Mahua (Madhuca longifolia) 

Plant Mahua trees

The Indian Mahua tree (Madhuca longifolia) is a widely distributed species in India that is important both economically and ecologically. It is also known by other names like mahwa, mahua, or mohwa. The tree belongs to the family Sapotaceae and can grow up to a height of 20-30 meters. It has several uses in traditional medicine, and its flowers and fruits are a source of food for many animals.

Tree CharacteristicsDescription
Common NameMahua
Scientific NameMadhuca longifolia
Maximum Height20-30 meters
Diameter of Crown when Mature10-15 meters
Diameter of Tree Trunk when Mature1-2 meters
Years it Takes to Grow15-20 years
Economic Benefit to FarmersUsed for timber, fuelwood, oil extraction, and food products such as sweets and alcoholic beverages

Physical Characteristics

The Mahua tree has a straight, cylindrical trunk that can grow up to 2 meters in diameter. Its canopy is dense and rounded, and the branches spread out horizontally. The leaves are large and oval-shaped, and the tree has attractive fragrant flowers that are used to make various products. Its fruits are round and fleshy, and contain a single seed.

Uses of Mahua

Mahua tree is known for its various uses to humans. Some of the important uses of Mahua are:

Food: Mahua flowers are used to prepare a popular alcoholic beverage in central and northern India. The flowers are collected and fermented to make mahua wine or beer. The flowers are also used to make a sweet preserve or syrup, which is used as a condiment.

Medicine: The bark, flowers, and leaves of the Mahua tree have medicinal properties and are used in Ayurvedic and traditional medicine for the treatment of various ailments such as fever, diarrhea, dysentery, and skin diseases.

Cosmetics: Mahua oil extracted from the seeds of the tree is used in the production of cosmetics like soaps, shampoos, and creams. The oil is also used in traditional massage therapy in India.

Livestock feed: The by-products of the mahua oil extraction process, such as the seed cake, are used as livestock feed.

Fuel: The wood of the Mahua tree is a good source of firewood and charcoal. The leaves are also used as fodder for livestock.

Timber: The Mahua tree is a good source of timber, which is used in the construction of houses, furniture, and agricultural implements.

Overall, the Mahua tree is an important natural resource for rural communities in India, providing food, medicine, cosmetics, and other important products that support their livelihoods.

Ecological Role

The Mahua tree plays an important ecological role in India. Its leaves are a source of fodder for livestock, while the flowers provide a rich source of nectar for honeybees, which in turn produce high-quality honey. The tree is also a host for several insect species, which are an important food source for birds.

Importance to Birds, Animals and Insects

The Mahua tree provides important habitat and food sources for many animal species. Its flowers attract several bird species, including sunbirds and parakeets. The tree is also a host for many insect species, which are an important food source for birds.

Soil and Climatic Conditions

The Mahua tree prefers well-drained soils, and can grow in a wide range of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils. It can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, from as low as 0°C to as high as 50°C. The tree is also tolerant of drought conditions and can grow in areas with annual rainfall ranging from 500-1500 mm.

States in India where the tree is found naturally

The Mahua tree is found naturally throughout India, especially in the central and western regions. It is most commonly found in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.

Different stages of tree growth in details

The Mahua tree takes around 5-7 years to start flowering and producing fruit. Its flowers bloom during the winter months, between December and February, and its fruits ripen during the summer months, between April and June. The tree has a long lifespan and can live for up to 100 years.

Benefits to Farmers

The Mahua tree is highly valued by farmers for its economic benefits. Its flowers and fruits are a source of income, as they are used to make various products like Mahua oil, which is used for cooking and as a fuel source. Its leaves and bark are used in traditional medicine and its wood is used for timber and fuel. The tree also plays an important role in agroforestry systems, as it improves soil fertility, prevents soil erosion, and provides shade and shelter for crops and livestock.

Importance for tribals

The Mahua tree holds significant cultural and economic importance for many tribal communities in India. For these communities, the Mahua tree is more than just a source of livelihood or a natural resource, it is an integral part of their culture and traditions.

Here are some of the ways the Mahua tree is important to tribal communities in India:

Food: Mahua flowers are a staple food for many tribal communities, especially during times of food scarcity. The flowers are rich in nutrients and can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways.

Rituals and ceremonies: The Mahua tree is considered sacred by many tribal communities and is often used in various rituals and ceremonies. For example, the flowers are offered to deities during religious festivals and ceremonies.

Income generation: The Mahua tree is an important source of income for many tribal communities. They collect and sell the flowers, which are used to make wine, as well as the seeds, which are used to extract oil.

Traditional medicine: The bark, leaves, and flowers of the Mahua tree are used in traditional medicine by many tribal communities to treat various ailments.

Cultural identity: The Mahua tree is deeply intertwined with the cultural identity of many tribal communities. It represents their connection to the land, their traditions, and their way of life.

Overall, the Mahua tree plays a crucial role in the lives of many tribal communities in India, providing them with food, medicine, income, and a sense of cultural identity.


The Indian Mahua tree is a highly valued species in India, both economically and ecologically. Its importance to wildlife, farmers, and local communities cannot be overstated. It is a vital source of food, medicine, and income, and plays an important role in maintaining the ecological health of the region.

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