Siris tree (Fiji)

Albizia lebbeck (Fabaceae)

Characteristics

Tree, up to 25 m, wide-canopied with large, symmetrical, umbrella-shaped crown. Pinkish flowers with white and red stamens, set on heads with around 12-25 flowers per head. These heads may number in the thousands, covering the whole tree. Large branches of the tree tend to break off, particularly during rainstorms. This can be hazardous as the tree is very commonly used for avenue plantation.

Distribution

Native to Central and South America, but has been widely introduced to South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii.

Natural Medical Properties

The leaves and seeds are used in the treatment of eye problems such as ophthalmia.
The bark is astringent. It is taken internally to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and piles.
The bark is used externally to treat boils.
The flowers are applied locally to maturate boils and alleviate skin eruptions.
The powdered seeds are used to treat scrofula.
Saponin from the pods and roots has spermicidal activity.
Studies have shown that a methanol extraction of the plant is a very effective treatment for diabetes.

Did you know?

The origin of the name “rain tree” is unknown. It has been variously attributed to…

…the way the leaves fold during rainy days (allowing rain to fall through the tree).

…the relative abundance of grass under the tree in comparison to surrounding areas.

…the steady drizzle of honeydew-like discharge of cicadas feeding on the leaves.

…the occasional shower of sugary secretions from the nectaries of the leaf petioles.

…the shedding of stamens during heavy flowering.

The Fijian name “Vaivai” means “watery” (in allusion to the tree’s “rain”).

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species