Calophyllum inophyllum is a large evergreen tree in the family Clusiaceae, native from East Africa, southern coastal India to Malesia and Australia. It is called Ballnut or, confusingly, "Alexandrian Laurel" (it is not a laurel nor native to Alexandria). Nowadays it is widely cultivated in all tropical regions of the world, including several Pacific Islands. Because of its decorative leaves, fragrant flowers and spreading crown, it is best known as an ornamental plant.
It is a low-branching and slow-growing tree with a broad and irregular crown. It usually reaches 8 to 20 m in height. The flower is 25 mm wide and occurs in racemose or paniculate inflorescences consisting of 4 to 15 flowers. Flowering can occur year-round, but usually two distinct flowering periods are observed, in late spring and in late autumn. The fruit (the ballnut) is a round, green drupe reaching 2 to 4 cm in diameter and having a single large seed. When ripe, the fruit is wrinkled and its color varies from yellow to brownish-red.
This tree often grows in coastal regions as well as nearby lowland forests. However it has also been cultivated successfully in inland areas at moderate altitudes. It tolerates varied kinds of soil, coastal sand, clay or even degraded soil.
In the Maldives this tree is known as "funa".
Besides being a popular ornamental plant, its wood is hard and strong and has been used in construction or boatbuilding. Traditional Pacific Islanders used Calophyllum wood to construct the keel of their canoes while the boat sides were made from Breadfruit wood. The seeds yield a thick, dark green oil for medicinal use or hair grease. Active ingredients in the oil are believed to regenerate tissue, so is sought after by cosmetic manufacturers as an ingredient in skin cremes. The nuts should be well dried before cracking, after which the oil-laden kernel should be further dried.