Pterocarpus indicus Willd.
by Mrs. Syahida Emiza Suhaimi
Pterocarpus indicus Willd.
by Mrs. Syahida Emiza Suhaimi

The Angsana or Sena tree (Pterocarpus indicus) provides a splendid display when its crown is covered in showy yellow, fragrant flowers. Native in Malaysia, the Philippines, Borneo, Myanmar and New Guinea, Angsana is a member of the bean family, Leguminosae. Only one species occurs in Peninsular Malaysia.

The genus name is derived from the Greek word pteron, meaning wing, and karpos, meaning fruit, referring to the flat and winged pods. The Angsana tree is unusual in the legume family in producing flattened indehiscent pods fruits so it is the fruit not the seeds that are dispersed.

Pterocarpus indicus is a large deciduous tree that can grow to 30 to 35 m tall. When the bark is cut, a little dark red exudate flows out. It has a dense and wide-spreading shady crown. Usually, it is planted as an ornamental or amenity tree along the roadsides. In the wild, it can be found by the sea and along tidal streams and rivers.

The leaves are once pinnate with 5 to 11 leaflets that are ovate or broadly elliptical with a pointed tip and rounded base. The flowers are produced in large axillary panicles and bloom simultaneously providing a spectacular show. However, they only last for a day before the petals fall to the ground that looks like a yellow carpet. The disc-like fruit with 1 to 3 seeds is about 5 cm diameter and has a papery wing that adapts it to dispersal by wind. It also floats in water.

The heartwood is brown while the sapwood is cream-coloured. The wood is said to be the finest figured timber wood in Malaysia and is used for making furniture such as cabinets and decorative veneer.

Pokok Sena, one of the districts in Kedah, was named after the tree. In the past, the Sena/Angsana tree was a common shade tree and was frequently found along the river in Kedah.

Nowadays, the trees are mostly found planted along roads or in parks. Many old avenues in Penang are graced by this tree especially during flowering season.

Pokok Angsana is an instant tree which is easily propagated from stem cuttings especially for ornamental planting purposes. In Singapore, the tree is planted widely to green the urban setting.


  1. Ng, F.S.P (1992). Manual of Forest Fruits, Seeds and Seedlings, Volume 2. Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Malaysia. pp. 431.
  2. Whitmore, T.C. (1972). Leguminosae. Tree Flora of Malaya: A Manual for Foresters , volume 1. pp. 237-304
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