Society for Conservation of Nature

Heritage Trees of Courtallam Region

HERITAGE TREES OF COUTRALLAM.

Courtallam, also known as ‘Kuttralam or ‘Kuttalam’ is situated at an elevation of 160 m (520 feet) on the Western Ghats in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. The numerous waterfalls carry a good amount of water when there is rain on the hills. South West Monsoon makes the falls vibrant. During the North East Monsoon also there will be heavy rains sometimes. Kuttralam is famous not only for waterfalls, holy places and health resorts but also for century old Heritage Trees. Some of the age old Heritage trees otherwise known as the Organic Monuments identified by V.Sundararaju, a former Indian Forest Service Officer and the President of the Society for Conservation of nature (SOFCON), a conservation oriented organization based at Trichy, are described here which need better care and proper attention as their services are required for the present and future generations.

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TAMARINDUS INDICA-PULIYA MARAM-GIRTH: 10.72 M; HEIGHT: 13 M & AGE ABOUT 250 YEARS, NEAR AZAD NAGAR ALONG TENKASI TO COUTRALAM ROAD NEAR COURTALLAM IN TIRUNELVELI DISTRICT. THE TREE TRUNK IS ALMOST DAMAGED DUE TO ITS AGE AND OTHER BIOTIC FACTORS. SOIL COVERED TRUNK CAN BE SEEN IN THE PICTURE CLEARLY. THIS TREE MAY SURVIVE ONLY FOR A SHORT TIME. THE HIGHWAYS DEPARTMENT CAN TAKE PROPER ACTION TO REPLACE THE TREE WITH SUITABLE ALTERNATIVE TREE SPECIES AFTER ITS NATURAL DEATH.

Tamarindus indica is indigenous to tropical Africa. Since it was introduced several thousand years ago in India, it has become almost indigenous here also. It is presumed that this species reached South Asia through transportation by human. Presently, India is number one in producing tamarind in the world. As tamarind plays an important role in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent, its consumption is widespread.  Tamarindus indica belongs to the family ‘Caesalpinoideae’. The name ‘Tamarindus’ is said to have been derived from the Arabic name ‘tamar-hindi’ meaning ‘Date of India’.

This is a large evergreen tree, planted along the avenues for the dense shade and acrid pulp of its fruits. This grows well in clay, loam, sandy and acidic soils. The pod will have a hard brown shell. The fleshy, juicy and acidulous pulp of the fruit becomes brown or reddish-brown on maturity.  Generally the pods will have 12 seeds of glossy brown colour. The tamarind is sweet and sour in taste with rich tartaric acid, sugar and B vitamins.

This has various names in different languages as given below:

Sanskrit: Thinthrinee; Assamese: Tateli; Bengali: Tetul; Oriya: Tentuli; Hindi: Imli; Rajasthani: Aamli; Gujarati: Amli; Kannada: Hunase; Telugu: Chintachettu (Tree) and Chintapandu (fruit); Tamil: Puli and Malayalam: Vaalanpuli.

This species is cultivated throughout India. In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu maximum numbers of trees have been raised.

The matured fruit is more palatable as it is tasty with less sour. This is used in desserts as jam and in all kinds of snacks. All over India tamarind extract is added to flavour foods. The immature fruits and flowers are used for making pickles. In Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu this is used in preparation of rasam, sambhar, vathakuzhambu, puliyogare, chutneys and pickles. This is not only used in India in making various culinary items and different desserts but also all over the world.

Fruit pulp is used as refrigerant, carminative and laxative and also given as an infusion to treat biliousness. In Siddha medical system, the bark, leaf, flower, fruit and seed are used for curing ulcers, dropsy and anaemia. In Ayurveda, the leaf, flower, fruit and ash are used for treating hyperacidity, pain, leucorrhoea, oedema, diseases of kapha and pitta.

Tamarind heartwood can be used for oil presses, turnery, furniture and wood flooring.

Tamarind concentrate is used for polishing copper and bronze utensils in temples and other houses.

Seeds can be briefly boiled to enhance the germination. If the seeds are well dried and kept safely, the germination capacity is retained for several months.

This species can be grown in areas with a mean annual rainfall of 500 mm. This is drought hardy. This needs proper drainage. This can be grown along stream banks, on tank bunds and along the wide roads as avenue trees.

Of late, superior quality Tamarind plants have been produced through clonal multiplication by selecting plus trees from Periyakulam and Vurigam (near Hosur) by Tamil Nadu Forest Department. Tamil Nadu Agricultural Department also is producing quality clonal plants for further propagation.

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TERMINALIA ARJUNA-NEER MARUDHU-GIRTH: 11.04 M; HEIGHT: 21 M; AGE ABOUT 250 YEARS, NEAR PARASAKTHI COLLEGE, SHENCOTTAH TO COUTRALAM ROAD IN COURTALLAM OF TIRUNELVELI DISTRICT. THIS TREE HAS GIVEN SHELTER NOT ONLY FOR CERTAIN BIRDS AND SMALLER ANIMALS BUT ALSO FOR A TAMARIND AND PEEPUL TREE (ARASA MARAM) BECAUSE OF ITS GIANT SIZE. BUT DUE CARE IS NOT GIVEN FOR ITS SAFETY. DUMPING OF WASTE MATERIALS AROUND THE TREE AND FIXING OF BOARDS ON THE TREE CAN BE SEEN IN THE PICTURE. HIGHWAYS DEPARTMENT CAN TAKE INITIATIVE TO PROTECT SUCH LIVING MONUMENTS IN COORDINATION WITH THE FOREST DEPARTMENT.

This is a large, nearly evergreen, often buttressed tree. This is found mostly on river or stream banks; often planted in avenues. This belongs to the family ‘Combretaceae’. The wood is used for making furniture, agricultural implements, carts, etc. The tree has got very good medicinal value. The bark of the tree is used for treatment of cardiac disease, tuberculosis, asthma, skin disease, liver enlargement, etc. The leaves are used for curing stomach ache, etc.

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ANTIARIS TOXICARIA-MARA URI-G: 3.60 M; HEIGHT: 22 M; AGE ABOUT 150 YEARS-COURTALLAM RESERVED FOREST

This is a lofty, often buttressed deciduous tree, often growing to enormous height up to 76 metres. This is found growing in evergreen forests of Western Ghats up to 600 metres. Wood is soft, white and perishable. The Trade Name is ‘Upas tree’. In Tamil this is called ‘Mara-uri’, ‘Nettavil’ or ‘Aranthelli’; in Malayalam, ‘Areianjili’ or ‘Aranjelli’. This belongs to the family ‘Moraceae’.

The Chinese of Hainan Island refer to the tree as the ‘Poison Arrow Tree’ because its latex was smeared on arrowheads in ancient times in hunting and warfare.

Fruits are edible. The milk is used for poisoning arrows; but gives a good fibre. The inner bark is used by hill tribes to make rough cloth and bags of different sizes by beating it out and separating it from the trunk.

Latex in small dose is a mild cardiac and circulatory stimulant, in large doses a myocardial poison. The seeds are used as febrifuge and in dysentery.

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TERMINALIA PANICULATA-PILLA MARUDU-GIRTH: 2.30 M; HEIGHT 15 M AND AGE ABOUT 100 YEARS IN COURTALLAM RESERVED FOREST

This is a large deciduous tree found growing in the deciduous forests and in the Western Ghats up to 613 metres. The Trade Name is ‘Kindal’. This is known as ‘Pillamarudu’, ‘Pulavai’ or Adamaruthu’ in Tamil; ‘Pillamarudu’ in Malayalam; ‘Neemeeri’ in Telugu; ‘Kindal’ or ‘Kinjal’ in Marathi; ‘Quinzol’ in Konkani; ‘Asvakarnah’in Sanskrit  and ‘Honnal’, ‘Hongal’ or ‘Honagalu’ in Kannada.  This belongs to the family ‘Combretaceae’.

This tree flowers in July-December and bears fruits in November-February. The white coloured flowers occur in compound panicle. The fruits make the tree more colourful than the flowers. Fruit has one large and two small wings. The tree is utilized in pharmaceutical, timber tannin, leather and silk industries. Timber is very much useful for building purposes and for ship building. This is used as a substitute for teak. Fruits are used for tanning and dyeing.

ACTION NEEDED: Though these tree species are considered to be the living legends of Kutralam, sufficient attention is not paid for their protection and safety. The Tamarindus tree (Pulia maram) is not healthy and its days are being counted. As this tree is under the control of the Highways Department, it is high time that speedy action may be taken by them for replacement of a suitable substitute on its fall in consultation with the Forest Department. The Terminalai species (Neer Marudu) near Parasakthi College is used by the nearby dwellers as a dumping place for keeping their waste materials and publicity boards are found nailed on its trunk causing invisible damage to its health. As this tree is also under the control of the Highways Department, suitable protection is to be provided necessarily as these trees are the living legends which have stood the test of time crossing centuries. As the other 2 trees are inside the reserve forests, they are well protected. The younger generation should be sensitized about these old and rare trees in Kutralam creating a sense of conservation.