Large evergreen tree. Leaves 9-24 cm, oblong or elliptic lanceolate, margins untoothed, shining above, more or less hairy beneath. Flowers white, 3-5 cm across. Fruit an almost spherical woody capsule, about 1.5 cm across, splitting into five valves to release the winged seed.
It is capable of growing into a large tree, with a height of 30 m and a diameter of 1 m. It is moderately shade-tolerant, and is capable of colonizing plantations of other species, but in later life it benefits from full overhead light. It grows naturally on a very wide range of soil types. It is not frost-hardy; on an exposed slope at 1800 m at Pakhribas 80 per cent of seedlings were killed by frost. It coppices very well. Dieback caused by Corticium salmonicolor has been recorded near Pokhara (M. Karki, 1992).
It is a very common tree. in central and eastern Nepal between 900 and 2000 m, and together with Castanopsis species it forms the dominant forest type at these altitudes on north-facing slopes in the drier areas, and on both north- and south-facing slopes in wetter areas such as the Arun and Tamur valleys and the area south of the Annapurna range. Much of the area once occupied by Schima-Castanopsis forest is now under cultivation. In addition it is found in some areas of subtropical evergreen forest dominated by Syzygium species, and is sometimes found in the wetter types of Shorea robusta forest, though this is commoner in India than Nepal. It is also occasionally found associated with Pinus roxburghii.
The capsules split open on the trees to release the winged seed which is dispersed by the wind. Good seed years are frequent and natural seedlings are for wherever there is light enough. This includes in plantations of Pinus species: at Tistung it was the second most abundant natural broadleaved seedling colonizing a five-year-old plantation (Thompson, 1988).
The seed ripens between January and April. The ripe fruits remain on the trees for some time. so the collecting period can be extended. Abundant supplies of seed are available annually. There are between 160,000 and 350,000 seeds kg-1.
The seed is extracted by placing the fruits in the sun for a few days, until they open. Then the seed can be shaken out, or extracted by gentle threshing. According to much of the literature, viability of the seed is short, and it should be sown immediately after collection; however Kessler (1981) states that there is no difficulty in storing the seed. The seed should be sown in beds or trays. Germination usually takes between ten days and three weeks. The seedlings should be pricked out into polythene pots when the first true leaves appear, after about ten weeks. Germination rates are usually rather low. The best result from nurseries in Nepal has been about 85,000 seedlings from 1 kg of seed, about 40 per cent germination, but the median figure is only about 5000 seeds. Growth in the nursery is slow, and in most places seed sown in March or April will only produce plantable stock by the monsoon a year later, i.e. the plants will need about 15 months in the nursery.
Trials at Pakhribas (1700 m) gave 92 per cent survival for trees planted in August, 50 per cent for May and September, 33 per cent for April and October, 25 per cent for June, and eight per cent for April (L. Joshi and Sherpa, 1992). The June figures are anomalous; otherwise monsoon planting is clearly indicated. Compared with other species in this trial survival of Schima was generally poor. Trials of bare-root plants have failed.
Survival in trial plots has been very variable. In most trials in Tistung (1900 m) it failed, although healthy natural regeneration was found under Pinus trees in plantation. Elsewhere survival has ranged from 35 to 100 per cent. In farmers' plantings also survival has varied considerably; in south Lalitpur District it ranged from four per cent to 80 per cent (Hausler, 1990). In trial plots in Nepal early growth has been roughly similar to that of many species in the Middle Hills, averaging about 80 cm in height at 2.5 years. One natural seedling found in a neglected trial plot at Pipal Chaur in the Kathmandu Valley (1350 m) had reached a height of 4.3 m by 6.0 cm dbh, eight years after the trial had been established; hence its age is presumably less than that (H.B. Thapa and Budathoki. 1987). In Assam in India. in a mixed Shorea robusta-Schima plantation 22 years old, the Schima averaged 17 m high by 22 cm in diameter; the Schima grew slightly faster than the Shorea robusta (Forestry Research Institute. 1975). At Kalimpong in a six-year-old plantation the mean diameter was about 11.5 cm (Ghosh, 1977).
The wood is light reddish-brown, moderately hard, and weighs about 690 kg m-3. The calorific value is about 20,500 kJ kg-1. and it is a valued fuelwood species. In India the timber is used for house-building. railway sleepers, planks and scantlings. and makes a good fuelwood; one use in Nepal is for local ploughs. The wood contains a skin irritant and hence is unpopular with woodworkers.
The leaves are used for fodder. though it is not one of the best fodder species. They contain about 9.6 per cent crude protein (Panday, 1982). Leaf fall is between mid-February and mid-April. and the new flush of leaves occurs almost immediately after this. Only the young newly flushed leaves are used, between April and mid-June. In fact it is often more valued for bedding than as a fodder. In the Dhading District villages studied by Upadhyay (1991) it was a relatively unimportant fodder species, and often more valued as a multipurpose species (timber and bedding) than as fodder. In Dolakha District it was fairly plentiful on farmers' land. amounting to eight per cent by number of trees on this type of land. It was not popular among farmers. and very few would consider planting it. It was not included in the list of species used for fodder 10 southern Lalitpur District (Upton, 1990) though it must certainly occurs there. and in addition was planted there by local farmers (Hausler, 1990). Neither was it included in the fodder trees in Lamjung District (K.P. Gajurel et al., 1987).
The young plants, leaves and roots are used medicinally, against fevers. and the bark is anthelmintic and rubefacient The Department of Medicinal Plants (1970) estimates an annual export of Schima products for medicinal use of about 1500 maund (about 60 t).
Schima has been grown in a number of nurseries mostly for issue to farmers. and it has also been used in community forestry plantations. However its main importance is not as a plantation species. but as a constituent of the natural forest. There is much degraded Schima-Castanopsis forest in Nepal which, if given protection, is capable of re-establishing itself quite rapidly. Also, as mentioned above, natural regeneration, from coppice and seed, is found in plantations of other species, particularly Pinus roxburghii.
If the main object of management of these plantations is to grow pine wood timber then the Schima is a serious competitor to the Pinus species and will need to be kept in check. However if the object is to provide fuel and fodder for local use this invasion by Schima is to be welcomed as it will increase the total biomass of the plantations and also provide material of greater value to the local people than Pinus wood. Certainly the planting of Schima seedlings in cut-over or degraded Schima forest is usually pointless, as adequate regrowth in these areas will normally be obtained naturally. The only circumstances in which planting seedlings in such areas would be justified is to fill in blanks which were not regenerating satisfactorily.