Plant Name: Aegle marmelos (L.) Corrêa
Hindi: Bael pathhar
English: Stone-apple, wood-apple
Interesting facts and history
- Commonly planted as a sacred tree in Shiva temples in India. A fallen tree is never used for firewood; though fruits are highly valued by people, the people of Kerala never eat it, as it signifies the head of Shiva.
- In the traditional practice of the Hindu and Buddhist religions by Newari culture of Nepal, the bael tree is part of a fertility ritual for girls known as the Bel baha. Girls are married to the bael fruit; as long as the fruit is kept safe and never cracks, the girl can never become widowed, even if her human husband dies. This is seen to be protection against the social disdain suffered by widows in the Newari community.
This is a tree that grows from 2.4 to 4.6 meters tall, with a dense spiny growth.
Leaves alternate-3-foliolate, sometimes 5-foliolate, dimorphic; petioles terete to 6 cm long, glabrous or puberulous when young; leaflets subsessile, ovate-elliptic or elliptic-lanceolate, oblique at base, shallowly crenate-serrate at margin, tapering at apex, membranous, pellucid-punctate, pale green .
The fruit is 5 to 10 centimeters in diameter, full of seeds with a smooth, woody shell of green, gray, or yellow peel.
Flowers bisexual, greenish white or yellow, fragrant. Calyx cupular, finely puberulent, caducous; lobes 4 or 5, 3-angled. Petals 5, ovate-oblong, subequal, ca 12 x 6 mm, spreading, glabrous, fleshy and white. Stamens numerous in 2 or 3 series, free or basally subconnate, unequal; filaments subulate, ca 7 mm long, glandular; anthers linear-oblong, ca 8 mm long. Disc glabrous, greenish. Ovary ovoid, 4-5 mm long, faintly ridged, 10-loculed; ovules many, 2-seriate; style short; stigma oblong, longitudinally grooved.
Habit / Habitat
Bael fruit is found in rain forests and semi-evergreen seasonal forests of the tropics.
1) Availability of the plant species in India: Throughout India except Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh.
2) Global distribution: India and Sri Lanka; widely cultivated in South East Asia, Malesia, Tropical Africa and the United States
World wide use: Root, bark, fruits, flowers.
Used by tribal community in Jawhar: Fruits and Leaves
Method of consumption
Riped fruits are directly consumed or added in Sharbat.
- If fresh, the juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink similar to lemonade. It can be made into sharbat/Bela pana, a refreshing drink made of the pulp with water, sugar, and lime juice, mixed, left to stand a few hours, strained, and put on ice.
- It is usually sliced and sun-dried. The hard leathery slices are then immersed in water.
- The leaves and small shoots are eaten as salad greens.
Jawhar tribal medicinal use
Bark decoction is used against dental pain.
Other Medicinal use
It is mainly used as mild laxative and for its digestive effects.
Nutritional and medicinal information
- Ethanolic extract of dried fruit pulp of Aegle marmelos showed significant antibacterial activity and enhanced the antioxidants but decreased free radicals and myeloperoxidase activities thereby decreasing tissue damage and inflammation and thus, affording ulcer healing. It also reported to decreased colonic mucosal damage and inflammation (macroscopic and microscopic), mucous/bloody diarrhea, fecal frequency and increased body weight affected in AA-induced colitis. Through above results, A. marmelos authenticated its use in indigenous system of Medicine. .
- Ethanolic extract Fruit pulp extract of A. marmelos also seems to promote wound healing by enhancing connective tissue formation and antioxidants status with decrease in free radicals and myeloperoxidase having tissue damaging effects
Harvesting and preserving
Leaves and fruits could be harvested directly.
Fruits are usually sliced and sun-dried.
Propagation and Storage
Season of collection
How to grow it?
Soak seeds in water for 12hrs. Allow them to germinate and sow in the pots to make saplings. Afterwards sow in the open area.
Method of storage
2) Fruit slices dried and stored.
- Mucous fluid from the stem and fruit is rubbed on the hair in place of oil by the rural folks in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
- Fruit pulp has detergent action, used as a soap substitute for washing clothes.
- In Philippines, it is used in construction as water-proofing walls, it is mixed with lime plaster and added to cement. Added to watercolors or as protective coating for paintings.
- There is 9% tannin in the pulp of wild fruits, 20% in the rind. Rind is employed in tanning; also, yields a yellow dye for calico and silk fabrics.
4 Kavitha, A., N. Deepthi, R. Ganesan, S. C. Gladwin Joseph. Common Dryland Trees of Karnataka: Bilingual Field Guide. Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, 2018