Shorea robusta

Shorea robusta

The Sal tree (Shorea robusta Roth) is an arboreal species belonging to the Dipterocarpaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Plantæ Kingdom,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Order Theales,
Dipterocarpaceae family,
Genus Shorea,
S. robusta species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Dryobalanops robusta (C.F.Gaertn.) Oken;
– Vatica robusta (C.F.Gaertn.) Steud..

Etymology –
The term Shorea of ​​the genus, to which about 196 species of mainly forest trees belong, was dedicated in memory of Sir John Shore, governor general of the British East India Company, 1793–1798.
The specific robust epithet comes from robur, a Latin term originally referring to particularly hard, robust or gnarled woods such as that of oaks, then passed to mean strength, vigor, robustness: therefore with the meaning of strength, vigor, vigor: robust, vigorous, vigorous .

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Shorea robusta is a tree native to the Indian subcontinent, being widespread throughout the territory south of the Himalayas, from Myanmar in the east to Nepal, India and Bangladesh. In India, its habitat extends from Assam, Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand in the west to the Shivalik Mountains in Haryana, east of the Yamuna River. It also extends through the eastern Ghats and into the eastern chains of the Vindhya and Satpura of central India.
In its habitat it is often the dominant tree in the forests where it occurs. In Nepal, it is found mostly in the Terai region from east to west, especially in the Churia range (within the Shivalik Mountains) in the subtropical climate zone. There are many protected areas, such as Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park and Shukla Phat Nature Reserve, where there are dense forests of huge sal trees. It is also present in the lower belt of the Hilly region and in the Inner Terai.

Description –
Shorea robusta is a plant that can reach heights of 30 to 35 m and even more and a trunk diameter of up to 2-2.5 m. It is a tree which in the more humid areas is an evergreen; in the driest areas, it is deciduous in the arid season, losing most of its leaves between February and April, and putting them back in April and May.
The trunk is cylindrical, straight and can be unbranched up to 25 meters and up to 200 cm in diameter.
The foliage has a wide and spherical shape. The bark is deeply fissured in the younger specimens but the cracks gradually become more superficial as the tree matures.
This species has a tendency to develop a long and deep tap root even at a young age.
The leaves are oblong to oval in shape, 10-20 cm long and 6-12 cm wide, with 12-14 pairs of lateral veins.
The flowers are creamy yellow, about 2 cm in diameter, and are carried in large and showy clusters. The flowers are pollinated by thrips.
The fruits are small, oval in shape and measure about 0.8-1 cm in diameter. Each fruit has 5 wings measuring 5 – 7.5 cm in length and 3 of which are longer than the other 2.

Cultivation –
Shorea robusta is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 50 meters in height in fertile soils but reaches lower heights in poorer soils.
For its cultivation it should be taken into account that it is a plant of the tropics, where it is found at altitudes up to 2,000 meters. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 28 and 34 ° C, but can tolerate between 7 and 47 ° C. Furthermore, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -1 ° C; it prefers an average annual rainfall in the range of 1,500 – 3,500 mm, but tolerates 1,000 – 7,300 mm and, usually, in areas with a dry season of 4 – 8 months.
For cultivation it prefers a position in full sun, but tolerates light shade and grows in most fertile and well-drained soils, although it prefers a moist sandy substrate with good subsoil drainage and a pH between 5 and 6. 7, tolerating between 4.5 and 7.5.
Young trees grow rapidly, developing a long taproot at a very young age and reaching heights of up to 6 meters after 6 years.
Fruit and seed production starts around 15 years, the tree bears fruit regularly every 2 years or so and a good year of fruiting can be expected every 3 – 5 years.
The tree responds well to the coppice and rotations of 30 – 40 years are used when practicing the regeneration of coppice and 80 – 160 years for the regeneration of high forests.
The tree is very tolerant of bush fires, usually surviving if it is not too small.
Propagation can take place by seed which does not require pre-treatment, but it is advisable to soak the seed for 12 hours before sowing.
The seeds are sown in seedbeds, where they are covered with a mixture of sand and earth (1: 1) or with a thin layer of sawdust.
Fresh seed germination is generally good and quick. Approximately two weeks after germination, when the seedlings are 5 – 6 cm tall, they are potted in individual containers of about 15 x 23 cm with good drainage holes at the base.
It is normally recommended to use a mixture of forest soil and sand (in a 3: 1 ratio) as a potting medium to introduce the appropriate mycorrhiza to the roots. The seedlings must be placed with a shading of 50 – 60% and watered twice a day.
The transplant can take place when the seedlings are 30 – 40 cm high; however it is advisable to have the seedlings lignify in full sun for a month before planting them.

Customs and Traditions –
The Shorea robusta, also known as sal (śāl), sakhua or shala, is a species that in the Hindu tradition, the sal tree is said to be favored by Vishnu. Its name shala, shaal or sal comes from Sanskrit (शाल, śāla, literally “house”), a name that suggests that it was used to harvest timber for dwellings; other names in the Sanskrit language are ashvakarna, chiraparna and sarja, among many others.
The Jains state that the 24th tirthankara, Mahavira, attained enlightenment under a sal.
There is a standard decorative element of Indian Hindu sculpture that originated in a yaksi grasping the branch of a flowering tree while placing her foot against its roots. This sculptural decorative element was integrated into Indian temple architecture as a salabhanjika or “girl of the sal tree”, although it is not even clear whether it is a sal or asoka tree.
Also in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, you can find typical Nepalese pagoda temple architecture with very rich wood carvings, and most of the temples, such as Nyatapol Temple (Nyatapola), which are made of brick and salt wood. .
In the Buddhist tradition it is stated that the Mayan Queen, while traveling to her grandfather’s kingdom, gave birth to Gautama Buddha by grasping the branch of a sal or asoka tree in a garden in Lumbini, southern Nepal. Also according to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha was lying between a couple of sal trees when he died: “Then the Blessed with a large community of monks went to the opposite bank of the Hiraññavati river and headed towards Upavattana, the grove of sal Mallan ‘ near Kusinara. Upon arrival, he said to the venerable Ananda: “Ananda, please make me a bed in the twin sal trees, with my head to the north. I am tired and will lie down.”
It is also said that the sal was the tree under which Koṇḍañña and Vessabhū, respectively the 5th and 23rd buddhas preceding Gautama Buddha, attained enlightenment.
In Buddhism, the short flowering of the sal tree is used as a symbol of impermanence and the rapid passage of glory, particularly as an analogue of the Western saying Sic transit gloria mundi. In Japanese Buddhism, this concept is best known through the opening verse of the Heike monogatari – a tale of the rise and fall of a once powerful clan – the second half of which reads: “the color of the flowers of sāla reveals the truth. that the prosperous must decay. ” (沙羅 雙樹 の 花 の 色 、 盛 者必 衰 の 理 を 顯 す Jōshahissui no kotowari wo arawasu?), Quoting the four-character ideogram (盛 者必 衰 jōsha hissui?) From a passage in the Human Kings Sutra: “The prosperous inevitably decay, the full inevitably empty” (盛 者必 衰 、 実 者必 虚 jōsha hissui, jissha hikkyo ??).
In Sri Lanka, people mistakenly thought that Couroupita guianensis was the sal tree of Buddhist doctrine.
Shorea robusta is an important multipurpose tree and is one of India’s major commercial timber, harvested from the wild for local use and export. It also produces a resin which is exchanged and an oil which is used locally as well as being exported in large quantities. It also provides tannins, an edible seed and medicines for local use. The leaves are used commercially to make dishes and containers.
Shorea robusta is often the dominant species in the forests of the sub-Himalayan tract, but the excessive use of it as fuel, lumber, forage, etc. it is becoming a conservation concern in some areas, so much so that it is classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2010).
Among the edible uses are used the roasted seeds, or boiled in a gruel with the flowers of Bassia latifolia and the fruits of Dolichos biflorus. These can be ground into a coarse flour that is used to make bread, and the plant is used as a food in times of famine.
Defatted kernel powder, popularly known as sal seed cake, contains about 50% starch, as well as proteins, tannins and minerals. The physico-chemical properties of starch can be exploited for the preparation of canned food.
The chemical composition of the seeds consists of: 10.8% water, 8% protein, 62.7% carbohydrates, 14.8% oil, 1.4% fiber and 2.3% ash.
The seeds are a source of seed butter, an oil that is used in cooking as ghee and as a substitute for cocoa butter in the preparation of chocolate.
Fruits can also be eaten occasionally.
In the medicinal field, the resin is used which is appreciated for its use in the treatment of dysentery, gonorrhea, boils and toothache.
The juice of the leaves is used in the treatment of dysentery. The leaves are heated and used as a poultice on swollen swollen areas of the body; they have a quick effect and are also applied to the stomach of children with dysentery.
Seed oil is used to treat skin diseases.
Among other uses it should be remembered that, when plugged, the tree gives off large quantities of a whitish, aromatic and transparent resin known as “lal dhuna”. It is used for caulking boats and ships and as incense.
The leaves are widely used for making plates, cups and for wrapping.
An oil obtained from the seeds is used for lighting.
The bark is a source of tannins.
The heartwood is dark reddish brown; the thin band of whitish sapwood. The grain is strongly spiraled and rather coarsely structured. The wood is hard, heavy, very durable and highly resistant to attack by termites. Seasoning can present problems. Wood is easy to saw, but due to its high resin content it is difficult to work with; it has a tendency to split when tools are driven into it. This important Indian hardwood is particularly suitable for the construction of highly stressed structures in houses, etc. and is also used in hydraulic engineering, ships and rail cars, railway poles, sleepers and struts, simple interior finishes such as fixtures and floors, and many other applications.
For the manufacture of domestic or agricultural tools, the shoots of coppice are used; furthermore, wood is an important local source of fuel.

Preparation Method –
In India, the seeds are also cooked in a porridge with other ingredients. The seeds are also ground into a coarse flour to make bread and oil from the seeds of the Sal tree, which is also mined commercially and used as a substitute for cocoa butter. The “seed butter” is also used in cooking and the plant itself is also consumed.
The leaves are also used fresh to serve freshly made paan (betel nut preparations) and small snacks such as black, boiled beans, golgappa, etc. Used leaves / crockery are readily eaten by goats and livestock that roam the streets freely. The tree has therefore significantly reduced the consumption of polystyrene and plastic dishes in northern India which would have caused a heavy impact on the environment in a country that still has poor sanitary conditions in many regions. In southern India, plantain and banana leaves are used instead. In Nepal, sal leaves are used to make local dishes and vessels called “tapari”, “doona” and “bogata” in which rice is served with curry. However, the use of such “natural” tools has declined sharply over the past decade.
The resin of the sal tree (ṛla in Sanskrit) is used as an astringent in Ayurvedic medicine. It is also burned as incense in Hindu ceremonies.
The seeds and fruit of Shorea robusta are a source of lamp oil and vegetable fats. An oil is also extracted from the seeds which, once refined, is used in cooking food.

Guido Bissanti

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– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
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Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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