'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 did..as 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