Desert Date
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Desert Date
ative Photo: Jui Pethe
Common name: Desert Date, Egyptian myrobalan, heglig, Jericho balsam, simple thorned torch tree, simple-thorned torchwood, soap berry tree • Hindi: हिंगोट hingot, हिंगन hingan, हिंगन का पेड़ hingan-ka-per, इंगुदी ingudi, हिंगोर hingor • Kannada: ingala, ingalarade, ingalare • Malayalam: namunta, nanchunta • Marathi: hingalbet, hingam • Sanskrit: तापसद्रुमः tapasadruma, angaravrksa, हिंगुपत्र hinguputra • Tamil: nanchundan, nancuntan • Telugu: gara, gara-chettu • Urdu: hingot
Botanical name: Balanites aegyptiaca    Family: Zygophyllaceae (Caltrop family)
Synonyms: Ximenia aegyptiaca

Desert Date is a thorn tree growing up to 30 ft tall, with a generally narrow form. The branches are thorny. The dark green compound leaves are made up of two leathery leaflets which are variable in size and shape. Leaf-stalk is channeled, 0.5-2 cm with a short rachis. Leaflets are entire, generally up to 6 cm long, 4 cm broad, although can be smaller (1-3 x 0.3-1.5 cm). Greenish stalkless flowers are borne in few-flowered fascicles. Flower buds are ovoid and velvety. Individual flowers are 8-14 mm in diameter and generally greenish-yellow. Flower-stalks are densely greyish, velvety and rarely reaching 1 cm in length. Fruit is ellipsoid, up to 4 cm long, green. Ripe fruit is brown or pale brown with a brittle coat enclosing a brown or brown-green sticky pulp and a hard stone seed. The name Balanites come from the Greek for acorn, referring to the fruit. This speices is probably native to Egypt and is globally distributed from Tropical Africa to India and Myanmar. Within India, it is found throughout the drier parts from Punjab to West Bengal, Rajasthan and Peninsular India.
Medicinal uses: The fruits have been used in the treatment of liver and spleen diseases. The fruit Desert Date is known to kill the snails which carry schistosomiasis and bilharzia flukes. The roots are used for abdominal pains and as a purgative. Gum from the wood is mixed with maize meal porridge to treat chest problems. The fruit can cure mouth ulcer, whooping cough, sleeping sickness and skin diseases. Fruit kernel has been found as a mild laxative, an antidote to arrow poison, and also acts as a vermifuge.

Identification credit: Jui Pethe Photographed in Warora, Maharashtra & JNU Campus, Delhi.

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