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Limonia acidissima
Wood-apple fruit purchased from market in Pune, India
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Subfamily: Aurantioideae
Tribe: Citreae
Genus: Limonia
Species: L. acidissima
Binomial name
Limonia acidissima

Limonia acidissima (syn. Feronia elephantum, Feronia limonia, Hesperethusa crenulata,[1] Schinus limonia) is the only species within the monotypic genus Limonia, native to Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and southeast Asia east to Java. Vernacular names include wood-apple, elephant-apple, monkey fruit, and curd fruit in English and a variety of names in the languages of its native area.


Alternative names

Its common names are as below

  • English: Wood Apple, Elephant Apple, Monkey Fruit or Curd Fruit.
  • Oriya: Kaintha
  • Telugu: Vellaga Pandu
  • Tamil: Vilam Palam (விளாம் பழம்)
  • Bengali: Koth Bel (কৎ বেল)
  • Hindi: Kaitha (कैथा) or Kath Bel.
  • Sinhalese: Divul.
  • Marathi: KavaTH (कवठ).
  • Javanese: Kawis or Kawista
  • Sanskrit: Kapittha (कपित्थ)[2], Dadhistha, Surabhicchada, Kapipriya, Dadhi, Puṣpapahala , Dantasātha, Phalasugandhika, Cirapākī, Karabhithū, Kanṭī, Gandhapatra, Grāhiphala, Kaṣāyāmlaphala.[3]


It is a large tree growing to 9 m tall, with rough, spiny bark. The leaves are pinnate, with 5-7 leaflets, each leaflet 25-35 mm long and 10-20 mm broad, with a citrus-scent when crushed. The fruit is a berry 5-9 cm diameter, and may be sweet or sour. It has a very hard rind which can be difficult to crack open, and contains sticky brown pulp and small white seeds.

A number of other species formerly included in the genus are now treated in the related genera Atalantia, Citropsis, Citrus, Glycosmis, Luvunga, Murraya, Microcitrus, Micromelum, Naringi, Pamburus, Pleiospermium, Severinia, Skimmia, Swinglea, and Triphasia [1].

Cultivation and uses

The unripe fruit is described as astringent and is used in combination with bela and other medicines in diarrhoea and dysentery. The ripe fruit is said to be useful in hiccup and affections of the throat. The leaves are aromatic and carminative. The scooped-out pulp from its fruits is eaten raw with or without sugar, or is blended with coconut milk and palm-sugar syrup and drunk as a beverage, or frozen as an ice cream. It is also used in chutneys and for making jelly and jam. The fruit is much used in India as a liver and cardiac tonic, and, when unripe, as an astringent means of halting diarrhea and dysentery and effective treatment for hiccough, sore throat and diseases of the gums. The pulp is poulticed onto bites and stings of venomous insects, as is the powdered rind. Leaves, bark, roots and fruit pulp are all used against snakebite. [4] The fruit is eaten plain, mixed into a variety of beverages and desserts, or preserved as jam. The rind of the fruit is so thick and hard it can be carved and used as a utensil such as a bowl or ashtray. The bark also produces an edible gum. The tree has hard wood which can be used for woodworking. This species has numerous described medicinal uses as well. Ground limonia bark is also used as a cosmetic called thanakha in Southeast Asia.

THE YAJUR VEDA mentions the bael tree, but the Charaka Samhita, an Ayurveda treatise from the 1st millennium BC, was the first book to describe its medicinal properties. Hindu scriptures abound in references to the bael tree and its leaves. The devotees of Lord Shiva commonly offer bael leaves to the deity, especially on Shivaratri; this probably explains why bael trees are so common near temples. Hindus also believe that goddess Lakshmi resides in bael leaves.

As food: Indonesians beat the pulp of the ripe fruit with palm sugar and eat the mixture at breakfast. The sweetened pulp is a source of sherbet in the subcontinent. Jam, pickle, marmalade, syrup, jelly, squash and toffee are some of the products of this versatile fruit. Young bael leaves are a salad green in Thailand. Indians eat the pulp of the ripe fruit with sugar or jaggery. The ripe pulp is also used to make chutney. The Raw pulp is mixed with yoghurt and make into raita. The raw pulp is sour in taste, while the ripe pulp would be having a smell and thaste thats mixture of sourness and sweet.

Other uses: Bael fruit pulp has a soap-like action that made it a household cleaner for hundreds of years. The sticky layer around the unripe seeds is household glue that also finds use in jewellery-making. The glue, mixed with lime, waterproofs wells and cements walls. The glue also protects oil paintings when added as a coat on the canvas. The fruit rind yields oil that is popular as a fragrance for hair; it also produces a dye used to colour silks and calico.

Nutrition: A hundred gm of bael fruit pulp contains 31 gm of carbohydrate and two gm of protein, which adds up to nearly 140 calories. The ripe fruit is rich in beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A; it also contains significant quantities of the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin, and small amounts of Vitamin C. Wild bael fruit tends to have more tannin than the cultivated ones; tannin depletes the body of precious nutrients, and evidence suggests it can cause cancer.

Medicinal uses: The bael fruit is more popular as medicine than as food. The tannin in bael has an astringent effect that once led to its use as a general tonic and as a traditional cure for dysentery, diarrhoea, liver ailments, chronic cough and indigestion. In fact, Vasco da Gama's men, suffering from diarrhoea and dysentery in India, turned to the bael fruit for relief. The root juice was once popular as a remedy for snakebites.

The seed oil is a purgative, and the leaf juice mixed with honey is a folk remedy for fever. The tannin-rich and alkaloid-rich bark decoction is a folk cure for malaria.


It is wrong to say "Hindu scriptures abound in references to the bael tree and its leaves. The devotees of Lord Shiva commonly offer bael leaves to the deity, especially on Shivaratri; this probably explains why bael trees are so common near temples". The leaves offerred to Lord Shiva and the trees near Shiv Mandirs are in fact Bael (Aegle marmelos trees. They are also called "Bilva, Bilwa, Bel, Kuvalam, Koovalam, Madtoum".


  1. ^;2-X
  2. ^ Feronia elephantum on treknature
  3. ^ S G Joshi, Medicinal Plants, Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi, 2004, ISBN 81-204-1414-4, p.347
  4. ^ Hindus Materia Medica Feronia-Elephantum


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