The Amazing Elephant Apple and Its Splendid Flowers

The magnificent flower of the elephant apple.

The splendid white fragrant flower of Dillenia indica, also known as elephant apple. (Image: Billy Shyu via Nspirement)

Dillenia indica (第倫桃) is a large evergreen tropical tree that belongs to the Dilleniaceae family. With splendid white fragrant flowers, this unique tree is native to tropical Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Dillenia indica is commonly called the elephant apple due to the fact that it is a very popular fruit among wild elephants, and that elephants are important seed dispensers for this intriguing tree in its native range.

The ivory pendant flowers of the elephant apple bloom intermittently across the summer on branch tips.
The ivory pendant flowers bloom intermittently across the summer on branch tips. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Please watch the following video to see more beautiful images of the amazing elephant apple tree, its elegant flower, and large fruit.

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Propagated by seeds and cuttings, elephant apple trees can grow to 15-25 m (50-82 ft) tall and can add elegance and beauty in all seasons. Nowadays, elephant apple trees can be seen in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, China, Brazil, Hawaii, etc. As elephant apples are the main source of food for elephants, monkeys, and other wild animals, it is prohibited to collect fruits from the core areas of the forests in some countries.

Elephant apple trees.
There are four magnificent elephant apple trees at the park adjacent to the Xinshan Reservoir in northern Taiwan’s Keelung City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Flower

With a diameter of 15-20 cm (5.9-7.9 in), elephant apple flowers are not only beautiful but also elegant and fragrant. They have five oblong and ruffled petals, with numerous yellow stamens. The ivory pendant flowers blossom intermittently across the summer on branch tips but are short-lived. 

Elephant apple flower.
The flowers are 15–20 cm in diameter, with five white petals and numerous yellow stamens. (Image: Julia Fu / Nspirement)

Leaves

The elephant apple has beautiful papery leaves, which are usually 15-45 cm (6-18 in) long. The green serrated leaves are characterized by prominent corrugated surfaces with defined veins as well as glossy undersides with parallel pleats. 

Elephant apple leave and flower bud.
Elephant apple’s leaves are 15-45 cm long, with a conspicuously corrugated surface. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Although the elephant apple is an evergreen tree, it does shed its leaves once a year in the summer. However, it goes practically unnoticed most of the time because it grows new leaves while shedding the old ones.

Elephant apples and leaves.
The elephant apple has alternate stalked leaves with toothed leaf blades and parallel secondary veins. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

As elephant apple’s leaves are astringent, dried leaves can be used as a substitute for sandpaper in polishing ivory and horn. 

Elephant apple, flower, and buds.
Shed elephant apple leaves on the ground of the park at the Xinshan Reservoir in northern Taiwan’s Keelung City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Fruit

If the flowers are pollinated, they will turn into grapefruit-sized fruits enclosed in a hard husk. The knobby globose fruits are yellow-green and ripen with a leathery brown covering. With small brown-black seeds, the fruit can be consumed both in ripe and unripe stag, but their juicy pulp has an acid taste. 

Grapefruit-size elephant apple fruit.
The elephant apple’s fruits are grapefruit-sized fruits and enclosed in a hard husk. (Image: Julia Fu / Nspirement)

The ripe fruits are mostly used as a flavoring in curries and can also be made into jams and jellies, while the unripe ones are pickled. In Indonesia, the fruit is mixed with honey and eaten for breakfast. In Thailand, people eat the leaves in salads, while in India the pulp is used in savory chutneys. 

Elephant apple tree and fruit.
The elephant apple’s fruits are mainly only accessible to the wilds in the forest and are a treat for megaherbivores. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Health benefits

According to The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts, the nutritional value per 100g of edible elephant apple flesh is Calories 59k, Protein 0.8 percent, Fat 0.2-2.5 percent, Fiber 2.1-2.5 percent, Ash 3.54 percent, Calcium 16mg, Phosphorous 26mg, Ascorbic Acid 4mg.

Elephant apple tree trunk.
The trunk is straight with about 6 feet in girth, and the bark is reddish-brown in color and exfoliating. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

The carbohydrates, proteins, Vitamin B, and Vitamin C contained in the fruit of the elephant apple can rejuvenate aging skin, and maximize human health. In particular, the fruit is rich in beta-carotene, thiamine, and riboflavin, which are important ingredients in medicines for the heart and liver. 

Edible elephant apple fruit.
The elephant apple fruit is edible and is a prominent source of vital nutrients. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

The fruit is also loaded with tonic and laxative properties, which can relieve abdominal pains. Furthermore, the fruit’s gummy substance is believed to have the effect of treating dandruff and hair shedding. 

The elephant apple fruit is very nutritious.
The edible fruits are crisp and aromatic with acid flesh. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Its leaf extract is useful for diabetes mellitus management and other abnormalities associated with metabolic disorders. Also, the bark and stem can also have the effect of reducing heart palpitations and hypotension.

Therefore, elephant apple is undoubtedly a good remedy for bolstering physical and mental fitness, and for preventing ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, and anxiety.


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