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Tendu Tree: A Comprehensive Overview of Cultivation, Propagation, and Uses

Tendu is a drought-resistant tree endemic to the Indian subcontinent, known for its highly nutritious fruits and versatile uses in traditional medicine.

Shivam Dwivedi
Tendu Tree: A Comprehensive Overview of Cultivation, Propagation, and Uses (Photo Source: ICAR)
Tendu Tree: A Comprehensive Overview of Cultivation, Propagation, and Uses (Photo Source: ICAR)

Tendu or Kendu tree (Diospyros Melanoxylon Roxb.) belonging to Family Ebenaceae, which is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Locally it is known as temburini. It is drought and frost-hardy but sensitive to water logging. It is also one of the important lesser-known fruits which is available during summer in the local market of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa state and used as a delicacy. The fruits are a highly nutritive and rich source of phenols and fibre.

The tribal of these regions are using this fruit to protect them from loo or hot wind during summer. The generic name is derived from the Greek ‘dios’ (divine), and ‘pyros’ (fruit), referring to the excellent fruit of the genus. The specific name is Greek and means ‘dark wood’. The fruits are a highly nutritive and rich source of phenols and fibres. Its fruit pulp is yellow, glutinous, soft, sweet and slightly astringent.

These fruits are rich in sugars, proteins, fibre and vitamin C. Further, to presence of several benevolent phylotochemicals such as b-Carotene, terpenoids, flovanoids, saponin and tannin in the fruit add advantages to its nutritive value. Ripe fruits are important sources of some non-antioxidants, unidentified oligosaccharide, fumaric acid and gallic acid.

Origin & Distribution

Coromandel Ebony or East Indian Ebony (Diospyros melanoxylon) is a species of flowering tree in the family Ebenaceae that is native to India and Sri Lanka and has hard and dry bark. Its common name derives from Coromandel, the coast of southeastern India. According to Troup (1921) Diospyros melanoxylon (inclusive of D. tomentosa and D. tupru) is one of the most characteristic trees of the dry deciduous forests throughout India, covering the entire Indian peninsula the area of distribution extends up to Nepal in sub-Himalayan tracts including the Indian plain, Gangetic plain, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, western coast up to Malabar and Eastern coast up to Coromandel.

The plant is also met with on the Nilgiris and Serawalli hills in the south. Locally it is known as temburini or by its Hindi name tendu. In Odisha and Jharkhand it is known as kendu. Genus diospyrus belongs to the family Ebenaceae which has more than 400 species distributed over tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world.

Area or Region of Cultivation or Availability

Tendu plants are naturally occurring in the forest and groves of tropical and subtropical region. It is normally found in dry deciduous forest as a constituent species of Tectona grandis, sal and mixed forests of Acacia leucophlea, Boswellia serrata, Butea monosperma, Lantana coromandelia and Terminalia tomentosa. It is mainly available for its leaves used for Bidi. No systematic plantation has been made so far for fruit production. Therefore, estimated area is not available.

Climate & Soil

It can be grown in a wide variety of soil including laterite and black soil. Forest soil with high humus content supports the plant growth and fruiting. Under the forest ecosystem, tendu plant grows in rocky soils as well. For commercial cultivation, soil with good water-holding capacity and humus content is the best. It grows on poor denuded soils, hot and dry hill slopes, stony soils with quartzite, shale and sandstone, and also heavy clays. It can be grown in a variety of soil including laterite and black soil.

It however attains best growth and development on loose, porous soils in cool and moist sheltered valleys where it tends to be gregarious. Tendu is a subtropical deciduous fruit plant available up to 0-900 m altitude, It can grown where the mean annual temperature: 0-48 0 C, mean annual rainfall: 500-1500 mm. Clear winter during November to February rest the plant and become dormant. With the increase in temperature during spring, new foliage and flower appear. High temperature and humidity are good for fruit development and ripening.

Propagation & Root Stock

Most of the tendu plants available in the forest are naturally regenerated through seedlings, coppice and root suckers. No systematic work on propagation of tendu has been taken up however artificial propagation is through either direct seeding or planting nursery-raised seedlings. It has a recalcitrant seed which loses its viability within a short period under normal temperature however, at freezing temperature (00C) with 45-50 % moisture content, it can be stored for almost 18 months (Kotobuki, 1978).

Stratification and priming of seed have been reported to be beneficial for germination and seedling growth in Diospyros lotus which is used as rootstock for most of the Diospyros species worldwide. Seed germination is not at all a problem in tendu but it takes more than 70-80 days to attain satisfactory germination. Enhancing the temperature helps improve seed germination.

Soaking seeds for about 12 hours in cold water improves germination. Stump planting is as good as direct seeding. The grafting and budding may be successful for vegetative regeneration. Owing to the slow growth habit of plants, selection of appropriate rootstock and standardization of age and vigour of Tendu seedlings for grafting has great importance. A mixture of FYM, soil and sand in the ratio of 5:3:2 improves the seed germination in the nursery bed and polythene bag. Germination can be accelerated by frequent irrigation and covering to bed with paddy straw.

Budding, and grafting can be made during January-March on appropriate rootstock. Patch budding on 6-9 month-old seedlings can also be attempted to develop true-to-type tendu plants with varied levels of success. Orthodox seed storage behaviour; viability maintained for 1 year in open storage; viability lost within 1 year in hermetic storage at room temperature with 11-15% mc. About 5 kg of ripe fruit yields 1 kg of seeds, weighing 1100-2000 seeds/kg.

Tendu Cultivation

Planting Tendu is a medium-sized tree or shrub in natural condition available in the forest where mostly degraded lands are available. In the good type of soil like sandy loam, soil plant takes good shape and growth. It is, therefore, essential to determine the spacing of plants as per the existing soil and climatic conditions. In eastern parts of the country particularly having laterite soil and rocky land, the spacing should be about 6 m apart. In Gangetic Plain, a spacing of 8-10 m in the square system can be opted for Tendu. The pits of 1m3 sizes are prepared during summer and filled with good soils and high humus content. The planting is done during July-August.

Since, Tendu is a slow-growing plant, more than one-year-old plants have well-developed roots and at least a few functional leaves should be planted. Prefer planting in the square system for easy orchard operation. At undulating topography under a rainfed system, trenches of appropriate dimension are prepared for each plant on the upper side of plants for rainwater harvesting and in-situ moisture conservation.

Training and Pruning

It is mainly grown for its leaves which have commercial value for bidi industries. The seedlings are normally planted at 2 m x 2 m where the objective of management is the production of leaves. Heavy pruning is recommended as this promotes vegetative growth and the production of relatively large and thin leaves, although repeated pruning can cause stunted growth of trees.

Plants up to 15 cm in girth are cut near the ground to encourage sprouting of coppice shoots, which gives the best quality leaves after 40-50 days of operation. Coppicing experiments in India revealed that the best quality of trade leaves is obtained by coppicing flush to the ground level twice, 2 weeks apart, then coppicing flush to the ground only once. The tree also pollards well, although the growth of the pollard shoots is slow. Pollarding is done to obtain a good flush of tender leaves, and plants over 15 cm girth are usually cut at 60-90 cm height.

The quality of the leaves also depends on whether the frequency and intensity of pollarding impairs the vitality and growth of the trees. Management for small timber, poles or firewood requires a coppice rotation of about 30 years to give usable products. For ebony wood, a much longer rotation would be needed to give sufficient dimensions to the valuable heartwood. For fruit, the plant is seldom pruned. No coppicing is allowed. Old plants having cris-cross and diseased branches should be pruned from time to time for quality and quantity of fruits.

Uses of Tendu Tree

Tendu plant has been well documented in Ayurveda and Unani texts and also ethno-botanically for its multi-purpose use in different diseases. Wine can be prepared from tendu fruits like cashew apple, litchi and other tropical and sub-tropical fruits. It has been used extensively in Indian traditional medicine to treat a variety of diseases including diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, intermittent fevers, bleeding gums, bronchitis, carbuncles, cough, cramps, pneumonia, syphilis, tumors, etc.

However, training of plant is an essential operation for the proper framed of the plant. Being a slow-growing plant, the formation of scaffolds and branches takes many years. The initial framework process is completed within 3-4 years. After harvesting fruits in bearing plants, stubs of previous season fruits are removed to facilitate new flush and fruiting terminals. The best time for pruning operations is the summer after the harvest of fruits.

(Source: ICAR)

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