This tree - Chalta (Hindi & Bengali), Kanigala (Kannada) is a beautifully formed tree with fragrant flowers, striking globose fruit and equally striking leaves. We attach a photograph recently taken of a Dillenia at Lalbagh with the leaves shed and with a multitude of eye catching fruit.
The trunk is fluted, the bark and wood of the trees are a terracotta reddish brown and the flowers magnolia like and up to 5 inches across. The fruit are heavy and edible. The sepals, which have a sour apple taste, are used for the preparation of chutneys, pickles and prawn curry in Bengal. The rest of the fruit is fibrous and slightly acidic. Elephants love the fruit and ensure propagation of the plant at distances from where the fruit was eaten. As the tree grows on the banks of streams, the fruit is carried away by flowing water and the seeds sprout downstream. The new leaves, serrated and ridged are a tender luminous green.
The name Elephant Apple obviously is derived from the love of the fruit by Elephants who gobble up large numbers at a time. There is a symbiotic relationship between the elephant and the tree. The tree provides food for the elephant and the elephant disperses the seeds. The Dillenia leaves have been used by ivory workers in Karnataka for polishing ivory.
Both the tree and the elephant are truly indigenous and with great pride we can claim both as our own.