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Saraca asoca (the Ashoka tree; lit., "sorrow-less") is a plant belonging to the Caesalpiniaceae subfamily of the legume family. It is an important tree in the cultural traditions of the Indian Subcontinent and adjacent areas.
The Ashoka is a rain-forest tree. Its original distribution was in the central areas of the Deccan plateau, as well as the middle section of the Western Ghats in the western coastal zone of the Indian Subcontinent. It is also an endangered tree.
The Ashoka is prized for its beautiful foliage and fragrant flowers. It is a very handsome, small, erect evergreen tree, with deep green leaves growing in dense clusters.
Its flowering season is around February to April. The Ashoka flowers come in heavy, lush bunches. They are bright orange-yellow in color, turning red before wilting.
As a wild tree, the Ashoka is a vulnerable species. It is becoming rarer in its natural habitat, but isolated wild Ashoka trees are still to be found in the foothills of central and eastern Himalayas, in scattered locations of the northern plains of India as well as on the west coast of the Subcontinent near Mumbai.
There are a few varieties of the Ashoka tree. One variety is larger and highly spreading. The columnar varieties are common in cultivation.
It is also used for medical purposes.