Monday, November 15, 2010

Anjili, a tree of many uses

Which is the most used tree that is endemic to the Western Ghats of India? The answer is ‘anjili’. Other common names of this wood include ayini and Hebbalasu in Karnataka. In English it is called ‘wild jack’ or ‘jungle jack’. The botanical name is Artocarpus hirsutus Lam (Moraceae).
The statement ‘endemic to the Western Ghats’ needs some explanation. Anjili is seen mostly from Konkan to the south. And it grows from sea level to 1000m elevation, where the rainfall is 1500mm or more. Strangely the tree grows better in lower areas.

Anjili can grow to a height of 45m and attain about 4.5m girth. The durable timber is very good, almost the same quality as teak. It effectively resists white ants and fungus and survives well in saline water.

In old buildings (see photo above and Kerala Architecture: Nalukettu, ettukettu, pathinarukettu ) anjili was used for roofs, ceilings, walls, doors and windows. Even in many modern houses this wood is prefered for doors, windows and furniture.

One of the major uses for anjili wood is for vessels, from tiny canoes to sea going dhows and fishing boats. The famous houseboats of Kerala are made from anjili. So are the snakeboats and other racing boats and palliyodams.

Kerala kitchen – some implements of the past shows some of the wooden kitchen implements used in the past. What is not included in this post is ural in which rice is pounded for de-husking, and making powders.

Chakram: The wheel that turned agricultural fortunes, which is used for controlling water level in the paddy fields, is made of anjili. Now this wood is also used for building truck bodies.

Anjili is a cousin of jackfruit tree which is called plavu in Kerala. Plavu normally does not grow as tall as anjili. Its wood is ideal for furniture. Its fruit, which is the largest tree borne edible fruit in the world (see Jackfruit, the jumbo) has several culinary applications.

Anjili too has a fruit that is identical, except in size. Jackfruit is huge but the other one is just mango sized. It is called anjili chakka or ayini chakka. The thin layer of flesh that covers its nuts is tasty. The nuts can be roasted and eaten. The birds and the squirrels love the fruit and play an important role in propagating the tree. They scatter the seeds far and wide.

If a seed happens to fall on your property and sprouts, take good care of it because of the tree’s commercial value. The attention to be given is very simple – just cut off the branches that start growing, till the plant is about twenty feet tall.

The price of anjili timber is high. It is claimed that felling for commercial purpose can be done when the tree is 25 to 50 years old. In my opinion, it should be 50+.

A good study on anjili is Biocultural Diversity of the Endemic ‘'Wild JackTree’ on the Malabar Coast of South India by Sam P. Mathew, A. Mohandas, S. M. Shareef and G. M. Nair. It can be accessed at:

All photographs (copyright reserved) are from Olavipe. Click to enlarge.


Team G Square said...

nice piece of info . its really tasty to eat .

Joe said...

Its really a nice & informatics blog... very useful information.