Bel
 
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Bel (Aegle marmelos) is a medium-sized deciduous trees. Its local names are bael, bil, bela, bilvam, mahaka, etc. It belongs to the rutacae family. Its branches are thorny and bark is gray in color. The leaves are trifoliate, aromatic and full of aromatic oil.

Bel tree is generally found in the outer Himalayas, Shivaliks and South Indian plateau with altitudes ranging from 250 to 1200 m. It prefers comparatively drier and sunny or warmer aspect of the hill slopes with well-drained loamy soil. It is found growing naturally in mixed stands of Sal, Chir, Baheda, etc. in dry temperate region. Its natural habitat begins from Burma and extends to Afghanistan, and also the Deccan plateau.

Bel bears greenish white flowers during early summer. The fruit, green when raw, appears in June-July and become pale brown on ripening during early winter. It is spherical, with a diameter approximately 5 to 8 cm. It contains, medicinal element called marmalosin. Its bark exudes a kind of gum which is sweet like honey and is used for making squash. Children eat it when raw and also when ripe. Half-ripe Bel fruit is regarded as astringent, digestive, appetizer and gives relief from dysentery. The pulp of ripe fruit, being sweet, is used in marmalade. The gum is also used as adhesive.

Bel wood is aromatic, tough and strong. It weighs about 22 kg per cubic foot and is light yellow in color. It is difficult to season and if kept in the sun it develops cracks. Nevertheless it finds use for cheap rural house construction and also for agricultural implements. During drought Bel leaves are used as fodder for cattle.

Hindus, however, regard the Bel tree as a plant of Lord Shiva and normally avoid lopping, much less felling it. The leaves and wood are used as essential items of pooja samagri for worship of Lord Shiva and as fuel in havan. Further, during summer Bel gives a very cool and cozy shade. It also improves the environment by utilizing carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen.

Bel tree matures in about 60 years reaching a height of about 10 m and girth 1 to 1.5 m. It regenerates itself with ease in its natural habitat. It can also be raised in nurseries from its seed and from root cuttings.
 



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