Society for Conservation of Nature

HERITAGE TREES OF DELTA REGION

HERITAGE TREES OF DELTA REGION

A heritage tree is generally a large individual tree with unique value, which is considered irreplaceable. The main criteria for considering a tree as heritage tree are its size, form, shape, age, colour and rarity. The aesthetic, botanical, horticultural, ecological, social, cultural and historical values are also taken into account. These trees take decades and centuries to mature and beautify the landscape. They act as prominent landmarks of the place where they exist. A specimen associated with a historic person, place, event or period is also treated as heritage tree. It may be a representative of a crop grown by ancestors and their successors that is at risk of vanishing from cultivation. A heritage tree can also be a tree associated with local folklore, myths, legends or traditions. Certain species that are relatively rare in an area, whether native or not, may also be granted special status.

Considering the above factors into account, the society for Conservation of Nature (SOFCON) has identified certain heritage trees in the Delta Region. The society stresses the need for enacting a special law known as the Heritage Tree Conservation Act (HTCA) to impose restriction upon removal of these precious trees. With the rapid development of the state, there is a great danger of losing the national heritage to urbanisation. The ecosystem services what these trees provide such as shelter for wildlife, carbon sequestration, release of oxygen, shade, soil conservation, creation of microclimate, eco-tourism, etc., are much more valuable.  The heritage trees of Tamil Nadu can be performed as an outreach ecology endeavour for conserving nature.

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SWIETENIA MAHOGANI WITH A GIRTH OF 4.55 M; HEIGHT OF ABOUT 27 M AND OF AGE ABOUT 150 YEARS-FOUND IN SIVAGANGAI PARK AT THANJAVUR

This is an exotic evergreen tree introduced form Central America and Jamaica. This is a medium-sized semi-evergreen tree growing to 30-35 metres height. The leaves are pinnate. The small flowers are produced in panicles. The fruit is a woody capsule containing numerous winged seeds.  This belongs to the family ‘Meliaceae’. The Trade Name is ‘The Mahogany’. This is known as ‘Mahogany’ in Tamil and ‘Cheria Mahogany’ in Malayalam. This is classified as ‘Genuine Mahogany’.

The wood is hard, straight-grained and reddish brown. This is a commercially important timber valued for its beauty, durability and colour. The timber is used for panelling and for making furniture, boats, musical instruments and other items. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified this species as ‘Endangered’. This is mostly propagated through seeds. This needs partial shade for its growth. Watering has to be done periodically. The bark extracts are used as an astringent for wounds. It is used for curing malaria, diarrhoea, fever and dysentery.

SAMUDRA PALAI-BARRINGTONIA ACUTANGULA-LECYTHIDAGEAE

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BARRINGTONIA ACUTANGULA-SAMUDRAPALAI-GIRTH: 2.52 M, HEIGHT: 9 M AND AGE ABOUT 120 YEARS-ATHIKKUDI ERI-MADHUKKUR NEAR PATTUKKOTTAI

This is a medium sized evergreen tree found growing on the banks of streams, lakes and swampy areas in low country. The common names are ‘Freshwater Mangrove’, ‘Itchy tree’ or ‘Indian Oak’. This belongs to the family ‘Lecythidaceae’. sThis is known as ‘Senkadamba maram’, ‘Kadappay’, ‘Adampai’ or ‘Samuthirapalai’ in Tamil; ‘Nir-perzha’ or ‘Atta –perzha’ in Malayalam; ‘Kademba’ or ‘Ganappu’ in Telugu, ‘Mavinkubia’, Nirganigily’ or ‘Dhatripala’ in Kannada, ‘Tiwar’, ‘Newar’, ‘Sathaphala’ or ‘Samudraphala’ in Marathi, ‘Nijhira’ in Oriya, ‘Abdhiphala’ or ‘Ambudhiphala’ in Sanskrit, ‘Samandarphal’ in Urdu and ‘Ijal’ in Hindi.

This tree is found in coastal wetlands of Australia, from Afghanistan east to the Philippines and Queensland.  This tree grows on the banks of freshwater rivers, the edges of freshwater swamps and lagoons and on seasonally flooded lowland plains. This can tolerate heavy clay soils with poor drainage. Fragrant and dark scarlet flowers are produced on pendulous racemes of about 20-40 cm long. This tree flowers in January-March with young leaves and bears fruits in April-May. It produces ellipsoid to ovoid berry with one ovoid black seed. The young leaves are consumed as food. In Vietnam, the leaves are eaten fresh with other vegetables, meat and shrimp. The wood is used for boat-building, well work, cabinet work, etc., The bark is used for intoxicating fish and also for tanning. In Ayurveda, the fruit, root and leaves are used for treating diseases of head, pain in joints, eye diseases, jaundice, stomach disorders, diarrhoea, blood disorders, cough, leprosy, intermittent fever, spleenic disorders and poisoning.

THIRUKURA MARAM-LIMONIA ALATA-RUTACEAE

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LIMONIA ALATA-THIRUKURA MARAM-GIRTH: 2.1 M, HEIGHT: 5 M AND AGE ABOUT 200 YEARS IN THIRUVEEZHIMIZHALAI TEMPLE NEAR MAYILADURAI OF NAGAPATTINAM DISTRICT

This is a small spinous tree, growing in the Western Ghats and found growing at the foothills from Coimbatore to Tirunelveli. The wood is hard and close grained. Leaves are trifoliate. Leaves are long, obovate, entire and cuneate (wedge-shaped) at the base.

This is grown as Sthala Vriksham in Thiruveezhimizhalai Murugan Temple of Nagapattinam district.

BOONTHIKOTTAI MARAM-SAPINDUS EMARGINATUS-SAPINDACEAE

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SAPINDUS EMARGINATUS-BOONTHIKOTTAI MARAM-GIRTH: 1.80 M, HEIGHT: 7 M; FOUND IN THANJAVUR BIG TEMPLE CAMPUS

This is a moderate sized tree found growing in dry evergreen forests and on the eastern slopes of Nilgiris and hills of Tirunelveli district.

The Trade Name is ‘Soapnut’, as the fruit pulp is used to make soap. This tree belongs to the family ‘Sapindaceae’. This is known as ‘Ponnankottai’, ‘Manipungan maram’, ‘Poochi-kai’, ‘Pungankottai’, ‘Naikottai’, ‘Boonthikottai’ or ‘Puvamkottai’ in Tamil; ‘Pasakottai’ or ‘Uruangi’ in Malayalam;  ‘Konkudu’ or ‘Kunkudu’ in Telugu; ‘Aratala’, ‘Aralakai’, ‘Andala’ or ‘Puchakotte’ in Kannada, ‘Aritha’, ‘Rimgi’ or ‘Rimthi’ in Marathi, ‘Ritha’ in oriya, ‘Arishta’, ‘Arishtaphalam’, ‘Aristam, or Phenila’ in Sanskrit,  and ‘Ritha’ in Hindi. This tree flowers in November-December and bears fruits in March. The fruit is a small leathery-skinned drupe 1-2 cm in diameter, yellow ripening blackish, containing one to three seeds. Fruits are universally used for washing as a substitute for soap for cleaning jewels, etc., as they produce lather with water. The wood is not of any use. The fruits possess many medicinal properties and are widely used for treatment of asthma, colic and dysentery and during childbirth.

KARUMARUDU-TERMINALIA TOMENTOSA-COMBRETACEAE

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TERMINALIA TOMENTOSA OR TERMINALIA ALATA-KARUMARUTHU-GIRTH: 2.32 M, HEIGHT: 19 M FOUND  IN MAHARAJAPURAM RF OF KUMBAKONAM RANGE

This is a large tree found growing in deciduous forests. This belongs to the family ‘Combretaceae’. The Trade Name is ‘Laurel’. This is known as ‘Karu Maruthu’ in Tamil, ‘Karu maruthu’, ‘Thembavu’ or ‘Mathi’ in Malayalam, ‘Nallamaddi’, ‘Inumaddi’ or ‘Maddi’ in Telugu, ‘Banappu’ or ‘Karimaddi’ in Kannada and ‘Asan’ or ‘Saj’ in Hindi. The bark is rough and greyish black with longitudinal fissures and transverse cracks. The leaves are elliptic-lanceolate with a pair of glands near the base of the midrib. This tree flowers in May and bears fruits in November-January. The tree can be easily identified by its cracked bark and because of this; it is referred to as crocodile bark tree. Timber is used for house building, carts, furniture, etc., but hard to work. The timber may split unless thoroughly seasoned. The wood forms excellent fuel and good charcoal. This is more suitable for for afforesting clayey soil.  This tree stores water in the dry season. A study conducted in Bandipur National Park, Karnataka has proved this. Some trees can store water up to 20 litres. Tribal people use the water from the tree for treating stomach-ache.   In Siddha medical system, the bark, leaf and gum are used for treating fever and earache. In Ayurveda medicine, the bark is used for treating fever, boils and diseases of head.

Heritage Tree Conservation Committee (HTCC) can be established in every district with the view of conserving the Heritage Trees identified in the districts. The Committee can be utilised for creating   necessary awareness among the public to increase the tree cover throughout the state when there is not much scope for expanding the forest cover due to non availability of the required land. The tree cover expansion can be achieved only with the wholehearted involvement and support of the land holders especially in the rural areas. Unless we have one third of the land area under forest and tree cover, we can’t attain economic stability. So, in order to have sustained economy and to get all our basic requirements fulfilled without any difficulty, the forest and tree cover has to be increased and the establishment of such HTCC may be of great support in achieving the desirable target.  Therefore, it is high time that the authorities concerned should rise up to the occasion to take earnest measures to protect such Living Fossils not only for the present generation but also for the posterity.

V.Sundararaju.IFS ®, President, SOFCON, Trichy-620017.