Bahera /Behada/Vibhitaka (Fearless in Sanskrit)/Beliric (Terminalia bellerica) is a large deciduous tree of South-East Asia that grows on plains and in lower hills. It has an uneven bluish or ashy-grey bark with longitudinal furrows. It grows to a height of 80-100 feet with a girth of 8-10 feet and is easily recognized from a distance by its characteristic bark and broad, massive crown. Bahera is also known as the bastard myrobalan.
Leaves 3-8 inches long, obovate-elliptic, are alternate, crowded towards the ends of the branches. The genus name ‘Terminalia’ comes from the Latin word ‘terminus’ or ‘end’ – referring to the leaves borne at the ends of the branchlets. The leaf is pale below and has 5-8 lateral nerves on either side of the thick mid-rib. The leaf-stalk is 1-3 inches in length and glandular. The base is generally uneven.
Bahera leaves are considered good fodder for cattle.
The tree flowers in April – June after the new leaves. Flowers are about .2 inch across, pale-white or greenish-yellow, with an offensive smell.
The tree fruits in December- February. Fruit is 1 inch long, ovoid or globose, grey-velvety; nut thick-walled and hard. The kernel is edible and gives oil which is used for the hair. The fruit is a favourite food of monkeys, deer, sheep, goat and cattle.
Beleric is one of the ‘triphala’ in ‘Artha Sastra’ that is, the three fruits – emblic, beleric and chebulic myrobalans that go into ayurvedic medicinal formulations that are used to treat a large number of diseases. The fruit pulp of beleric is considered to be astringent and laxative (‘wind-killing’) and is prescribed with salt and long pepper for throat and chest infections.The kernels are used for external application to treat inflammed parts. Tribals smoke the dried up kernels that have narcotic/ mind-altering properties.
The nuts are said to have been used as dice in Mahabharata. It was once considered to be inhabited by the demons and Hindus avoided sitting in its shade. The troops of Gray Langurs that can be commonly spotted feeding on the nuts in Morni are apparently not dettered by such myths!
Bahera nuts (kenels) have an oil content of 40% and the fatty-acid methyl ester extract is used extensively as biodiesel in USA and the European Union.
The wood is light-grey or yellowish, hard and coarse-grained, not durable used in house-building, making packing cases etc.
- Forest Flora of the Chakrata, Dehra Dun and Saharanpur Forest Divisions, United Provinces; Upendranath Kanjilal, Rai Bahadur, ELS (1928)
- Meaning of Indian Flowering Plant Names; M.P. Nayar (1985)
Filed in: Trees & Shrubs