The Joyous Tree

It is a very famous ornamental tree. But very few know that the tree can be a very good Agroforestry tree as well. Golden Champa (Michelia Champaca/सोनचाफा) is an evergreen tree and mainly cultivated for its strongly fragrant yellow or white flowers.

The flowers of Golden Champa are best known and used in India for several purposes. They are primarily used for worship at temples, floated in bowls of water to scent the room, as a fragrant decoration for bridal beds, for garlands, in religious ceremonies and generally worn in hair by women as a means of beauty ornament as well as a natural perfume. A yellow dye is extracted from the flowers and is used as a base for other colours. The flower is the main scent present in the commercial 'Joy' perfume, most expensive perfume in the world; hence sometimes is called as Joy Perfume tree.

Golden Champa is a very useful agroforestry tree too! It is known to fix the atmospheric nitrogen in soil with the help of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae. Its leaves provide very useful mulch. It improves the soil under tree cover by increasing pH, soil organic carbon and available phosphorus. Hence it is used to reforest badly eroded areas. Its leaves are used as larval fodder by silkworms & butterflies. It has potential for commercial exploitation for oil production for various uses. Other uses includes as a wayside tree & near temples for ornamental. The tree is seldom cut on account of it being considered as sacred. It can be propagated by seeds but seeds should be sown as soon as possible after collection.

The tree also possesses medicinal properties. Leafs extract and seeds extracts shows fungicidal & antibacterial activity respectively. A decoction of the bark and leaves is given after childbirth; the bark is used as a febrifuge. In Ayurveda, the tree is mentioned to pacify vitiated tridosha, detoxify poison, worm infestation, increase digestive power, diuretic and cures fever. Flowers reduce burning sensation, cures skin disease, even leprosy & ulcer.

These are flowers you don't have to stick your nose in as the scent can be enjoyed several hundred feet away from the tree, even while driving by the tree. However, you really can't stop sticking your nose into a flower over and over again. Nectar insects & butterflies appear frantic, driven like drug addicts, bashing into each other to get to the heart of every flower on the tree. The extremely aromatic orange blooms & fruits appear nearly all year round. Its aril-covered seeds are highly attractive to birds & squirrels.

Planting a Golden Champa tree in your backyard really makes your home a sweet home. Also you could take the flower, home made natural perfume. It emits a unique warm fragrance which promotes a peaceful state of mind, reducing stress and allowing one to relax and breathe easily. Looks like it is specially designed for moments of tranquil contemplation. Its the nature of Champa to remind us of the Divine in all things.

Sarasa..The Superior

A robust, attractive & adaptable tree that tolerates acidic, alkaline and even eroded soils..Indian Siris (Albizia Lebbek/सरस, शिरीष). It is a fast-growing, deciduous tree having a spreading umbrella-shaped crown of thin foliage. Indian Siris is one of the All-Rounder tree we have..

Indian Siris is used as a folk remedy for many ailments. It has a long history of use in Ayurvedic herbal medicine for the treatment of asthma and allergic disorders. Its leaves, seeds, bark and roots are all used in traditional Indian medicine. The tree has been reported to possess anti-allergic, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, anti-microbial, anti-ulcer and even anti-psychotic activities. It has been used successfully in Ayurveda for the treatment of boils, cough, asthma, bronchitis, leprosy, eczema, pruritis, paralysis, abdominal tumors, gum inflammation and worm infestation.

Siris tree is widely used in agro-forestry practises due to its multi-purpose benefits. It is one of the most promising and excellent fodder tree for arid & semi-arid regions. The nitrogen-rich leaves are valuable as mulch and excellent green manure. Due to its extensive root system, it is recommended for eroded lands like river embankments. Good soil-binding ability makes it useful for soil conservation plantings. Its a good tree for reforesting dry, alkaline soils. It is tolerant to drought and can survive even in grass fires.

One of the most interesting aspects of Siris is that, in addition to providing feed directly, it appears to enhance pasture production and quality. The tree is capable of fixing the nitrogen, coppices fairly well and grows moderately fast. Another common use is as an avenue tree and sometimes it is used to shade coffee and tea. Its whitish-cream colored flowers (The flowers should not be confused with that of exotic Rain tree which has similar flowers but pink in colour) are fragrant, attracting bees. Bee keepers like the species for the light-colored honey its nectar provides. Its leaves also serve as the larval food for butterflies.

The bark contains saponins and tannins, used for making soap and in tanning respectively. Its bark yields a reddish-brown gum that is used as a substitute for gum arabic. It is an excellent charcoal species. It is also pollarded to use as a host for the lac insect Kerria Lacca.

Siris tree can be propagated by seeds. Seeds may be sowed without pre-treatment, although soaking the seeds in cool water for 24 hours, increases germination rate. When agitated by the wind, the pods and enclosed seeds are said to produce an incessant rattle like women’s chatter, hence the name Woman’s Tongue. :-)

A Tree for Nutrients

Imagine a tree in your backyard that will meet all your nutritional needs, take care of you medicinally, serve the ecosystem, improve your soil, make your garden more fertile and also purify water for you. Looks like an extreme imagination or fantasy. But this tree actually exists! The Drumstick tree (Moringa Oleifera/शेवगा) is an amazingly generous & a very-fast-growing tree!

The Drumstick tree or Moringa, as it is popularly known, is considered to be one of the most useful trees, since almost every part of the Moringa tree has some beneficial property..its leaves, leaf powder, pods, seeds, flowers, roots and bark of Moringa are either edible or have some other healing property.

Moringa is best known as an excellent energy and nutritional booster. It is an exceptionally nutritious tree with a variety of potential uses. Its leaves and pods are, in fact, the powerhouse of nutritional value as it contain rich amount of nutrients which are 7 times the vitamin C in Oranges, 4 times the calcium & 2 times more protein in Milk, 4 times vitamin A in Carrots, 3 times the potassium in Bananas. In short, the tree will replenish your body and provide you with the right energy you need (not like the sugar-energy, that makes you hyper for some period of time & then leaves you drained).

Some researchers document Moringa's tree value as solution to mal-nutrition, especially among infants, children and mothers.
How many, do you think, benefits we can get from the tree? Start counting.. :-)

India's ancient tradition of Ayurveda says, the leaves of the Moringa tree prevents 300 diseases and modern science & researchers confirms the basic idea.

Let's name just a few benefits of its leaves and pods :

1. gives a feeling of wellness and promotes energy, yet this is not a sugar based energy
2. increases natural body defense and stimulates metabolism
3. stimulates the cell structure of the body
4. rich in vitamin A, provides nourishment to the eyes & brain
5. balances level of cholesterol
6. balances level of sugar
7. rich in anti-oxidants, beautifies the skin & lowers the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
8. improves functioning of kidney and liver
9. promotes healthy digestion
10. promotes body's immune system
11. has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties
12. promotes circulatory system and controls blood pressure
13. promotes anti-inflammatory features, heals arthritis pain
14. heals tumors and ulcers
15. balances hormone and gland system
16. detoxify body from poisons
17. helps relax and promotes good night sleep
18. purifies & disinfects water (functioning even better than aluminum sulfate, a standard water flocculant)
And many more...

The pods and leaves of Moringa can practically wipe out the mal-nutrition on our planet. It is amazing to know that a comprehensive Moringa supplement can provide ten essential vitamins & eleven essential minerals; all nine essential amino acids; more than two dozen natural, powerful anti-oxidants; more than two dozen natural, powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients and both omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids. The leaves can be cooked, which looks like cooked spinach, or dried and ground into a fine powder that can be added to almost anything as a nutrient supplement. And the well-known pods are widely used in curries & dishes.

Huhh! So many things in a simple-to-grow tree (grown easily from both seeds & from cuttings)!! God's grace, indeed!!!

The tree can be used in countless ways to benefit health, nutrition and beauty needs. Rich oil pressed from the seeds of Moringa tree is among the most desired oils for health & beauty products. Friendly to touch & full of rejuvenating properties, Moringa oil penetrates deep into the skin, revitalizing and nourishing skin tissue with vitamins and age-defying antioxidants.

But wait! It also has uses outside of the human health & medicinal realms.. It is a terrific high nutrient feed for animals, it is useful in agro-forestry. Its oil is used in arts, lubricating watches, as cooking oil and, importantly has the potential to be used as biodiesel fuel. In many ways, Moringa truly appears to be a Miracle tree.

Furthermore, it also can function as a natural growth stimulant for other plants. The juice from leaves can be used to produce an effective plant growth hormone containing the active substance Zeatin. Even better, Moringa can help your garden to be more fertile! Using Moringa leaves as a green manure can significantly enrich agricultural land. The tree tolerates a wide range of soil & rainfall conditions. It is a drought tolerant tree which needs very little water. It is resistant to most of the pests & diseases also. So some or the other parts of the tree can be used for animal feed, domestic cleansers, perfume, dye, gum, fertilizer, medicine, water clarification, rope fiber and as an agent for tanning hides.

Miraculous Moringa is a remarkable tree, which can make remarkable improvement in your health and quality of life. It is nature's true medicine cabinet. And not only that, it could be a nutrition dream come true in nations devastated by lethal diseases, widespread poverty and resulting malnutrition.

Perhaps, that is the reason why only this tree got its place in the logotype of 'Gifting Trees...' :-)

Flame of the Forest

The name itself suggests a lot about the tree. At the beginning of the summer, the leafless tree flowers abundantly and the scene appears very conspicuous in the forest. When the tree is in its fullest beauty, it can change the view of entire forest. Palash or Parrot tree (Butea Monosperma/पळस) is the state flower of Madhya Pradesh as well as Jharkhand.

It is a very beautiful tree with bright crimson orange coloured flowers and is noticeable even from long distance. It is said that the nature also plays Holi, the Indian festival of colours, as the tree flowers somewhat in same period. It is a bliss to have this tree, not only for human eyes owing to its beauty but for birds & squirrels also. Even when the tree is not in bloom, it is frequently visited by number of birds.

Palash is a sacred tree, referred to as treasurer of Gods and symbolise the moon. The flowers are offered as in place of blood in sacrifice rituals to Goddess Kali. The tree is said to have sprung from the feather of a falcon impregnated with the Somarasa, the beverage of the Gods and thus immortalised. When a Brahmin boy becomes a Sadhu, his head is shaved and he is given a Palash leaf to eat..the trifoliate formation representing Lord Vishnu in the middle, Lord Brahma on the left and Lord Shiva on the right.  It is even used in Hindu ceremonies for the blessing of calves to ensure their becoming good milkers.

This decorative trees thrives well in black, cotton soil, in salt lands and even in water logged places. It coppices well & is resistant to browsing. The tree is very drought resistant and frost hardy. It is easily propagated by seeds and grows rapidly in full sunlight.

The various parts of Palash have numerous uses. It is used for resin, fodder, medicine and dye. In India, being fairly rich in nutrients, its young leaves are good fodder, eaten mainly by buffaloes. The fibre obtained from the tree is made into ropes & cordage. The gum from the tree, called Kamarkas in Hindi, is used in certain food dishes. The gum is also considered valuable by druggists because of its astringent qualities and by leather workers because of its tannin. The flowers are used to prepare traditional Holi colour. A bright yellow to deep orange-red dye is also prepared, used especially for dyeing silk & cotton. This dye is used by Hindus to mark the forehead. Medicinally also, its flowers are useful in the treatment of liver disorders. Its seeds has anthelmintic, bactericidal & fungicidal properties. Its leaves are believed to have astringent, depurative, diuretic and aphrodisiac properties. It promotes diuresis & menstrual flow.

There is an interesting fact about the leaves of Palash. The tree provides leaves that are used with many pieced together to make a leaf-plate for serving a meal over. And in tribal communities, a would be son-in-law is tested on his dexterity in making this plate and bowl (for serving more liquid parts of the meal such as daal). If one could make it gracefully, then he is declared to be acceptable by the would be father-in-law. :-) 

In India, Palash is an important host for the lac insect, which produces shellac. Of all the lac trees, it yields the most lac stick per hectare. Usually grown for the decorative flowers, it also has a yellow-flowered rare variety. The tree is very useful in the recovery of salt lands. Farmers frequently use Palash to stabilize field bunds & for erosion control. According to experts, this tree can possibly make the livable conditions for other trees on a salty land, where otherwise they can't thrive.

Fame of the what I love to call the tree!

Fragrance...On The Ground

There are few species of trees that bloom in the night & early in the morning, their fragrant flowers fall and carpet the ground around them with a heavenly aroma.. Sounds interesting na?!

Coral Jasmine (Nyctanthes Arbortristis/पारिजातक, प्राजक्ता) is one of the kind small tree which is a favourite tree in city gardens. This fragrant tree has many virtues to its name. The flower is the state flower of West Bengal.

The great, highly fragrant flowers bloom during night spreading their essence all to the surroundings. The courtyards filled with these flowers in the very morning is a bliss to eyes & nose as their aroma arises your spirit. These are apparently only flowers that are offered to God after being picked from the ground instead of plucking from the tree! That signify the importance of the tree.

The Puranas mentions that the Kalpa-Vriksha (the tree which grants all the wishes) which appeared as the result of the Samudra Manthan (Churning of the Milky Ocean) was actually the Coral Jasmine or Night-flowering Jasmine. It is believed that Lord Vishnu's heavenly throne is placed under a flowering Parijata tree & Hanuman lives under its shade. According to mythology, this heavenly tree is brought to Earth by Lord Krishna as both of his wives, Satyabhama & Rukmini wanted this tree from heaven to be planted in their respective gardens. A quarrel over it ensued between both of them. So to keep both of them happy, Krishna planted the tree in Satyabhama's courtyard in such a way that when the tree flowered, the flowers fell in Rukmini's courtyard. 

The tree is reported to have high medicinal values in Ayurveda and is useful as anti-pyretic, anti-spasmodic & anti-inflammatory agent. An insecticidal effect of an extract from shade-dried leaves has also been reported.

Coral Jasmine is easily propagated by seeds or cuttings. It coppices readily & is not browsed by goats or cattle. The essential oil in the flowers of Coral Jasmine, which is similar to the oil in jasmine, is used as perfume. The corolla of the tree has been used as a source of yellow dye in traditional fabric dyeing.

Another tree that flowers at night, sheds flowers early in the morning and similarly carpet the ground with its lovely flowers is the Indian Cork tree (Millingtonia Hortensis/बूच). Its bark yields an inferior cork, hence the name. It is a traditional medicinal plant widely used in India.

Its dried flower is a good lung tonic & broncho-dilator. It is also used in the cough diseases. Extract of the leaves of has good antimicrobial activity. A study revealed that the tree has a potent mosquito larvicidal property and could be selected for further studies particularly those pertaining to its effect on growth & development of mosquitoes.

Also known as Tree Jasmine, it is easily propagated from root suckers & cuttings. The tree is a favorite garden tree and is a very fast grower. Leaves are very ornamental, even when not in bloom this plant is an eye stopper. The flowers of this drought resistant tree have very rich & pleasant scent.

The Divine Tree

Indian Tulip Tree (Thespesia Populnea/भेंड, पारस-पिंपळ) is a marvellous tree which is considered sacred in many countries. It is planted near temples & churches. Its name is derived from a Greek word thespesios which means 'divine'.

The beautiful tree has glossy green, heart-shaped leaves & yellow hibiscus-type flowers which bloom year round. It is interesting to know that these yellow flowers turn dark red, purple or pink as the day progresses. Thus the flower lasts for couple of days. In Tamil, the tree is known as Poovarasu which means 'King of Flowers'..apt name for such a lovely tree! The tree establishes well & grows rapidly. Its branches are closely set & form a dense crown, hence it is also known as Umbrella  tree.

Instead of being only a very good ornamental tree, it has a wide range of uses too! And these vary from use in dune stabilization or for medicine to the use as organic mulch. It is a tough tree which can survive the poor drainage & hot, dry conditions common to urban areas.

Indian Tulip Tree is an excellent species for coastal protection as it tolerates droughty sandy soils, brackish water, occasional water-logging, wind & salt spray. It also provides abundant leaf litter for use as mulch in sandy, coastal sites. The tree firmly anchors sandy soils & protects them from erosion. Hence being a soil improver & stabilizer and a excellent windbreak, it is also used as living fences. 

Its bark produces a strong fibre which is used for ropes, cordage, fishing lines, coffee bags etc. The flowers & its capsule are said to give a yellow dye & the bark produces tannin.

Indian Tulip has been used in many ways in traditional medicines in India. According to Ayurveda, Indian Tulip is astringent, acrid, cooling and is shown to be useful in skin related troubles, leprosy, diseases of blood & urinary system, diarrhoea, dysentry, cholera, diabetes, ascites etc.

Indian Tulip is a relatively easy tree to grow. It propagates easily from seed or from cuttings.

The Indian Tulip is occasionally confused with Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus Tiliaceus/बेलिपता) due to similar heart-shaped leaves, yellow flowers. Both these trees are, interestingly & shockingly, more or less similar in their uses also. Of course, there are differences in medical properties. But for other aspects, both of the trees can be called as replica of one another.

Sea Hibiscus tree is reputed to be a good forage plant for bees & the time to first flowering is typically 2–3 years of age. Sea Hibiscus has a noted ability to improve soil in organic matter & fertility, most likely through leaf drop & decomposition, which occurs at a moderately fast rate.

The People's Tree!

Peepal is one of the best known trees of India. It is a large, fast growing deciduous tree which has got mythological, religious and medicinal importance in Indian culture since times immemorial!

The Sacred Fig (Ficus Religiosa/पिंपळ, अश्वत्थ) is regarded as the representation of various Hindu Gods as well as Goddesses. It has a heart shaped leaves & large crown with the wonderful wide spreading branches. It can grow in any type of soil. It’s a native tree which gives shelter to lots of birds, insects & reptiles too. May be due to its importance in ecosystem, its also known as Vanaspati (Lord of Forest).

The Peepal tree is held sacred both by the Hindus and Buddhist. Peepal has the great importance in India especially among the Buddhist who regard Peepal tree as the personification of Buddha. According to the Buddha 'He who worships the Peepal will receive the same reward as if he worshiped me in person'. Because Lord Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment under this tree, it is often referred to as the Bodhi tree or the ‘Tree of Enlightenment’. Thus Peepal tree has its own symbolic meaning of Enlightenment and Peace. Hindus in India holds the great spiritual regard for the Peepal, they regard it as the tree beneath which Lord Vishnu was born. Peepal tree is considered highly sacred, as people are of the belief that our trinity.. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh & many other Gods used to reside underneath the tree. The tree is also believed to be associated with the Mother Goddess during the period of Indus Valley civilization. People revere the Peepal tree and also perform a pooja in its dedication.

It is considered to be the most auspicious tree in Hindu mythology which says,“Peepal tree is the abode of Gods and Goddesses” & hence the tree should never be harmed. The tree is also closely linked to Lord Krishna as in the Bhagavad Gita, He says,"Among trees, I am the Ashvattha." According to the Skanda Purana, if one does not have a son, the Peepal should be regarded as one. And as long as the tree lives, the family name will continue. People tie threads of white, red & yellow silk around it to pray for progeny & rewarding parenthood.

The tree also symbolises the continuity of life because the tree itself lives & grows for hundreds of years. Probably that's why this is the only tree which is honoured as the state tree of three Indian states.. Bihar, Haryana & Orissa. Peepal is one of the longest living trees. The Shri MahaBodhi tree, located in Bodh Gaya in the Indian state of Bihar, has a known planting date of 288 B.C. This is the oldest, verified age of any angiosperm or flowering plant!

This Tree of Life has also been recognized for the medicinal value in Ayurveda as well as Unani. Each and every part of the tree is used in treating one or the other ailments!

The leaves are a good fodder for elephants and cattle. The leaves are dried they are used for the decoration purpose. From the bark of the Peepal tree reddish dye is extracted. Its bark yields the tannin used in treating leather. The bark yields a tenacious milky juice which hardens into a substance resembling rubber. Its bark yields a fibre as well. The latex is used as a sealing wax to fill cavities.

It is a well known fact that plants utilise carbon dioxide for photo-synthesis & release oxygen during day time. But Peepal can also do a modified form of photosynthesis called as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism. Though they may not release large amount of oxygen by this process but they are capable of doing photosynthesis during night. Besides this research work conducted on several plants revealed that the Peepal releases large quantities of Isoprene a volatile organic compound necessary for preventing depletion of ozone layer concluding that these trees play an important role in preserving ozone layer.

Being such a wonderful & useful tree, it is obvious that our mythology do not allow to hurt the tree in anyway. To cut down a Peepal is considered a sin equivalent to killing a Brahmin, one of the five deadly sins (Pancha-pataka). According to the Skanda Purana, a person goes to hell for doing so!

Truly Peepal is one of the Nature’s valuable gifts. The highly beneficial tree is easily propagated through the seeds. It benefits not only humans but birds & insects too in multiple ways. Hope this heart-leaved sacred tree resides in your heart and you have the heart to plant one!

A Bird's Paradise

The Semal tree is one of the most beautiful trees of the Indian sub-continent. The fast growing tree which is also known as Red Silk-Cotton Tree (Bombax Ceiba/शाल्मली, काटेसांवर, सावरी) bears large red, orange or yellow flowers when bloom and the young tree flowers abundantly spreading its vibrant colors all around standing out in the landscape. It is widely planted in parks and on roadsides because of its beauty.

The impressive tree is very valuable also. Almost every part of the tree is of some use. The Calyx of the young flowers is cooked & eaten as a vegetable. The bark is soft-and is used in the manufacture of match sticks. It is even used by fishermen as floats for their nets. Fiber can be obtained from the tree which is water-resistant & is a valuable component in life jackets. It is also used in insulation and for stuffing. It's seeds yield a pale yellow edible oil, which can also be used for soap making and as a substitute for cotton seed oil. The inner wall of the fruit produces silky floss, which is used for filling pillows, quilts and sofas.

That is not the end of the wonders of the fire & drought resistant Semal tree. In Ayurveda also, almost each part of the tree is useful. Be it the root or flowers or its bark or fruits or its seeds or even its prickles! The gum is obtained from the tree known as Mocharas, has some repute in Ayurvedic medicine. The gum is cooling, astringent, stimulant, tonic & demulcent in nature. It is useful in dysentery, hemoptysis, pulmonary tuberculosis, influenza, burning sensation, menorrhagia, enteritis, for healing wounds and to stop bleeding. Flowers are astringent and good for skin troubles & haemorrhoids. Seeds are useful in treating gonorrhea & chronic cystitis. A paste made out of prickles is good for restoring skin color especially on the face. Young fruits are useful in calculus affections, chronic inflammations, ulceration of bladder & kidney.

Since Vedic times, the tree has been considered as God tree by various communities. God tree means that no one is allowed to hurt the tree in anyway. Even today the tree is worshiped, respected, guarded and conserved by number of tribes in Rajasthan, Manipur, Chhattisgarh & Madhya Pradesh being considered as a tree totem. The tree has so much importance amongst these tribes that some of them consider this tree as one of their own relatives and they used to praise its shade also!

The beautiful tree gives excellent shade except for Jan to March, when the leafless tree is in full bloom. At the time, the large red flowers create a spectacular look. The tree is propagated by seeds & large cuttings. Overnight soaking of seeds in cold water will increase the chances of germination.

No tree attracts birds to quite the extent of the Semal tree. There is a constant chatter of bird voices from the tree in bloom. Birds like Orioles, Crows, Bulbuls, Mynahs, Drongo, Tree Pie, Babblers, Great Tits, Sun-birds, Parakeets, Flower-Peckers and many other squabble & jostle for a sip of the delicious nectar. Bees & other insects which are attracted by flower's nectar, in turn attract many insects-eating birds too. And since the Semal trees is large & tall, it becomes the favorite roosting and resting sites for the large birds especially the vultures and eagles as well! These all with other small birds make up a grand symphony of nature. The man who doesn't feel excited in the presence of such beauty surely must be a heartless fellow.

The Real Gold

Being considered to be as valuable as gold for its medicinal values, there is a ritual of exchanging Sonpatta leaves during Dussehra in India. This story has a hidden meaning to it.. It teaches us to share whatever we have with each other. It teaches us to enjoy the Joy of Giving! The one who gives also gets something. We too have something to exchange, as much valuable as the leaves exchanged during Dussehra and that is..our heart.

The Sonpatta Tree (Piliostigma Racemosum/आपटा, श्वेत-कांचन) is a rare medicinal tree which can grow in poor & very harsh climatic conditions. The deciduous tree is propagated easily from seed.

Almost each & every part of this tree has some medicinal values. The stem bark of the tree is an astringent and is used in the treatment of headache, fever, skin diseases, blood diseases, dysentery & diarrhoea. A decoction of the bark is recommended as a useful wash for ulcers. The tree is demonstrated to have anti-oxidant & hepato-protective effects. An extract of the leaves has been proved to show analgesic, anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anthelmintic and anti-microbial activity too. The tree has anti-tumor qualities and is widely used in Ayurveda to treat first stage cancer.

The tree has small, creamy white or yellow coloured flowers in axillary or terminal racemes.  The flowers are laxative & seeds are anti-bacterial.

The leaves are used for making bidis (Bidi Leaf Tree). The tree yields a useful gum & fibres. The bark is used for tanning and dyeing.

Despite having so much importance during Dussehra, the rare tree is brutally treated on the Dussehra itself. Taking few leaves is different thing. But people and those who sell these leaves on the day, usually end up defoliating almost the entire tree and ruthlessly breaking its branches. I don't think hurting a live sacred tree will serve the purpose of Dussehra..the purpose of increasing cordiality in relations; to achieve victory over demons. Instead, why not plant or gift the tree itself to our loved ones? The live gold will be a perfect gift on this Dussehra! :-)

The Sonpatta tree is worshipped with the recitation of special prayer, asking for victory over one’s defects & enemies, success in one’s endeavors and reunion with friends..

Ashmantak Mahavruksha Mahadoshnivaran
Istana darshanm dehi kuru shtruvinashnam

Meaning: O great Apta (Ashmantak) tree, you are the one who overcomes great defects. Unite me with my friends and destroy my foes.

There are another two fast growing native species which are commonly mistaken for Sonpatta due to same bi-lobed leaves, known as Purple Orchid Tree (Phanera Purpurea/कांचन) and Orchid Tree (Phanera Variegata/ रक्त-कांचन). These both trees have almost all the qualities of Sonpatta tree.

The leaves of Purple Orchid tree make good fodder for sheep, goats & cattle. The flowers are of much importance in Apiculture. And also as a pot herb in curries & made into pickle (chutni). It is planted for its value as well as for its extreme beauty. It is one of the loveliest of Indian trees. The tree is staggeringly beautiful when in bloom..and it blooms for several months!

The Orchid tree got its name Variegata due to variegated nature of its flower. Its flowers can be found in shades of magenta, lavender, purplish blue or even white.

The King of Deserts

Some must have heard about this tree in our great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. The tree that represents the Goddess of Power is worshiped by Pandavas who hid their weapons in it during Agyatavasa as well as Rama before advancing his army to kill Ravana. But the greatness of Khejri tree (Prosopis Cineraria/शमी) is not limited to this mention.

An evergreen thorny tree which can grow in very harsh climate & in poor soil, well adapted to the arid conditions and also stands well to the browsing by animals. Khejri withstands hot winds & dry seasons and exhibits considerable drought hardiness. The tree reproduces freely by root suckers and establishes well from seeds too. The seeds should be soaked for 24 hours before plantation.

Khejri is reported to be astringent, demulcent & pectoral too, a folk remedy for various ailments. The bark, considered anthelmintic, tonic & refrigerant, can be used to treat a variety of other ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, dysentery, skin disorders, leprosy, muscle tremors, piles and wandering of the mind too!

But the value of the tree goes much beyond its medicinal properties.

The root system of Khejri is long, deep & well developed, securing a firm footing for the plant and allowing it to obtain moisture from ground-water. It do not compete for moisture and nutrients with crops. A symbiotic relationship with some bacteria allow it to fix nitrogen in the soil, improving soil fertility. Furthermore it also adds organic matter through leaf litter decomposition, rejuvenating poor soils. It coppices readily & profusely. Owing to all these, Khejri is compatible with agrihorticultural crops. The tree boosts the growth and productivity of the companion plants.

Due to its importance in afforestation of arid & semi arid areas, rural communities encourage the growth of Khejri in their agricultural fields, pastures & village community lands. Because of its extensive root system, it stabilizes shifting sand dunes and is also useful as a wind-break. Because it is the only tree species in arid regions, it provides provides much needed shade & shelter to the farmers working in the fields as well as to the cattle & wildlife during the summer months.

Khejri pods are used as vegetable in the dried and green form in many parts of the Thar desert. In Rajasthan, during times of famine, people used eat the bark of the tree. It being an excellent fuel, gives high-quality charcoal. The tree yields a pale to amber coloured gum with properties similar of gum acacias. Bark and leaf galls used for tanning. It is one of the much valued & best browse plants for cattles, sheep, camels.

Being such a multi-purpose tree, no doubt it is highly worshiped by Bishnoi community. In Rajasthan, the tree is treated with the reverence that the Banyan & Peepal command elsewhere in India. Its a state tree of Rajasthan. In 1731, Amrita Devi sacrificed her life to protect Khejri trees with 363 other people who were also killed defending the trees.

In some parts of south India, the leaves of the Khejri are soaked in water until the day before Diwali when people bathe with this water. People consider it to be symbol of good luck. The tree is worshipped with the recitation of the special prayer, asking for victory over one’s defects..

Shami Shamayate papam shami lokhitkantaka
Dharinyarjunbananam Ramasya priyavadini
Karishmanyatraya yathakal such mya
Tatra nirvighanktri twam bhav Sree Rampujite

Meaning: The Shami tree cleanses sins. Its thorns are reddish in colour. It is Lord Rama's favourite tree and in such a tree Pandavas hid their arms. O Shami, Lord Rama has worshipped you. I now embark upon my journey to victory. May you make it pleasant and free from obstacles!

Arishta..Reliever of sickness!

Thank you God you created Neem tree!!!

As each part of Neem (Azadirachta Indica/कडुनिंब) is used in the medicines, it has been used in Ayurveda for more than 4000 years. It is referred as Sarva Roga Nivarini in our Vedas which means 'the one that cures all ailments & illnesses'. Owing to its versatile characteristics, it is rightly called the Village Pharmacy. Due to which, the tree is gaining respect throughout the world.

The seeds & leaves contain compounds which are demonstrated to have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-pyretic, hypotensive, anti-ulcerating, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-malarial activity also! Variety of skin diseases, septic sores, infected burns, small-pox, chicken-pox & warts have traditionally been treated with paste of neem leaves.

It is far more than a tough tree that grows vigorously in difficult site. Among its numerous benefits, one that is most unexpected & immediately practical is to control farm & household pest. Number of flies. bugs & crop-pests as snails, nematodes, larvae of number of mosquito species (Anopheles & Aedes also) are sensitive to Neem. But the interesting fact is, it seems remarkably benign to earthworms, butterflies, bees & insects that contribute in pollination, ladybugs that consume aphids & wasps that acts as a parasite on various crop-pests.

Neem truly is a farmer's friend. Very useful as windbreak and a welcome source of shade. The tree can grow in some marginal lands also, thus it may not displace the food crops. It is beneficial for soil too! Its extensive deep roots seem to have remarkable effect at extracting nutrients from poor soil & these enter the top soil as leaves & twigs fall & decay. the leaves which are alkaline in nature are believed to neutralise the acidity in the soil. Thus it can help some worn-out lands return to productive use that are currently unsuited to crops. Its seed-cake (remnant after extraction of a oil, a potential biodiesel) is good fertilizer containing nitrogen, potash, phosphorous, calcium & magnesium. Earlier most of poor farmers used to mix handful of neem leaves in their stored grains for controlling pests. But now they do not want to be stigmatized as backward for following an ancestral & traditional practice. The key to quickly overcoming this misguided attitude is to show that using neem in modern than modern techniques for which these farmers are paying big money.

It is a beautiful tree which flowers in the beginning of summer in creamy white cluster. It can be planted easily using seeds, seedlings, samplings. The seeds should be sown soon after the fruit has ripened. Its growth is comparatively slow. But coppices (re-sprout & grow back vigorously after branches being cut) freely and following regrowth can be exceptionally fast as its being served by the root system large enough to feed a full grown tree.

The fertilizers made from Neem leaves & seeds are much in demand. Neem is also used in the manufacture of soap. A tonic wine is prepared from the bark. Neem reduce erosion & deforestation. The tree is known to fight Desertification. It has been used successfully in rehabilitating the waste land areas. Neem bark contains tannins which are used in tanning and dyeing industries.

Neem, state tree of Andhra Pradesh, can be a best avenue tree (one which is planted alongside roads & highways). Neem gives out more oxygen than many other trees. The temperature under this tree has been found to be ~10°C less than the surrounding temperature. It is said that planting Neem tree near the house is a ensured passage to heaven. On the day of Gudi-Padwa, its leaves are tied on the main entrance to remain away from the evil spirits.

A Wonder tree indeed!

'Tree planting event? Its all crap!!'

"These tree plantation events is the work of idle people, seeking ways to become famous." This is how majority of people, especially elders think about the tree planting enthusiasts. And unfortunately, they are not completely wrong!

I have seen or heard of many groups & campaigns which plant trees alongside roads. Sometimes near schools with the help of school children. I agree, its very good act to teach & explain the importance of trees to the future of our nation, school children. But what about the maintenance of plants? Many times the volunteer students watch them dying due to lack of care it deserves. Ever thought, what impression would it have on those children's mind?!

During this monsoon, one such group planted near about 80 well-grown saplings as avenue trees. Fortunately, due to good rain, not many died down due to lack of water. But that's not the single reason for sapling's death.. Want to know, what happened to them in last few weeks?

Many died due to building works in progress in the area. And many due to storage of the construction material. These builders are not going to care for the plants unless you do.. The saplings can easily be stamped out by workers or stray animals if planted without a tree-guard.
(The brown line represents the died saplings)

The sapling tends to attract grazing animals. So after, say two-three weeks, one can only find weed flourishing there.
What a waste of a well-grown sapling if it is being eaten by stray animals!
Can you spot the Amla plant in the adjacent picture?
Weed can also create a problem for a growing sapling as they compete the plant for water, nutrition & space.

The purpose of these pictures is not to discourage the planting events or to show the mistakes of other tree enthusiasts; but to make them realize the condition of their plants if not taken care of...

Some might ask,"Why didn't I take care of them instead of just photographing?"
Well, yes I much as I could... But how long they could have survived without a tree-guard!

If you want the planted sapling to survive & grow, you have to get the local community residing near the plantation area involved. Just going somewhere, planting saplings without involvement of local community and having number of photographic sessions for publicity is not going to work. Rather, it haven't till date!

The Nashik Municipal Corporation do have or can arrange for the requisites for tree-plantation easily. So do they plant & grow the saplings successfully?
Unfortunately NO!

Many times, NMC workers literally don't use their head before planting. They are usually provided with a target and they just want to finish it off. Have a look at this picture.. It clearly shows that they have planted wrong trees, Royal Poinciana at wrong place, in a private land! (The black line represents the extent of private land)
The only effect of this plantation was the plot owner fenced his land the next morning!

Nashik nature lovers objected markedly to the issue of cutting trees for widening the National Highway-3. But no one seems to care about the species of saplings planted now for compensation. Our sacred 100-200 years old Peepal and Banyan trees are being replaced by Copperpod & Royal Poinciana! Its crap for sure!!

Its time not to wait for someone to plant trees or just to blame others. Its time to act now! Here are few suggestions to follow before tree plantation..

1. First & foremost, you should know at least one person from the area you are planning for tree plantation so that he/she can water & look after the trees till they mature and inform us about their progress. If not possible, then try and arrange the plantation event in a area which is easily accessible to you.

2. Before plantation, you should be ready with the tree-guards or fencing. Without these, its of no use as it is going to attract lots of grazing animals.

3. You should visit the place periodically to check for weeds and pests if any.

'Gifting Trees...' is working hard enough to achieve the pre- and post-requisites before any plantation. Its all right if you plant less, but if you are planting a tree, then you have to take the responsibility of growing the tree also..This is our motto. Because everything will go waste otherwise..

So next time when you plan a tree plantation event, do something for maintenance of saplings also instead of just showing off. Take the responsibility of planting & growing a native tree.. Take it as a challenge! Then only you will make a difference..!

Do some trees really harm our environment?!

Well, unfortunately on a long term basis.. Yes!

The tree to be selected for plantation in a locality must be able to adapt to the area's climate, soil, topography and plant & animal life. But there are number of species of trees around us. Every species has its own way of performing various activities like getting their nutrition & water, growing, rooting, pollinating, multiplying, competing with other species & surviving..

There are trees which are useful to us. Some also have unique medicinal properties. Some trees are also preferred in farmlands as they are beneficial to the crops. On the other hand, there are trees which are troublesome, weedy or poisonous too.. That's the variety of Nature!! So which one should be selected for plantation and which one must be avoided?

And when we search the web for useful & multipurpose trees, we get more than 70% of trees that are not native to India. All of these claiming to be very useful even in Agroforestry in foreign countries. But this doesn't mean that we can also use & apply them in India while expecting the same returns. The foreign authors of the agroforestry articles/presentations are right at their place because they are studying and using their native trees. But for us, the case is different. Don't we have our own native agroforestry trees? Of course We do.. Remember, India has the second largest tree treasuries in the world. We just need to know about them :)
But before knowing what to plant, let us know what not to plant and why?!

One has to keep in mind that the introduced trees do not support our ecosystem. According to experts, these trees are driving away our wildlife. As these trees do not host birds or insects, they can not participate effectively in the food chain. Food chains or Food webs are the representatives of the relationships of living organisms in nature and are very essential for the balance of nature. Imagine, if we keep planting these non-native trees, our food chain is definitely going to disturb, so as our balance of nature. And if there will be no or very less native trees, where our birds, butterflies, insects will go then?

Its ridiculous to know that many of our native trees are much more high priced in nurseries than the non-native ones. And its not a proud thing at all. It simply suggests that in our region, the non-native & introduced trees are much more common than our own trees! Biggest misfortune is what I call it!!

Some also argue that we need these non-native trees to fight the ever-increasing global warming as they are fast growing and if we plant our native slow growing trees, then it will be difficult for us to fight back. Few days back, I met this interesting fellow who has spent his entire life serving the Forest Department. He also dared to compare Gulmohar & Banyan tree saying that after 5 years, which one will be big? After listening to him, I just asked, "And after 25 years, which one will be more useful to humans as well as wildlife?" My question was enough for him to change the topic! People tend to cuddle the immediate benefits and simply ignore the huge future loss..

Here are some trees which must not be included in tree planting campaigns..

Royal Poinciana or Gulmohar (Delonix Regia/गुलमोहर) is very common everywhere in India. You will not have any problem if you want to see the tree. It is native of Madagascar & Zambia.

It is a tree as good as plastic for wildlife. It has superficial roots and competes successfully with neighbouring plants. It is the tree which tend to fall easily during storms.

Copperpod (Peltophorum Pterocarpum/सोनमोहर) is not different from Royal Poinciana. It is native of Sri Lanka, Malesia & Australia. It is also native to Andaman islands of India. Thats the reason it is introduced to you as if its native to India. But actually, the atmosphere and flora & fauna of Andaman is quite different from India.

It has densely spreading canopy which retards the growth of other neighbouring plants.

Leucaena or White Babool (Leucaena Leucocephala/सुबाभूळ) is native of Mexico and Central America. Though it was introduced in India as a fodder & afforesting species, now it is considered unsuitable for urban plantation because of its tendency to get uprooted in rain & wind. Its foliage contains mimosine, toxic to ruminants if consumed in excessive amounts.

The tree has the potential to become a pest or rather, it has become one in India. It is considered one of the 100 worst invasive species Invasive Species Specialist Group of IUCN Species Survival Commission. Though locally known as Subabhul (Good Babool) due to no thorns, its actually a Kubabhul (Worst Babool).

Eucalyptus group or Gum trees (Eucalyptus spp./निलगिरी) are native of Australia. It is a widespread invasive water-sucker.

Many communities in India, Asia, Central America, the Caribbean and Africa are suffering from the long term damage caused by massive eucalyptus plantings. At first, most communities were content with having a tree. But the root system, barely under the surface of the soil, continued to widen into fields where farmers once grew crops. Farmers quickly discovered that eucalyptus trees are causing problems with their roots, taking all available water and nutrients from neighboring trees and crops. And their leaves are blanketing the ground inhibiting new growth. Eucalyptus trees inhibit the growth of other vegetation exposing soils to erosion, and cause lakes & ground water to disappear.

African Tulip (Spathodea Campanulata/रगतुरा) is native to Africa. It has the potential to become invasive.

It is not useful for avian-wildlife in India, nor is browsed by domestic animals. I have seen mass plantation of this tree even in a tourist place like Lonavala, as if we don't have our native ornamental trees. Or do we want our foreign tourists to know that We have bravely planted the trees which are not preferred for plantation near residential societies in its native countries also. It is said that African hunters make use of its nuts by boiling the centres and thus obtaining a poisonous liquid.

Silky Oak or Silver Oak (Grevillea Robusta/सिल्वर ओक) is native of eastern coastal Australia.

It is not resistant to persistent strong winds. This tree can become weedy or invasive according to the authoritative source USDI Geological survey. It is reported to become a pest in several countries. Its leaves produce an allelopathic substance which inhibits the establishment and development of other species. Also is a 'plastic tree' for birds.

Mexican Lilac or Gliricidia (Gliricidia Sepium/उंदीरमार) is one of the easily toppled species in strong wind. It is native to Mexico and Central America.

The tree is reported to lower the ground water level markedly. It also inhibit the new growth due to a thick cover of its leaves on the ground. The roots, bark & seeds are proven to be poisonous.

Rain Tree (Samanea Saman/पर्जन्य वृक्ष, गुलाबी सरस) is native to South and Central America.

It has umbrella-like wide spreading canopy and massive branching. It, therefore, inhibits development and growth of neighbouring plants. It has an extensive surface root system, which may interfere with agricultural activities or landscape maintenance. The seeds have been found to contain a toxic alkaloid, which may account for the occasional deaths of cattle which graze near the tree.

Blue Jacaranda (Jacaranda Mimosifolia/नीलमोहर) is same as Royal Poinciana. It is native of South America.

It is considered as an invasive species in many countries. It too acts as a plastic tree for Indian avi-fauna.

Australian wattle (Acacia Auriculiformis), as the name suggests, is native of Australia.

It is very weak tree as strong wind easily breaks its branches. It is considered as a threat to indigenous flora. Its fallen leaves make a thick carpet on the ground preventing development of other species. 

Sausage Tree (Kigelia Africana) is native of Africa.

This tree has a rather invasive root system. It has a big fruit and the falling fruit can cause serious injury to people and damage vehicles parked under the trees.

Finally, one has to accept that No tree is perfect. So decision is yours now. If you plant and grow trees, its a good thing! But planting Native Indigenous trees is bestest!!!  The tree species that has been living in India from many centuries and endowing benefits not only to humans but also to wildlife & our ecosystem deserves the priority.

We do have many of beautiful, fast-growing, unique & multi-purpose trees that can be used in plantation campaigns.
Get ready to be acquainted with them...

An Initiative

So You want to heal the environment now.. You want to reduce the global warming.. You want to reduce the pollution caused by you directly or indirectly.. You want to see those sparrows near your house again.. And You want to plant a tree for a good cause.. A tree as a gift for someone You care for...

Well that's not the only thing which is expected from You!

Importantly, Trees that are planted or gifted must be Native to the area. Indigenous trees support the local Ecosystem. They hosts number of various birds, insects, bees, butterflies & squirrels. According to some experts, planting of trees such as Gulmohar, Luecaena or Eucalyptus, which are not native to India, are driving away the birds & insects. Because the flowers, fruits or wood of these plants is new to them and they are least interested in accepting these trees as their new 'food' or 'home'. The indigenous trees like Banyan, Peepal or Neem is what they prefer. There are number of Gifts we get from these Native Trees. In order to restore the biodiversity, we must plant multi-purpose trees to create conditions that allow the native species to thrive. I will also enlist some of the indigenous trees with their importance which may be helpful for you while choosing a tree for plantation.

Trees are most often defined as "a woody perennial plant of considerable size, usually over thirteen feet high, that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single self-supporting main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance."
So why am I calling these saplings a tree?!
Its because I hopefully want to see each one of them well grown in a Tree!!!

Usually, we prefer flowers when we give gifts, but Gifting a tree is a good idea on many levels. For one, they last longer than a bouquet of flowers. They are something that your friend or loved one can hold onto, cherish and care for in turn. And it’s really something that can be nurtured and taken care of over a course of time. This just isn’t possible with a bouquet of flowers. So for the more substantial friendship, you could say, you will want to give a tree, instead. :-) It’s a true sign of life, because it’s more alive than any cut stem could ever be!

What could be a better way to greet/honour someone or celebrate an occasion other than by gifting a tree? Well, it serves two purposes. First, giving a unique gift to our friends/relatives. Second & important one, as the gift is given by a person, he/she or the receiver tend to look after the planted sapling. I have seen many groups or individuals planting trees as if they have to make some kind of world record. But very very few of them bother to take care of the plant till it matures. Others just leave the plants to die. Its a pure waste of time, labour & precious saplings.

Trees can thrive even in critical conditions and that's why are frequently planted as living memorials. We often become personally attached to trees that we or those we love have planted. A living, breathing & growing gift that lives for several decades or even a century and significantly benefits us as well as the environment.

Trees are inspirational gifts conveying hope, growth & generosity. Gift & dedicate trees to people you would like to greet or honour..

Gifting the trees will transform lives of native wildlife species and human beings too, even where transformation is most critical. Trees are living symbols of hope for our existence on the planet & our future. They are living solutions for our people in need of food, water, clean air and environment protection in the face of increasing climatic instability..!

5th Sep 2010