Dhundul (Xylocarpus mekongensis)
Dhundul (Xylocarpus mekongensis), also known as the Mekong Mangrove or Mekong Cat’s Eye Mangrove, is a species of mangrove tree belonging to the Meliaceae family. It is native to the mangrove forests of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and southern China. Dhundul trees are commonly found in coastal areas, particularly along estuaries, tidal creeks, and the landward edges of mangrove forests, where they can tolerate high levels of salinity.
Dhundul trees typically grow up to 15-20 meters in height, with some specimens reaching up to 25 meters. The tree has a straight, cylindrical trunk with smooth, grey bark that becomes fissured and rough with age. The tree is characterized by its extensive root system, including stilt roots and buttress roots, which provide stability in the muddy substrate of the mangroves.
The leaves of the Dhundul tree are simple, opposite, and elliptical to oblong in shape, with a shiny, dark green upper surface and a lighter green underside. The tree produces small, fragrant, greenish-white flowers arranged in clusters known as panicles. These flowers are bisexual and are pollinated by insects. Following pollination, the flowers develop into large, woody, and round fruits that turn brown as they mature. Each fruit contains several seeds that are dispersed by water.
Dhundul trees play a vital role in the mangrove ecosystem, providing habitat and food for various species of birds, fish, and other wildlife. The extensive root system of the tree helps to prevent soil erosion, stabilize shorelines, and maintain water quality by trapping sediments and filtering pollutants.
The wood of the Dhundul tree is dense, hard, and resistant to termites, making it suitable for various purposes such as construction, boat building, and the production of charcoal. The tree also has a number of traditional medicinal uses, including the treatment of skin diseases, dysentery, and fever. However, the increasing demand for its wood and habitat loss due to deforestation, aquaculture expansion, and climate change has led to a decline in Dhundul tree populations. Conservation efforts are necessary to protect these unique trees and the vital ecosystems they support.