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Alstonia scholaris (Family Apocynaceae)

White Cheesewood, Milky Pine, Whitewood



This species has a wide natural range in Asia and the Pacific. In Australia it occurs in coastal areas of north Queensland and there is a small occurrence in the Northern Territory. In Australia the latitudinal range is 10-21o S and the altitudinal range is from near sea level to 900 m. (QLD, NT)


A fast-growing, large tree up to 40 m tall with greyish bark and a stem that is often strongly fluted. The leaves are dark green above and pale green-white below, 11-23 cm long and 4-8 cm wide on a short stalk. They are borne in whorls of 4-8 leaves. The cream flowers form in terminal clusters. The fruit is dry or woody, spindle-shaped, 15-32 cm long by 4-6 mm wide and contains numerous small brown seeds, each with a tuft of hairs at both ends. Flowering occurs from October to December.

Ecology/Way of Life:

It is found in hot and warm humid zones where there are no frosts. Mean annual rainfall is mainly 1200-1600 mm with a strong summer maximum but it is found in wetter areas. The topography varies from lowlands and foothills to uplands. In the lowlands it may be found on old beach ridges bordering mangroves. The soils are very variable, often derived from volcanic or metamorphic rocks. It can be a dominant species in rainforest or associated with eucalypts such as Eucalyptus tereticornis, E. tessellaris, and E. intermedia.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The heartwood is cream to pale yellow, is light in weight and often has a strong smell which can taint food. It can be used for plywood and carving but is not a building timber. In Sri Lanka it is used for making coffins. Aboriginal people use the bark to treat stomach pains, dysentery and fevers, and the tree's milky latex for neuralgia and toothache.

Further Reading:

Boland, D.J., Brooker, M.I.H., Chippendale, G.M., Hall, N., Hyland, B.P.M., Kleinig, D.A., Johnston, R.D. and Turner, J.D. 1984. Forest trees of Australia. 4th ed. Nelson and CSIRO, Melbourne. 687p.

Bootle, K.R. 1983. Wood in Australia. McGraw Hill, Sydney. 443p.

Doran, J.C. and Turnbull, J.W. (eds.) 1997. Australian trees and shrubs; species for land rehabilitation and farm planting in the tropics. ACIAR Monograph no. 24. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra. 384p.

Webb, L.J. 1960. Some new records of medicinal plants used by the Aborigines of tropical Queensland and New Guinea. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 71: 103-110.


Aboriginal uses soils ex volvanic/metamorphic rocks timber (coffins)


Text & map from Australian Trees and Shrubs, courtesy Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; text edited by J. Turnbull; photo courtesy J. Doran.

Sponsored by:

John Doran/ACIAR

Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 27996 bytes Alstonia scholaris
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 23994 bytes Distribution of Alstonia scholaris

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