Gmelina arborea Roxb. ex Sm.

First published in A.Rees, Cycl. 16: n.° 4 (1810)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Pakistan to China (S. Yunnan) and N. Indo-China. It is a tree and grows primarily in the seasonally dry tropical biome. It is used as animal food and a medicine, has environmental uses and for fuel and food.


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

LC - least concern

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia.


Flora Zambesiaca. Vol 8, Pt 7. Avicenniaceae, R. Fernandes. Nesogenaceae, M.A. Diniz. Verbenaceae, R. Fernandes. Lamiaceae, R. Fernandes. 2005.

Type a cultivated plant in Calcutta Botanical Garden.
Morphology General
An unarmed deciduous tree up to 20 m tall; trunk straight, bole clear to 10 m
Morphology Branches
Branchlets tawny pubescent soon glabrous and smooth greyish to brownish with conspicuous circular lenticels, striate
Morphology Leaves
Leaves ± discolorous, 10–25 × 7.5–18 cm, broadly-ovate or ovate-cordate, acuminate or caudate at the apex, subcordate to rounded or truncate at the base with 2 glands, entire, toothed or lobed on turions or young plants, sparsely to densely lepidote and glaucous-green and glabrous to velvety stellate-pubescent or -tomentose beneath; with 4–5 lateral nerves on each side of the midrib, the lowest pair basal; petiole 5–15 cm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Panicles many-flowered, 7.5–39 cm long, erect, with short-cymes, the flowers appearing before or with the young leaves; bracts 1–1.5 cm long, linear or linear-lanceolate, caducous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx c. 5 mm long, campanulate, shortly 5-dentate, fulvous-tomentose, somewhat accrescent in fruit
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla yellow or brilliant orange to reddish or brownish-yellow or pinkish-brown to salmon or apricot-coloured, 2.5–4 cm long, densely pubescent outside; limb 2-lipped, with the upper lip deeply divided into 2 oblong, obtuse lobes, the lower lip 3-lobed with the median lobe longer and broader than the lateral ones
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens ± exserted, one pair sometimes sterile
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Drupe 1.5–2.5 cm long, ovoid on obovoid-pyriform, orange-yellow at maturity
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds 1–2 (by abortion).
Mozambique Malawi Zimbabwe Zambia District code: ZIM C, ZIM C, MAL N, MOZ T, MOZ MS. Native to Pakistan, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Indo-China, Malaysia, Polynesia and S China.  Introduced in tropical South America and elsewhere.  In Africa it is cultivated as a garden ornamental and as a street tree.  In Malawi it has been planted

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá.

Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 30 - 200 m.; Orinoquia, Pacífico, Valle del Magdalena.
Morphology General Habit

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

This tropical forest species has high economic potential because of its rapid growth and wide variety of uses. Gamhar is a southeast Asian tree that produces high-quality wood, which is used to make furniture and musical instruments, such as Indian sitars and drums.

The genus Gmelina was named by Carl Linnaeus in honour of Johann Georg Gmelin (1709-1755), who was Professor of Medicine, Botany and Chemistry in Tübingen, Germany, and an explorer in Siberia in the service of the Tsar of Russia.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Gmelina arborea is native to Pakistan, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Indo-China and South China. It is found in tropical forest to 1,100 metres above sea level. Gamhar has also been introduced to most tropical countries as a timber tree.


Gamhar is a tree that can grow to 30 m high, with smooth, whitish to greyish reddish-brown bark and a straight trunk. Its leaves are 8 to 20 cm long, 4.5 to 15 cm wide, and covered with star-shaped hairs. Two large glands are paired at the base of each leaf. The outer surface of the calyx (sepals) is scattered with flat, round glands. The flowers are reddish-yellow, hairy and five-lobed. The hairless fruits are 10 to 15 mm in diameter and glossy yellow when mature. They are recorded as having a bittersweet taste.

Threats and conservation

Gmelina arborea is not considered to be threatened, and can be found growing in the wild in many countries, as well as in large numbers in plantations.


Gamhar produces high-quality wood, which is harvested for the manufacture of furniture and musical instruments. It is also used as structural timber, for instance in mines and ship building, as well as joinery, and to make plywood, matches, agricultural implements and even artificial limbs. The wood also produces good quality pulp used in the manufacture of cardboard and various grades of paper.

Gmelina arborea has a wide range of local medicinal uses. The juice of young leaves has been used to treat gonorrhoea and as a cough medicine. The leaf juice has also been used externally to treat ulcers. A paste of the leaves has been applied to treat headaches associated with fever. The root has been used to treat epilepsy, fever and indigestion. The bittersweet fruit has been included in cooling decoctions given for fevers. 

Gmelina arborea is a useful multipurpose shade tree for coffee and cocoa plantations; it suppresses grasses and provides livestock fodder. The leaves are also used for silkworm culture. Gamhar is also cultivated as a garden ornamental and as a street tree. In Malawi it has been grown in plantations, to be harvested as fuelwood, mostly for use in tobacco barns. Nectar from the flowers yields high-quality honey.

Gmelina arborea has been used in revegetation programs, as it grows quickly and provides shade for forest species to germinate under. When the forest species are established, the wood of Gmelina arborea can then be harvested.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Description of seeds: The fruit is a one- to four-seeded drupe. Seeds are dispersed by animals. Average 1000 seed weight = 923 g.

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One.

Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive being dried without significantly reducing their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB).


Gamhar thrives in full sunlight, although it can tolerate some shade. It is moderately frost-hardy, and can recover quickly from frost injuries. It grows best in fertile, well-drained soils, and is normally propagated by seed. For rapid germination, fresh seed should be soaked in cold water for 48 hours. The seed should then be sown in a mixture of sand and loam at 22 - 25˚C, and will germinate within two to three weeks. An alternative method of propagation involves taking cuttings from the tips of two- to three-week-old plants. The cuttings should be 12 cm long and include the terminal bud and four to six leaves, each reduced to one third of its surface area. Cuttings should be misted and kept at 22 - 25˚C. It is also possible to propagate this species by layering or grafting.

Gamhar at Kew

There are 33 specimens of Gmelina arborea in the Economic Botany Collection and these include samples of wood, fruits, roots and artefacts such as a wooden bowl.

The Herbarium (one of the behind-the-scenes areas of Kew) contains many dried specimens of Gmelina arborea .

Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Thailand
Tropical semi-evergreen, moist and dry deciduous forest.
Rated by the IUCN as of Least Concern (LC).

None known.


Biogeografic region: Orinoquia, Pacific. Elevation range: 30–200 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Colombian departments: Antioquia, Guaviare, Magdalena, Sucre.
IUCN Red List Assessment (2021): LC.
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, savanna, shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.


Building material, local medicine.

Use Animal Food
Used as animal food.
Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Fuel
Used for fuels.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.

Common Names



  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • Flora Zambesiaca

    • Flora Zambesiaca
  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

  • IUCN Categories

    • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at and
    • © Copyright 2023 World Checklist of Vascular Plants.
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at and
    • © Copyright 2023 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants.
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    • ColPlantA database
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia