A Tree Walk was organized by an organization called Nizhal, at Kalakshetra (Tiruvanmayur, Chennai) as a part of the Madras day celebrations. While we might know that Kalakshetra is a popular institution established by Ms. Rukmini Devi Arundale to teach and showcase Indian classical dance, music and other art forms, we may not know that the campus is home to a wide variety of native and exotic plant/tree varieties, across its 99 acre campus.
The Tree Walk is a unique initiative by this organization to sensitize people about the importance of trees/plants and encourage them to grow/conserve trees in their respective localities. Among other activities, they conduct tree walks where one of their volunteers show, give info and explain about various trees, their importance, their use, etc. at certain locations. The tree shown in the above photo is the Pupil tree (Bodhi maram, Arasa maram). It seems this tree produces a lot of oxygen and if people/horses rest under it for sometime, they will become refreshed!
We were shown Magizham trees whose flowers emanate fragrance and are used to make perfumes. The fruits of this tree are edible and it also freshens the mind off its stress. We saw Elumbotti trees whose parts can fix cracks in bones, we saw Nuna/Noni tree that can increase memory power. There was a tree called as Netlinga (Polyalthina, mast tree) which could absorb sound and hence is sometimes planted all along a campus wall.
Yes, the above tree is a banyan tree. I had earlier written about one of the biggest banyan trees in the world at the Adyar Theosophical society campus. Did you know that the banyan tree is our national tree? That’s because, it signifies joint families/extended families (various offshoots) and hospitality (to various living beings it sustains). We saw the Vanni maram whose roots go very deep and it seems these were the only tree species to survive a severe drought in Rajasthan once upon a time. We also saw the Vaagai tree (used to cure leukemia) and copper pod tree (used to make dyes).
Did you know that the Mango Tree is called as Prajapathi (King of all) as each and every part incl. fruits, seeds, bark, flowers, etc. are useful and have medicinal value? Did you know that the Tamarind Tree (Puliya maram) is not a native of India? It was brought from South Africa by Arabian traders long time back and there was no mention of ‘puli’ in the Sangam literature (an old Tamil literature) as it was not there in TN during that time. We saw a Brazilian wood tree whose wood sinks in water and Mayflower/Gulmohur tree with its beautiful flowers, used in making mehandi.
The leaves (shown above) will fold/shrink if someone touches it. I remember seeing this plant in our flats – we used to play with it! I forgot its name though. We saw the Pungam/ Pungan tree which is native to TN and is an excellent air-coolant. It can also be used to make bio-diesel, it seems. We saw cashew nut trees which can protect sand-dunes from spreading in coastal areas (and hence prevent salt water mixing with fresh water), apart from giving us cashew nuts. We saw Then-poochi maram which can purify the air and the Punnai/Thunnai maram (Alexandria Lawrence) that cures leprosy, has fragrant flowers.
The above insects (they are smaller than what is visible in the photo) live on this tree and it is easy to mistake them for small fruits! We saw the Nocchi/Nucchi trees that can relieve body-pain if one takes bath in hot-water soaked with their leaves, we saw the Gooseberry tree (amla/nellikaai) and Malabar tamarind tree. We saw the Badam tree whose fruit is rich in proteins and its leaves were once used as plates!
The volunteers pointed out the lessening greenery in cities and explained the importance of saving trees from being cut. Trees are useful in various forms and hence people should not have a don’t-bother attitude when trees are cut mindlessly in their locality.
PS: I am coming across many trees for the first time and hence I may have made some mistakes with their names. If you can identify any, let me know in the comments section.