Flame-of-the-forest is a species of Butea native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, ranging across Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and western Indonesia. Common names include , palash and bastard teak.
Native to India, Flame of the Forest is a medium sized tree, growing 20-40 feet high, and the trunk is usually crooked and twisted with irregular branches and rough, grey bark. The leaves are pinnate, with an 8-16 cm petiole and three leaflets, each leaflet 10-20 cm long. The hindi phrase ढाक के तीन पात ("Dhaak ke teen paat
") comes from the prominent three leaflets of this tree. It is seen in all its ugliness in December and January when most of the leaves fall: but from January to March it truly becomes a tree of flame, a riot of orange and vermilion flowers covering the entire crown. These flowers, which are scentless, are massed along the ends of the stalks--dark velvety green like the cup-shaped calices--and the brilliance of the stiff, bright flowers is shown off to perfection by this deep, contrasting colour. Each flower consists of five petals comprising one standard, two smaller wings and a very curved beak-shaped keel. It is this keel which gives it the name of Parrot Tree. In olden days, the flowers of Tesu
were used to make color for the festival of Holi
. In Manipur, there is an interesting cultural use of the wood of this tree with beautiful flowers - when a member of the Meitei community dies and, for some reasons, his body cannot be be found, the wood of this tree is cremated in place of the body.
A postal stamp was issued by the Indian Postal Department to commemorate this flower.
Palash is bestowed with countless beneficial traits, as mentioned in the Ayurvedic scriptures of Sushruta Samhita, Charaka Samhita and Ashtanga Hridaya, which make it a powerful medicinal plant. These comprise anti-diarrheal, anthelmintic, anti-diabetic, anti-stress, hepatoprotective, antifungal, astringent, aphrodisiac,
laxative, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. The Palash flowers and leaves are diuretic, aphrodisiac, astringent and increase the flow of blood in the pelvic region. The seeds of the tree have purgative, diuretic to stimulate the production of urine and anthelmintic i.e. anti-parasitic properties. The seed powder is used in the case of intestinal parasites. Palash tree bark yields a gum which is known as kino, that houses astringent properties to treat haemorrhoids.