Magnolia champaca

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This article is about the flower. For the magazine of the same name, see Champak (magazine).
Michelia champaca Blanco1.191-cropped.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Magnoliales
Family: Magnoliaceae
Genus: Magnolia
Species: M. champaca
Binomial name
Magnolia champaca
(L.) Baill. ex Pierre[1]
  • Champaca michelia Noronha
  • Magnolia membranacea P.Parm.
  • Michelia aurantiaca Wall.
  • Michelia blumei Steud.
  • Michelia champaca L.
  • Michelia euonymoides Burm.f.
  • Michelia pilifera Bakh.f.
  • Michelia pubinervia Blume
  • Michelia rheedei Wight
  • Michelia rufinervis Blume
  • Michelia rufinervis DC.
  • Michelia sericea Pers.
  • Michelia suaveolens Pers.
  • Michelia tsiampacca Blume
  • Michelia velutina Blume nom. illeg.
  • Sampacca euonymoides (Burm.f.) Kuntze
  • Sampacca suaveolens (Pers.) Kuntze
  • Sampacca velutina Kuntze
  • Talauma villosa f. celebica Miq.

Magnolia champaca, known in English as champak,[3] is a large evergreen tree in the Magnoliaceae family.[4] It was previously classified as Michelia champaca.[4][5]

It known for its fragrant flowers, and its timber used in woodworking.


The tree is native to the Indomalaya ecozone, consisting of South Asia, Southeast AsiaIndochina, and southern China.[6]

It is found in Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests ecoregions, at elevations of 200–1,600 metres (660–5,250 ft).[4] It is native to India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanma, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam.[4] In China it is native to southern Xizang and southern and southwestern Yunnan Provinces.[4][7]


In its native range Magnolia champaca grows to 50 metres (160 ft) or taller. Its trunk can be up to 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in diameter. The tree has a narrow umbelliform crown.[4]

It has strongly fragrant flowers in varying shades of cream to yellow-orange, during June to September.[4] The obovoid-ellipsoid carpels produce 2−4 seeds during September to October.[4]


Magnolia champaca varieties and hybrids include:

  • Magnolia (Michelia) champaca var. champacaHuang lan (yuan bian zhong), (黄兰(原变种)) in Chinese. To 30 metres (98 ft) tall, documented in China.[8]
  • Magnolia (Michelia) champaca var. pubinerviaMao ye mai huang lan (毛叶脉黄兰) in Chinese. To 50 metres (160 ft) tall or taller, documented in China.[9]
  • Magnolia × alba — white-flowered hybrid of Magnolia champaca and Magnolia montana.[5]

In Thailand, there are other purported hybrids cultivated with other species, including with Magnolia liliifera and Magnolia coco.


The species epithet, champaca, comes from the Sanskrit word campaka (pronounced tʃaɱpaka). However, Champaka, and its literary forms Chanpakam (Sangam literature) and Chenpakam in Tamil are listed as words of Dravidian etymology.[10]

Vernacular names[edit]

A pale-flowered variety

Other vernacular names in English include Joy perfume tree,[5] yellow jade orchid tree and fragrant Himalayan champaca.[11][12]

Vernacular or common names in other languages include: Champika ( චම්පික) in Sanskrit; Aule chaanp (अैाले चाँप) in Nepali;[7] Huang lan, (黄兰) in Chinese; Sampige (ಸಂಪಿಗೆ) in Kannada; Sonchaaphaa (सोन चाफ़ा) in the Marathi language; Chenbakam/Chenpakam (செண்பகம்) in Tamil; Chenbagam in Malayalam; Shornochampa (স্বর্ণচাঁপা, golden champa) in Bengali; Champa, Cempaka, Sampenga and Sampangi in Telugu; Cempaka in Malay; Tsampaka or Sampaga in Tagalog; Jeumpa in Acehnese; and Sapu (සපු) in Sinhala.

Some of those vernacular names can also apply to certain Plumeria species as well, except for the Western Indian Marathi language's Sonchaaphaa used exclusively for Magnolia champaca.

Other native fragrant Magnolia species; six varieties of Plumeria; and two varieties of Ylang Ylang are generically called the vernacular names: Chaaphaa in Marathi; Manoranjitam in Tamil; and Champakam in Malayalam. In some cases, a further descriptor is added: for instance the red plumeria variety is called Dev Chaaphaa (God's champa) in Marathi.

In Theravada Buddhism, champaca is said to have used as the tree for achieved enlightenment, or Bodhi by seventeenth Lord Buddha called "Aththadassi - අත්ථදස්සි". According to Tibetan beliefs, the Buddha of the next era will find enlightenment under the white flower canopy of the champaca tree.[12]



The flowers are used in Southeast Asia for several purposes. Especially in India, they are primarily used for worship at temples whether at home or out, and more generally worn in hair by girls and women as a means of beauty ornament as well as a natural perfume. Flowers are used to be floated in bowls of water to scent the room, as a fragrant decoration for bridal beds, and for garlands.

"Magnolia champaca however is more rare and has a strong perfume, and is not that commonly or plentifully used - for example in hair it is worn singly or as a small corsage but rarely as a whole garland, and for bridal beds it is most often jasmine and roses while for bowls of water to be placed around rooms usually other, more colourful for visual decoration and less strongly perfumed flowers are used."[13]

The tree was traditionally used to make fragrant hair and massage oils. Jean Patou’s famous perfume, 'Joy,' the second best selling perfume in the world after Chanel No. 5, is derived in part from the essential oils of champaca flowers. The vernacular name Joy Perfume Tree comes from this.[5] Many niche perfumers are now once again using Champaca Absolute as single note fragrances.

The scent similar to the scent of this plant is said to emit by a civet in Sri Lanka, Paradoxurus montanus. Because all the other civets are known to emit very unpleasant odours, this species is renowned to emit pleasant odour similar to this plant's scent.[14]


In its native India and Southeast Asia, champaca is logged for its valuable timber.[5] It has a finely textured, dark brown and olive-colored wood, which is used in furniture making, construction, and cabinetry.[5]

The species is protected from logging in some provinces of India, especially in the Southwestern region, where certain groves are considered sacred by Hindus and Buddhists.[5]


Magnolia champaca is cultivated by specialty plant nurseries as an ornamental plant, for its form as an ornamental tree, as a dense screening hedge, and for its fragrant flowers.[12] It is planted in the ground in tropical and in subtropical climate gardens, such as in coastal Southern and Central California.[5][12] It is planted in containers in cooler temperate climates.[5] It requires full sun and regular watering.

The fragrant flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.[12] Its aril-covered seeds are highly attractive to birds.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fl. Forest. Cochinch. 1: t. 3 (1880). "WCSP (2013). World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.". Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". 
  3. ^ "CHAMPAK". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Flora of China treatment of Michelia (Magnolia) champaca . accessed 7.12.2015
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pacific Horticulture Society: "Striving for Diversity: Fragrant Champaca" . accessed 7.12.2015
  6. ^ "Germplasm Resources Information Network_USDA". 
  7. ^ a b Annotated Checklist of the Flowering Plants of Nepal − Michelia (Magnolia) champaca
  8. ^ Flora of China treatment of Michelia (Magnolia) champaca var. champaca
  9. ^ "Flora of China FOC Vol. 7 pg 51, 80. — Michelia (Magnolia) champaca var. pubinervia". 
  10. ^ Dravidian Etymological Dictionary, entry number,2321
  11. ^ "PlantFiles". Dave's Garden. Retrieved 2015-08-02. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Monrovia Nurseries database: Michelia champaca (Fragrant Himalayan Champaca) . accessed 7.12.2015
  13. ^ Minter, S. "Fragrant Plants." in Prance, G. and M. Nesbitt. (2005). The Cultural History of Plants. London: Routledge. 242.This is great
  14. ^
  15. ^ FRISCH, J.D. & FRISCH, C.D. - Aves Brasileiras e Plantas que as atraem, São Paulo, Dalgas Ecotec, 3rd. edition, 2005, ISBN 85-85015-07-1, page 374

Further reading[edit]

  • Fernando, M. Thilina R., et al. "Identifying dormancy class and storage behaviour of champak (Magnolia champaca) seeds, an important tropical timber tree." Journal of the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka 41.2 (2013): 141-146.

External links[edit]