, while the white pulp has colorless juice. The fruit contains a light-colored seed. The fruit has a sour taste similar to that of the cranberry when immature, and a tart but sweet taste when ripe. This tree is cultivated across its native range and the fruits are most often used for making wine and tea and is also used to make jams and jellies. It is often grown as a backyard fruit tree in Java.
Bignay is an attractive, undemanding, evergreen, ornamental plant. Occasionally a shrub, it is more commonly a tree that can grow up to 30 metres tall, though is usually smaller. In larger specimens the bole can be up to 1 metre in diameter and unbranched for 10 metres. It is usually straight, but is often fluted or with buttresses that can be up to 3 metres tall and 10cm out.
The edible fruit is highly regarded in many areas of Asia, where it is both harvested from the wild and also often cultivated in villages and home orchards. The fruit is sometimes sold in local markets[
The tree is sometimes grown as an ornamental.
The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and used in jellies, preserves etc.
When fully ripe, the thin but tough-skinned fruit is juicy and slightly sweet. The fruit is likened by some people to cranberries and is eaten mainly by children. The fruit staines the fingers and mouth. The round fruit is up to 8mm in diameter with a relatively large seed, it is used mainly for jams and jellies, though it needs extra pectin added for it to jell properly. The fruit is carried in redcurrant-like clusters of 20 - 40 near the shoot tips. Some tasters detect a bitter or unpleasant aftertaste, unnoticeable to others. If the extracted bignay juice is kept under refrigeration for a day or so, there is settling of a somewhat astringent sediment, which can be discarded, thus improving the flavour.
The leaves are sudorific and employed in treating snakebite in Asia
The leaves and roots are used as medicine for traumatic injury
The bark yields a strong fibre for rope and cordage
The timber has been experimentally pulped for making cardboard
The timber is reddish and hard. If soaked in water, it becomes heavy and hard. Valued for general building, even though it is not very durable in contact with the soil and is also subject to attacks from termites.