Madhuca..The Honey Tree

Mahua or Mohwa (Madhuca Latifolia/मोह, मोहवा) is large, handsome, deciduous or semi-evergreen tree native to India. It has thick leathery leaves and small, fleshy, dull white musk-scented flowers which appear beautifully in clusters near the end of branches.

Mahua is one of the most important tree in the tribal belt of Central India and that’s too because of its delicious & nutritive flowers. The tree has got cultural and economic importance. Though it starts flowering after 10 years of age, once established the flower production increases with age. The flowers are edible and rich source of sugar, protein, vitamin & minerals. Mahua is a significant source of food for tribal people in Central & Western India. Its sweet flowers are eaten unprocessed or cooked.

Though almost all of flowers collected in tribal region is utilised for liquor production, there is huge potential and technologies available for product diversification of Mahua. Mahua concentrate is extracted from fresh Mahua flowers and can be used for making non-alcoholic Mahua products like jams, jellies and squash. Dried flowers can be used in making Mahua pickle, Mahua kismis and other food items like bakery and confectionery goods. Mahua oil is mostly used in the soap manufacturing.

Mahua is also one of important Agroforestry species. Its leaves, flowers and fruits are lopped for goats and sheep. Seed cake is also fed to cattle. Mahua oil is used to treat seeds against pest infestation. Mahua has a large spreading superficial root system that holds soil together, thereby help in erosion control. Still it can be raised with agricultural crops. Mahua can grow on and be used for reclamation of wasteland with hard lateritic soils. Furthermore the vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal associations and root colonization have been observed in Mahua. The seed cake has been used as cheap organic manure and possess insecticide property. The wide spreading crown provides shade for animals. Mahua is occasionally planted as an avenue tree or along the boundaries of fields.

From the seed kernels (fruits), a yellow oily substance is extracted, further processed and refined which is called Mahua Butter. Possibly, it gives the tree its name Butter tree. It is largely used by the jungle tribes for cooking or else sold for making soap & candles. The residue makes a good manure and is widely used on lawns as a worm eradicator. It is also widely used in skin ointments as it melts immediately upon contact with the skin. It prevents drying of the skin and may hinder the wrinkle development, it reduces degeneration of skin cells & restores skin flexibility. The tree is also a potential source for Biodiesel.

The fruits too, both ripe and unripe, are valuable, all parts being used. The outer coat is eaten as a vegetable and the inner one dried and ground into meal. Animals, particularly deer and bears, love the fallen flowers. Birds, too, enjoy them and peafowl can often be seen around the trees at sunset and dawn. Cut flowers, stems and branchlets exude a thick, milky sap which is extremely sticky and astringent. It is used for curing rheumatism. Many plants with a milky secretion are poisonous, but that is certainly not the case with the Mahua. Medicinally, it has immense usefulness ranging from common, everyday illness to chronic ones like bronchitis, rheumatism, diabetes, pile or bleeding gums.

The Mahua tree truly justifies its botanical name madhuca which means sweet in Sanskrit. It is sweet to everyone, everything and everywhere..isn't it?! :-)

15 comments:

  1. sir
    Iam developing an exclusive area with Mahua trees in My lands
    we came to know our village has nota single tree
    and hence i am planting 100mahuatrees
    with best regards
    Alagarsamy
    www.mgrbiodiesel.com
    India

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  2. how can we prevent mahua flowers to become black and mosturised?

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    1. The flowers tend to become dark while handling or even when plucked...Its but natural. Also they are full of nectar. Hence they are tasty.

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    2. yes. i have brought them from Raipour and tasted it. i brought 6 kg fruits and i have distributed to my birds.

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  3. Where can I get seeds of Mahau. I stay in Maharashtra. IS the climate and soil condusive for its growth. Franky

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  4. Hi Gemini... Thanks for stopping by!
    Yes. The Mahua tree is very much native and is abundantly found in Maharashtra. Actually, it is a very good species for plantation.
    Right now, Mahua tree is flowering. Its fruits will ripe somewhere in June-July, before the rainy season. You can find the seeds then if you have located a tree.

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  5. This tree is available in these 3 Nurseries.
    oikos / Torna Plantations 9850089720
    Vivek Broome 9822828102
    Kops Nursery 8390020880

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  6. Excellent article there is hardly any information on Mahua online. Thanks
    Is muhau oil different from mahua butter? I have ordered Mahua Oil. I plan to use it as a butter substitute

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    1. Mahua Butter is same . it is obtained from Mauaha oil...and edible.I am from Tamilnadu India. In ancient times we used to grow more trees around temples and collect honey and Oil. and our tribal people are brewinga sweet liquor also..This is an Excellent tree. Draught tolerant.

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    2. I am from western orissa I want to plant mahua tree 200 number. from where can I get the mahua Saplings to plant the tree? what are the fertilizers used and from where can i get it?

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  7. Very informative article. Thank you.
    I would like to know if Mahua is suitable to be planted in the courtyard of house. How invasive are its roots? What precautions need to be taken?

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  8. I am planning to plant Mahua trees in the western ghats adjoining the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra & Goa. It rain very heavy, winters are very cold & summer quite hot. IS the climate ok for the Mahua trees.

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    1. Mahua flourishes in hot and drought areas like Central India. For western ghats, you should go for an evergreen species like Saraca Asoka, Memecylon Umbellatum, Artocarpus Heterophyllus etc

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  9. Does honey bees works on mahua flowers

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