Sal tree or Shorea Robusta is a remarkable tree which forms a major portion of many forests in various states of the country. This tree provides shelter to many trees, herbs, and shrubs with medicinal value. Sal trees have great socio-economic value amongst the rural population of many states, especially for the tribal people.
The sal tree is very popular because of its high-quality hardwood timber. This tree has been traditionally one of the most important sources of hardwood timber in India. Sal trees do not grow very quickly, their growth is generally slow to moderate, and as such, it is not easy to replant these trees in big numbers. This is the reason that the governments are now being proactive in their efforts to ensure the survival of sal trees in their natural habitats.
The sal tree has a big life span and the tree takes a lot of time to produce the highly demanded sal wood. The sal wood has high demand because it is very durable, it neither decays nor rots. This is the reason that the sal wood was used for making railway sleepers in the British rule. This tree is found in abundance in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
Sal Tree – Basic Description
Sal tree is a tall-growing evergreen tree that can reach a height of 30 to 35 meters. It also has a big crown which is almost spherical in shape. The wide and dense crown acts as an umbrella and provides shelter for many species of flora and fauna. Sal tree is the state tree of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh state of India.
The sal tree belongs to the ‘Dipterocarpaceae’ family and its scientific name is ‘Shorea Robusta’. The sal tree is native to India, Nepal, and Myanmar, and is very commonly found in the evergreen and deciduous forests of these countries. The leaves of this tree are light to dark green in color, they are about 10 to 20 cm long and 5 to 15 cm wide, and they are simple, broad, and have an oval shape.
The flowers of the sal tree are yellow or white in color and they are quite small in size. The fruits of the tree are yellowish in color; they are 1 to 2 cm long, and ovoid in shape. The seeds of the sal tree contain about 20% oil, and they are used for extracting oil for various purposes. The seed cake is used for feeding cattle and also as manure.
Uses and Benefits of Sal Tree
1. The leaves of the Sal tree are used by the tribal people for preparing rice cakes and also for the purpose of smoking. The leaves are also used for making handmade plates and bowls, which are used by these people as utensils for eating food.
2. The gum obtained from the sal tree is known as sal dammar, it is used for making gum and incense, which is used for burning as havan samagri in various religious ceremonies.
3. The oil extracted from the seeds of the Shorea robusta tree is an edible oil, it is used in cooking many traditional recipes by the rural people. The oil obtained from the seeds is also used for making biscuits and chocolates.
4. Shorea robusta supports the local people economically also, a special mushroom grows under it in the rainy season. This mushroom has a good value in the market, and as such, it is sold by the rural people.
5. In addition to this, various parts of the tree, like its bark, leaves, and roots have valuable medicinal properties. As such, they also have a good value in the market for their use in medicinal preparations.
6. Herbal medicine practitioners use various parts of the sal tree for curing diseases like diabetes, arthritis, jaundice, ulcers, boils, and skin infection, it has great antibacterial properties also.
7. The bark of the sal tree is used for treating many skin disorders, and its leaves are used for mouth and teeth related problems such as dental plaque, bleeding gums, bad breath.
8. Sal tree is used for making a unique cocoa butter equivalent which is used in the confectionery industry and various cosmetic preparations because of its unique properties.
Sal wood is very famous in India and also many other parts of the world. In India majority of the door frames are made with Sal wood. It is considered a strong, durable, and rot free wood.
Types of Sal Wood
There are three famous types of Sal wood that are used in India. All of these three types of sal woods are used for making door frames and furniture items.
Desi Sal Wood
As the name suggests this sal wood is harvested from the trees that are available in the forests of Indian states. The desi sal wood is mainly obtained from the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh. Though, now its availability is decreasing with every new day because of government regulations against deforestation.
The color of the desi sal wood is dark brown or chocolaty, it is considered the best of all the sal woods. It is very much in demand and because of this the price of this tree is also on the higher side, in the market.
Malaysian Sal Wood
Again as the name suggests the Malaysian sal wood is imported from Malaysia. The color of the Malaysian sal wood has a red tone, and it can be easily distinguished from the other sal wood of its color. This is the reason people prefer to buy unpolished woods so that they can identify the woods properly.
Kapur Sal Wood
Kapur sal wood is another sal wood type that is quite famous in India. It is quite famous for making budget homes; it also has good strength and durability. Its color is also different from the other sal woods, it has a yellowish tone and its grain is also quite evident. This wood is used extensively for making door and window frames.
Importance of Sal Tree for the Environment
Sal tree is very important for the forests and it contributes greatly to maintaining the ecological balance. The sal tree functions as an umbrella tree for a variety of flora and fauna around it. It provides shelter to many herbs, shrubs, small trees, birds, bats, insects, and animals in the wild.
With the onset of the monsoon season, the seeds fall from the tree and they get spread in the surrounding areas. There they get established in the soil and grow to form new trees. The sal trees are very significant for nature as such it is very important to conserve the sal tree and its forests for the betterment of the environment.
As such it is the responsibility of both, the citizens and the government to use this tree wisely, and to make proper provisions for planting more sal trees, especially in its natural habitat. Continuous efforts should be made by the people in collaboration with the forest department for saving and growing more and more Sal trees.