Aegle marmelos, commonly known as bael (or bili or bhel), also Bengal quince, golden apple, Japanese bitter orange, stone apple, or wood apple, is a species of tree native to Bangladesh and India. It is present throughout Southeast Asia as a naturalized species. The tree is considered to be sacred by Hindus. Its fruits are used in traditional medicine and as a food throughout its range.[not verified in body]
The tree is called “bael” (বেল) in Bengali, “belpatthar ka paid” or “बेल पत्र का पेड़”in Hindi “belaache zaad” or “बेलाचे झाड” in Marathi, “ಬಿಲ್ಪತ್ರೆ ಮರ” and the religious tree “ಬಿಲ್ವ” or “ಬಿಲ್ಪತ್ರೆ” in Kannada, “vilvamaram” (வில்வமரம்) in Tamil, “beli” (බෙලි) in Sinhala. The fruits are known as ಬೇಲದ ಹಣ್ಣು (edible variety), ಬಿಲ್ವ (sacred variety) in Kannada, “bela” (ବେଲ) in Odia, and bilva and maredu (మారేడు) in Telugu. Billu (બિલ્લુ ) in Gujarati. It is called Sivadruma by the Hindus and is considered as a sacred herb.
Bael is the only member of the monotypic genus Aegle. It is a mid-sized, slender, aromatic, armed, gum-bearing tree growing up to 18 meters tall. It has a leaf with three leaflets.
The bael fruit has a smooth, woody shell with a green, gray, or yellow peel. It takes about 11 months to ripen on the tree and can reach the size of a large grapefruit or pomelo, and some are even larger. The shell is so hard it must be cracked with a hammer or machete. The fibrous yellow pulp is very aromatic. It has been described as tasting of marmalade and smelling of roses. Boning (2006) indicates that the flavor is “sweet, aromatic and pleasant, although tangy and slightly astringent in some varieties. It resembles a marmalade made, in part, with citrus and, in part, with tamarind.” Numerous hairy seeds are encapsulated in a slimy mucilage.
Bael is a native of India and is found widely in Asia, in northern, central, eastern and southern parts of India, as well as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, southern Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. It is widely found in Indian Siva temples. It occurs in dry forests on hills and plains. It is cultivated throughout India, as well as in Sri Lanka, the northern Malay Peninsula, Java, Timor Leste, the Philippines, and Fiji. It has a reputation in India for being able to grow in places that other trees cannot. It copes with a wide range of soil conditions (pH range 5-10), is tolerant of waterlogging and has an unusually wide temperature tolerance (from -7 °C to 48 °C). It requires a pronounced dry season to give fruit.
This tree is a larval foodplant for the following two Indian Swallowtail butterflies, the Lime butterfly Papilio demoleus, and the Common Mormon: Papilio polytes.