Mahua name for a medium to larger tree, Madhuca longifolia of family Sapotaceae with wider and round canopy. The tree may attain a height of up to 20 metres. The bole is relatively smaller with round spreading crown. The tree has a large spreading root system, though many of them are superficial. The bark is 1.2 cm thick, nearly smooth, gray to brown with vertical cracks on it. wood is hard to very hard with large sapwood. Hardwood is reddish brown in colour. Simple lanceolate leaves grow in cluster at the tip of the branches, 7.5 to 23 cm long. The flowers are fleshy, off white in colour, and emit attractive sweet fragrance when the plant is in full bloom. The fruit is a kind of berry, egg shaped. Mature seeds can be obtained during June to July. Mahua is a slow growing species, attains a mean height of 0.9 to 1.2 m at the end of the fourth year. The coppice crop may attain a mean height of 9.19 m and girth 0.5 m in 30 years.
The variety latifolia is common throughout the Indian sub-continent, including Bangladesh. It is a tree of deciduous nature, of the dry tropical and sub-tropical climate. The tree grows on a wide variety of soils, but prefers sandy soils. It grows well on alluvial soil in Indo-gangetic plain. In sal forests it is found growing on stiff clay and even on somewhat calcareous soil. In Bangladesh the plant is found mostly in dinajpur and madhupur area. It is also planted in other areas of the country. The tree is a strong light demander and gets readily suppressed under shade.
As a plantation tree, Mahua is an important plant having vital socio-economic value. This species can be planted on roadside, canal banks etc. on commercial scale and in social forestry programmes, particularly in tribal areas. Wood can be used as timber, making pulp and paper. Mahua flowers are rich in sugar, minerals, vitamins and calcium. If cooked with rice the nutrient value is enriched. Next to sugarcane, Mahua flowers are the most important source of raw materials for fermentation and production of alcohol and vinegar. Also, used as feed for livestock. The flowers and fruits are eaten traditionally by tribal people. Fruit pulp may be used for alcoholic fermentation. Seeds containing 20 to 50% fatty oil can be used for the manufacture of soap. Mahua oil seed cake can be used as manure. The smoke generated from Mahua cake is believed to drive away snakes and insects. Tribals use Mahua cake for killing fish as well as in treatment of snakebites. Mahua oil is used in medicine as emmoilment, cure of skin diseases, rheumatism, headache, as laxative, in piles and haemorrhoids. Seeds yield about 22% water-soluble gum. Husk can be used in the preparation of active carbon. [Abul Khair]