Botanical Survey of India | Flora of India

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Aegle marmelos (L.) Correa in Trans. Linn. Soc. London 5: 223. 1800; Hook. f., Fl. Brit. India 1: 516. 1875. crateva marmelos L., Sp. Pl. 444. 1753. Aegle marmelos (L.) Correa var. mahurensis Zate in Indian J. For. 5: 35. 1982.

Beng., Hindi & Mar.: Bel, Sriphal; Guj.: Bil; Kan.: Bilpatre; Mal.: Kovalam; Sans.: Bilva; Tam.: Vilvam; Tel.: Maredu.

Trees, deciduous, up to 12 m high, sometimes up to 20 m, armed; main trunk ca 30 cm across; branchlets cylindric when old, slightly angular when young, armed with straight, stout, sharp, solitary or paired, axillary spines (ca 4 cm long), puberulent to glabrous; bark bluish-grey, irregularly broken on older stems. Leaves alternate, pinnately trifoliolate, occasionally also 5-foliolate, dimorphic; petioles slender; to 6 cm long, glabrous or puberulous when young; leaflets ovate-elliptic or elliptic-lanceolate, terminal ones ca 13 x 6.5 cm; the laterals ca 7 x 4 cm, oblique at base, tapering into a bluntish tip at apex, shallowly crenate-serrulate along margins, thin, membranous to chartaceous, pale green on both surfaces, profoundly glandular-punctate, glabrous; petiolules oflateralleaflets obsolete to ca 3 mm long, puberulent or glabrous; terminal leaflet often on an extension of rachis to 2 cm long, articulated, sometimes short, ca 7 mm long. Inflorescences axillary and terminal, racemose or cymose, few-flowered, up to 5 cm long; peduncles densely puberulent; pedicels 2 - 4 mm long, densely puberulent. Flowers subglobose in bud, fragrant. Calyx cupular with 5 small deltate or suborbicular teeth, finely puberulent, caducous. Petals 4 or 5, ovate-oblong, obtuse, ca 12 x 6 mm, coriaceous, glandular, glabrous, greenish-white. Stamens numerous, 30 - 40 (-45) in irregular 2 or 3 series, free or irregularly coherent at base, unequal; filaments subulate, ca 7 mm long, glandular, glabrous; anthers linear-oblong, apiculate, ca 8 mm long. Disk cylindric, ca 1 mm high, greenish, glabrous. Ovary ovoid-oblong, 3.5 - 5 mm long, faintly ridged, glabrous, greenish, 8 - 12 (-20)-locular; locules with many biseriate owles; style very short, glabrous; stigma cylindric or bluntly conical, longitudinally grooved, light greenish, often sticky. Fruits subglobose or oblate, 5 - 10 cm across, 8 - 20-locular; pericarp hard, woody, grey or yellowish, depressed above, many seeded; seeds oblong, flattened, acuminoid, large, mono- or polyembryonic, embedded in a sweet, thick, orange or flesh-coloured mucilaginous pulp; testa white, woolly-pubescent.

Fl. March - April; Fr. Sept.- Dec.

Distrib. India: Moist deciduous forests in the subtropical W. Himalayas at elevations up to 1200 m; also in C. and S. India. Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, W. Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andaman Islands.

Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Widely cultivated in S. E. Asia, Malesia, tropical Africa and the United States.

Notes. Root and root bark are highly medicinal and used for the cure of intermittent fever. Leaves are used in the treatment of ophthalmia. Diluted fresh juice extracted from leaves is applied in catarrhs and fever. Unripe fruits are astringent, stomachic, digestive and good remedies for chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. Ripe fruits are sweet, nutritious and cooling. The pulp of ripe fruits is used for preparing a sherbet which is effective in dyspepsia. The mucilaginous substance surrounding the seeds is an adhesive which is used as a varnish for pictures and water-colour paints.

Leaves, stem bark, root, fruit and seeds contains essential oils, chiefly 'marmalosin' (Dixit & Dutta in J. Indian Chern. Soc. 9: 271. 1932).

Wood is not durable but used for making pestles for oil and sugar mills, naves and other parts of carts and also for agricultural implements.

The plants can be grown as slow growing fence in warmer countries as they can endure a fair degree of coldness (Howe in Kew Bull. 1946: 59. 1946).

The Hindus regard this plant as sacred and its leaves are used for various rituals. It is often grown in and around Shiv Temples in India.

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