Sapotaceae (Sapodilla family)

Description. Deciduous tree with a rounded crown and gray, cracked and fissured bark, 20-25 m (6682 ft) tall. Alternate elliptic to oblong, leathery leaves 15-25 cm (6-10 in) long by 6-10 cm (2.4-4 in) wide. Flowers cream-colored with fleshy petals. Greenish, ovoid fruits are 3-5 cm (1.2-2 in) long and contain 1-4 shiny brown seeds. Origin and Distribution. Native to lowlands of southern India and the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats from Konkan southward.


The Mahua tree is common in deciduous tropical forests below 1,200 m (4,000 ft). Very rarely cultivated outside India. Food uses. The seeds contain up to 40% edible fat, semisolid at ambient temperatures and used as vegetable butter. It is employed in the manufacture of sweets and chocolate. The sweet-tasting flowers are eaten as a vegetable. Most often the dried flowers are mixed with granular molasses and fermented to produce an alcoholic drink. The resulting wine is then distilled into a locally popular liquor called mahua.

Comments. Two species of Madhuca are commonly cultivated in India. The second species, M. latifolia, occurs naturally in central and northern India, whereas M. longifolia is native to southern India.

The seed oil, commercially known as malina butter, consists mainly of palmitic, stearic, and oleic fatty acids. Besides its use as a vegetable fat, it is made into skin-care products, hair oil, soaps, and detergents. It is also used as lamp oil. The oil plays an important role in traditional Indian medicine, where it is used as a laxative and for treating skin diseases and rheumatism. The seed cake left from the extraction of seed oil is rich in proteins. It is used as fertilizer and for the production of detergents.

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