Bayur tree or Dinner plate tree is a timber and landscape tree originating from India and Asia, its natural range extending from the foothills of the Himalayas and hilly parts of eastern and central India, through Myanmar (Burma) to southern China.
It is a tree of variable size, growing into a medium-sized tree reaching heights of up to 24 m (80 ft) in the cooler parts of its range but rarely reaches above 15 m (50 ft) in warmer areas and develops a straight trunk with a rounded or irregular crown made up of gently ascending branches. The bark is a smooth grey on young trees becoming rough and darker with age.
The leaves are maple-leaf-shaped, very large, dark glossy green on top and silvery-haired underneath. In the wetter parts of its range, where the dry season is short they remain on the tree but are semi-evergreen elsewhere, with the tree left leafless for a brief period.
The flowers are large, cream-white, showy and sweetly fragrant, especially at night to attract bats, the tree's specialist pollinators. They bloom in spring but are short-lived, lasting only one night, although their fragrance lingers on even after they have wilted and fallen to the ground. They are followed by large cucumber-shaped seed capsules that persist on the tree for up twelve months, turning brown as they mature. They contain numerous seed which are winged and designed for wind dispersal.
It is cultivated as an ornamental for its showy, sweetly fragrant flowers and its very large leaves which cast a dense shade, making it a popular shade tree in its native India. In the dry season the silvery hairs on the under-surface of the leaf lighten, resulting in an eye-catching contrast of silver and green as they move in the wind.
The wood it produces is medium-weight, in the 540 to 600 kg per cubic meter range, with low natural resistance to decay, which limits its use outdoors. Its use is mainly confined to making plywood, packing boxes and crates as well as safety matches and matchboxes.
The spent flowers are collected in its native range for use in clothing and linen cupboards as a deodoriser and to add a light fragrance to the clothes, sheets and towels stored therein.
The large leaves have traditional use as serving plates or platters and as wrapping material for wrapping small articles in.
Grows naturally and has its best development in moderately humid to very humid subtropical and tropical lowland to high-elevation climates, generally in areas with annual lows of 11 to 20 °C, annual highs of 24 to 34 °C, annual rainfall of 1200 to 6500 mm and a dry season of 7 months or less.
Although also found in areas with annual rainfall of less than 1200 mm, the trees are usually next to a pond, swamp or watercourse, where their roots have access to water during dry periods.
New plants are usually grown from seed, which remain viable for up to twelve months under cool, dry storage. Performs best on loam soils of a moderately acid to neutral nature, generally with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5 and on sites with full to partial sun exposure. Tolerates seasonal flooding.
There does not appear to be any records of escape and naturalisation anywhere, despite its introduction into areas outside of its native range. It is known to sprout root suckers, which can be a major gardening problem.
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