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An elegant elephant apple

Here comes another underutilized tree which is not so common in Karnataka. With decorative foliage and fragrant blooms, ‘Elephant Apple’ tree is highly valued for its medicinal properties. Since, fruit is hugely popular amongst the local wild elephants, being widely consumed by them. Hence it is called as Elephant apple, scientifically Dillenia indica. Which is named after German Botanist Johann Jacob Dillenius (‘indica’ is the Latin word for India).

In ‘Kannada,’ it is ‘Bettakanigalu.’ Other common names are Indian catmon, Hondapara tree, Ma-tad (Hindi: Chalta, Karambel; Malayalam: Punna, Vazchpunna; Sanskrit: Avartaki, Bhavya, Bharija; Tamil: Kattaral, Ugakkay; Telugu: Revadi).

Tips to identify:

Tree: It is an evergreen or semi-evergreen, medium-sized tree with a spreading canopy.

Leaves: Large, attractive with a ribbed surface and impressed veins. They are glossy, silky, dark green with teeth-like margins and slightly lemon-scented when crushed.

Flowers: Large and solitary at the ends of the twigs. The flowers face downward and are perishable.

Fruits: Yellow-green with a leathery brown covering having brown-black seeds. We can observe flowering from June to August.

Medicinal uses:

The fruit pulp is used as tonic and laxative, treatment of abdominal disorders, mixed with sugar against coughs. The bark and leaves are used as laxative and astringent; bark as a mouthwash to treat thrush.

· Helps to treat hypertension- Naturally low in cholesterol apart from possessing ample potassium, is an ideal remedy for those with hypertension.

· Rejuvenates ageing skin- Rich in antioxidants like Vit C, E and flavonoids which facilitate collagen synthesis to maintain elasticity of skin. Drinking a glass of fresh chalta fruit juice immensely enriches skin texture, diminishing wrinkles, fine lines and other signs of ageing to give a youthful appearance.

· Boosts vitality- An expansive array of useful plant constituents are present in chalta fruits, making them a prominent source of vital nutrients. They are inherently rich in vitamin C, vitamin B complex, vitamin E, potassium, healthy fats, amino acids and proteins, besides being low in cholesterol. Moreover, chalta abounds in beneficial phytochemicals namely tannins, saponins, flavonoids, triterpenoids and phenolics, which supply powerful anticancer, antibacterial and antioxidant characteristics.

· Treats kidney disorder- Just a few slices of a ripe elephant apple or chalta fruit juice with breakfast is a fantastic detox drink to cleanse the body from within and a great way to flush out toxins accumulated in the system, due to its umpteen powerful antioxidants.

· Lowers anxiety and depression- The phytonutrients including sterols, saponins and tannins contain prominent neurotransmitter-modulating properties, which adjust neuronal signalling in the brain and normalize central nervous system function.

Edible / Culinary Uses

Fruits can be eaten raw or cooked. The bulk of the fruit actually consists of thick sepals, which have a sour taste and used in dal and fish preparations and often mixed with coconut and spices to make chutneys in North eastern states. The unripe fruits can be pickled.

Other uses

The fruit pulp can be used for washing hair. The leaf juice is applied to the scalp to treat dandruff and falling hairs to prevent baldness. The dried leaves are used to polish ivory. The wood ash is added to clay bricks to increase fire resistance.

Helpfull Tips:

· As it is an excellent shade tree, it suits best for parks, big gardens and avenues.

· It is better to plant them in a corner of the lawn.

· Prefers sunny position, a well-drained slightly acidic soil rich in humus.

· The tree can be easily propagated by seeds / semi-ripe cuttings.

· Attracts several birds and bees.

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