Grewia optiva

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Local names:
Hindi (dhaman,biung,biul,Bihul,bhimal,bhengal,bewal,behel), Nepali (shyalphusro,phusre,ghotli,Bhimal), Trade name (dhaman,biul)

Grewia optiva is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree, 9-12 m in height; crown spreading; bole clear, 3-4 m, and about 1 m diameter. Branches smooth, pale silvery-brown; bark dark brown, thick and roughish, exfoliating in small woody scales; blaze rather fibrous, pale yellow, often tinged pink towards the exterior, juice slimy.

Leaves opposite, 5-13 cm x 3-6 cm, ovate, acuminate, closely serrate; teeth small, blunt; rough and hairy above, pubescent beneath, base rounded, slightly oblique, 3-nerved; petiole 0.3-1 cm long, stout, tomentose; stipules 0.5 cm long, linear subulate, caducous.

Flowers 1-8, together; penducles solitary, leaf opposed or exceptionally a few axillary; tomentose, 0.8-1.8 cm long. Sepals 1-1.5 cm long, linear oblong, 3-ribbed, green outside, white, pale yellow or red inside; petals white or pale yellow, shorter than the sepals, linear, claw distinct.

Fruit is a drupe, 1-4 lobed, each lobe about 0.8 cm in diameter, olive green then black when ripe.

The genus was named after Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712), one of the founders of plant physiology.

Ecology

This is a tree of the subtropical climate. In its natural habitat, the maximum shade temperature seldom exceeds 38 deg. C and the minimum temperature rarely drops below –2 deg. C. It tolerates frost which is common during autumn and winter. The upper reaches receive light snowfall during January-February. Most of the rain is received during monsoon. Autumn and summer months are usually dry.

Native range
India

Tree management

Planting is done in July in pits dug in summer or at the beginning of the rainy season. Spacing is at 3 x 3 m for block planting and 4-5 m for single row planting along the fields. Plantation area should be protected against browsing, grazing and fire.

The tree requires complete overhead light for optimum growth. Severe frost causes die back in seedlings. The tree pollards and coppices well, whippy branches are lopped yearly for fodder and fibre.

There are 10 000-15 000 seeds/kg which can be stored for at least 1 year in the open without loss of viability. Fruits are rubbed and washed in water to remove the flesh. Each fruit contains 2-4 seeds.

This is a tree of the subtropical climate. In its natural habitat, the maximum shade temperature seldom exceeds 38 deg. C and the minimum temperature rarely drops below –2 deg. C. It tolerates frost which is common during autumn and winter. The upper reaches receive light snowfall during January-February. Most of the rain is received during monsoon. Autumn and summer months are usually dry.

Propagation is mainly through nursery raised seedlings or stumps. Pre-sowing seed is necessary to hasten and improve germination as the seed testa is hard. Soaking seeds in cooling boiled water for 12 hours gives the best results. Seeds are sown in March, about 2 cm deep in lines 15 cm apart. About 250 g seed is required for each sq. m of nursery area. Seedbeds are irrigated after sowing until germination is complete. Seedlings grow fairly fast and attain plantable size by July. Stumps are also used and these are planted at 15 months. Seeds can be sown direct in the field provided they are watered during dry months.

  The ripe fruits are edible. Raw or cooked, it has a pleasant acid taste.

The leaves are rated as good fodder and trees are heavily lopped for this purpose in the winter months when usually no other green fodder is available. The green leaves constitute about 70 % of the total green weight of branches. Leaf fodder yield is reported to be 11 ton/ha from 2-year-old plants, green fodder yield from mature trees is reported to be 12-30 kg. Leaves are fairly rich in protein and other nutrients and do not contain tannins. Crude protein is highest in young leaves and in winter leaves but decreases during the rainy season.

The wood has an unpleasant odour and is, therefore seldom used as fuel if an alternative is available.

Fibre: The bark yields a fibre that is used for cordage and clothing.

Timber:  The wood, weighing 801 kg/cu. m, is whitish with little reddish-brown heartwood. It is fine textured with distinct growth rings. It is hard, tough with good elasticity and strength properties. It becomes difficult to work by hand after seasoning. The timber is used for oar shafts, poles, frames, tool handles and other purposes where strength and elasticity are required. It is thought to be suitable for paper production and branches are used for making baskets.

The tree is often planted in hedges and field boundaries.

Intercropping:  The tree is planted combined with climax grass.