BENGALURU: Dillenia Indica, commonly known as elephant apple and locally known as outenga, is the handsome evergreen tree grown in the moist forest of the North- Eastern part of India. There is one tree in Bengaluru’s Lalbagh and another avenue tree in Indiranagar.
The plant grows about 15 m tall and has fruits, leaves and bark that have medicinal value. The fruits are generally consumed as chutney or are made into jams or preserves. They are also consumed for relieving abdominal pain by ethnic communities in Assam.
The Assamese people also use the fruit as natural insecticide in paddy fields. The carpels of the fruit are used as oil lamps during the Kati Bihu festival. The fruit is one of the 101 plant species eaten during Bohag Bihu which is celebrated in the month of Bohag (mid April - mid May) as Assamese New Year. People believe that this has a medicinal value that keeps them healthy through the New Year.
Scientific studies have proven that the plant has various properties including antimicrobial, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, dysentery and anti-diabetic. The fruits and the juice of the plant have been traditionally used to treat many illnesses including Diabetes Mellitus.
Dillenia indica produces a large hard fruit which is accessible only to mega herbivores. An interesting study in the Buxa Tiger Reserve by ecologists Sekar and Sukumar has shown that Asian elephants appear to have a particular fondness for the fruits of D. indica, and hence are an important seed dispenser for this tree. With its population decreasing, these trees have developed an alternative system. The fruits have gradually begun to soften through the dry season to allow access to smaller animals such as macacques and squirrels.
It is known as Chalta and karambel (Hindi), Avartaki (Sanskrit), Betkanagalu (Kannada), Valapunna (Malayalam),Uhuba (Oriya), Uvva (Telugu), Uvay (Tamil), Ou tenga (Assamese).