Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Aegle
Botanical Name: Aegle marmelos (L ) Correa
Sanskrit: Bilva
Hindi: Bel, Sirphal
Malayalam: Kuvalam
English: Bael fruit, Stone apple, Bengal quince
The bael fruit tree is slow-growing, of medium size, up to 40 or 50 ft (12-15 m) tall with short trunk, thick, soft, flaking bark, and spreading, sometimes spiny branches, the lower ones drooping. Young suckers bear many stiff, straight spines. A clear, gummy sap, resembling gum arabic, exudes from wounded branches and hangs down in long strands, becoming gradually solid. It is sweet at first taste and then irritating to the throat. The deciduous, alternate leaves, borne singly or in 2's or 3's, are composed of 3 to 5 oval, pointed, shallowly toothed leaflets, 1 1/2 to 4 in (4-10 cm) long, 3/4 to 2 in (2-5 cm) wide, the terminal one with a long petiole. New foliage is glossy and pinkish-maroon. Mature leaves emit a disagreeable odor when bruised. Fragrant flowers, in clusters of 4 to 7 along the young branch lets, have 4 recurred, fleshy petals, green outside, yellowish inside, and 50 or more greenish-yellow stamens. The fruit, round, perform, oval, or oblong, 2 to 8 in (5-20 cm) in diameter, may have a thin, hard, woody shell or a more or less soft rind, gray-green until the fruit is fully ripe, when it turns yellowish. It is dotted with aromatic, minute oil glands. Inside, there is a hard central core and 8 to 20 faintly defined triangular segments, with thin, dark-orange walls, filled with aromatic, pale-orange, pasty, sweet, resinous, more or less astringent, pulp. Embedded in the pulp are 10 to 15 seeds, flattened-oblong, about 3/8 in (1 cm) long, bearing woolly hairs and each enclosed in a sac of adhesive, transparent mucilage that solidifies on drying.
Kuvalam can act against strong poison. It is an important component in the preparation of Vilvadi tablets which is an important pill used in Toxicology.
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