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Mahua, Mahwa, Madhuka

Mahua Tree, Mahwa Tree, Madhuka Tree, Madhuca longifolia


Species  : 

Madhuca longifolia

Other Names  :  Madhuca longifolia
Hindi Names  :  Mahua, Mahwa, Madhuka


Mahua is a tropical deciduous fast-growing tree that grows to 20 meters in height and possesses evergreen or semi-evergreen foliage. It is cultivated in warm and humid regions for its oleaginous seeds, flowers and wood. The tree grows on a wide variety of soils but thrives best on sandy soil. The species is drought-resistant, strong light demander and readily suppressed under shade. It is not frost-hardy. It also grows on shallow, bouldery, clayey and calcareous soils.

The fat is used for the care of the skin, to manufacture soap or detergents, and as a vegetable butter. It can also be used as a fuel oil. A full grown tree can produce up to 90 kg of flowers in a year. The fruit contains 51% valuable oil known as mohua oil or butter of commerce, that is used for cooking, illumination, soap and candle making.

Outer fruit coat is eaten as a vegetable and the fleshy cotyledons are dried and ground into a meal. The product is often used in sweets and chocolates under the name "illipe". The seed cakes obtained after extraction of oil constitute very good fertilizer. The flowers are used to produce an alcoholic drink in tropical India. Several parts of the tree, including the bark, are used for their medicinal properties. It is considered holy by many tribal communitites because of its usefulness.

The tree is considered a boon by the tribals who are forest dwellers and keenly conserve this tree. However, conservation of this tree has been marginalized, as it is not favoured by nontribals. The leaves of Madhuca longifolia are fed on by the moth Antheraea paphia, which produces tassar silk (tussah), a form of wild silk of commercial importance in India. The mahuwa flower is edible and is a food item for tribals. They are used to make syrup for medicinal purposes.