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Bassia latifolia - (J.König ex L.) J.F.Macbr.

Common Name Butter Tree. Mahua, Illipe
Family Sapotaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Margins of tropical and subtropical forests at elevations up to 200 metres in Nepal[272 ]. Deciduous forests and dry sal plain forests. The tree is usually found scattered in pastures and cultivated fields in central India[303 ].
Range E. Asia - India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Bassia latifolia Butter Tree. Mahua, Illipe

© Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons
Bassia latifolia Butter Tree. Mahua, Illipe


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Bassia latifolia is a deciduous Tree growing to 16 m (52ft) by 14 m (46ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bats.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Bassia latifolia Roxb. Bassia longifolia L. Madhuca indica J.F.Gmel. Madhuca latifolia (Roxb.) J.F.MacBr.


Edible Uses

The fragrant fleshy flowers can be eaten raw or cooked[272 , 287 , 301 ]. Rich in nectar, they are used as a sweetener and a source of sugar[46 , 301 , 335 ]. They can also be dried for later use[301 ]. The dried flowers can be powdered and added to flour[303 ]. Excessive amounts can be intoxicating[272 ]. Both the ripe and the unripe fruit can be eaten[301 ]. The outer fruit coat is eaten as a vegetable, whilst the fleshy cotyledons are dried and ground into a meal[303 ]. The yellow fruit is about 5cm long[335 ]. An oil expressed from the seed is used both as a substitute for and an adulterant of ghee[301 , 335 ]. The seeds are a source of illipe butter, used in making margarine and chocolate[301 ]. The oil is of low quality[287 ]. The leaves are edible[301 ].


Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

The flowers are regarded as cooling, tonic and demulcent[272 , 287 ]. They are used in the treatment of coughs, colds and bronchitis[287 ]. The bark is used medicinally in the treatment of leprosy[287 ]. A decoction of the bark is given to diabetic patients in Nepal[272 ]. It is also used externally to treat itchy skin and bleeding gums[272 ]. The oil from the seeds is used in the treatment of skin diseases[272 ].


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Other Uses

Agroforestry Uses: The tree has a large spreading superficial root system that holds soil together[303 ]. It is planted on wasteland with hard lateritic soils in India[303 ]. The seed cake has been used as fertilizer[303 ]. Other Uses: The seed residue, after the oil has been extracted, is used for ridding lawns of worms[63 ]. The de-fatted seed kernels contain 26 - 50 % saponin[303 ]. The oil from the seeds is used to treat other seeds against pest infestation[303 ]. A low quality of oil is extracted form the seeds[46 , 287 ]. Consisting principally of palmitic and stearic acids, it is mainly used in making soap and candles[46 , 287 , 303 ]. Tannin is obtained from the bark[272 ]. The heartwood is reddish brown. The wood is strong, very hard, very heavy and durable[272 , 287 , 303 ]. It takes a fine finish. It is used for house construction, furniture, naves and felloes of cartwheels, door and window frames[272 , 287 , 303 ]. The wood is used as a fuel[272 ].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

A plant of the subtropics to the hot tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,200 metres[303 ]. Able to resist some frost, it grows in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 2 - 46°c. It grows best where the mean annual rainfall is between 550 - 1,500mm[303 ]. Requires a sunny position[303 ]. Prefers a deep loamy or sandy-loam soil with good drainage[303 ]. It also occurs on shallow bouldery, clayey and calcareous soils[303 ]. Established plants are drought resistant[303 ]. A long-lived tree, it commences bearing when about 10 years old[303 ]. A full grown tree can produce up to 90 kg of flowers in a year[303 ]. Trees coppice well if they are felled when dormant in the hot season[303 ]. They can be worked on 25 - 30 year coppice cycle to produce a mean annual increment of 3 - 5 cubic metres/ha[303 ].


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Seed - propagated by direct seeding, seedlings or stumps[303 ]. Seeds should be sown when fresh in long polypots to accommodate the long taproot. Seedlings should be ready to plant in 2-4 months, or can be maintained for longer with regular root pruning. Seedlings are frost tender. 1-year-old stumps establish more successfully than bare root seedlings[303 ]. Seeds are produced plentifully every second or third year. They lose viability within a short period and the oily fruit should be sown directly in the field as the seeds become available[303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Indian butter tree, Elloopei, Hippe, Illipa, Illupei, Illuppa, Illuppai, Ilpa, Ippa, Kanzaw, Kuligam, Mahuwa, Mauha, Mee, Meek, Meze, Mi, Moha, Mohwa tree, Mowra butter tree, Mousey mi, Myitzu-thaka-natpan, Pohon nyatuh india, Poonam, South India Mahua, Ta-laing-gaung,

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Asia, Himalayas, India*, Indochina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, SE Asia, Singapore, Sri Lanka*

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Bassia scopariaSummer Cypress, BurningbushAnnual0.3 5-9  LMNM221

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(J.König ex L.) J.F.Macbr.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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