Phoenix of the Forest

One of the most conspicuous trees.. Wild Date Palm (Phoenix Sylvestris/खजुर, शिंदी) is a graceful tree with attractive crown. It is a fast growing palm that can get up to 40-50ft tall. It has a solitary robust trunk, with interesting diamond pattern created by leaf scars.

It is one of the most popular palm trees in the world. And its beauty proves why! Without crown-shaft 90-100 large pinnate, feather-shaped, leaves emerge at the top of the trunk. Leaves are about 10-15ft long, blue-green color, slightly curved, with 100-120 sharply pointed at the end leaflets. This spectacular palm is often used throughout luxury homes, renowned golf courses or for avenue planting. It is also known as Sugar Date Palm, Indian Date Palm & Silver Date Palm.

The meaning of botanical name of the tree is 'Phoenix of the Forest'. I don't know why it is chosen. But possibly because of the hardy nature of the tree. It is tolerant of drought, frost and is hardly attacked by pests. Furthermore, it is widely adaptable to variety of soils. It can even tolerate moderate salty soil. Not only that, it also shelters number of birds. It is one of the favourite tree as a nesting site by Baya Weaver bird. This palm is easy to grow and can promisingly grown from seeds. Before sowing, 12 hour cold water soaking speeds up the germination.

The Wild Date Palm produces small white flowers supported by 2-3ft long branching inflorescence coming from among the leaves. The tree is dioecious, male and female flowers are born on different plants. Flowers are followed by oval, single seeded fruits, turning purple-black when ripe. Fruits are editable and have sweet taste.

Other parts of the tree have their uses. Sleeping mats are woven from the leaves and baskets from the leaf-stalks; these are also twisted into ropes used, among other things, for drawing water from wells. The leaves can also be used as roughage. The tree is valued for its sap, which is extracted and distilled into a potent spirit.

The palm has numerous medicinal properties. The fruit is cooling, oleaginous, cardiotonic, fattening, constipative, good in heart complaints, abdominal complaints, fevers, vomiting and loss of consciousness. It is also used in the cure for gonorrhea. The juice obtained from the tree is considered to be a cooling beverage. The plants growing in the plains yield a good amount of juice which is used for making toddy and jaggery. The juice, as such, can also be drunk.

The tree can be a agroforestry species as it provides a good fodder for cattle and is believed to increase the fat content of milk. It is an ornamental tree and can also be used as an avenue plant. Though it is one of the first fruit trees to be cultivated, nowadays its often neglected.

The Tree of Life

To enumerate the virtues of this tree would occupy many pages, however, most of the uses are well known. Coconut (Cocos Nucifera/नारळ, श्रीफळ, कल्पवृक्ष) is an amazing tree! It is known for its great versatility as seen in the many domestic, commercial and industrial uses of its different parts. Suffice it to say that every part of the plant is used for some purpose or other; and in some of the islands the people living on them are largely dependent on the Coconut. It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. Interestingly, the term 'Coconut' can refer to the entire Coconut Palm, the seed or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut.

Coconut is a very beautiful tree, a favorite choice of landscape developers. Anyone may fall in love the Coconut orchard or seaside Coconut palms! But the tree is equally..or actually, slightly more useful! The Coconut is a versatile tree crop; no other tree crop grown can match Coconut palm in its versatility. Nearly all parts of the palm are useful, and it has significant economic value. It provides nutritious food and a refreshing drink, oil for edible and non-edible uses, fibre of commercial value, shell for fuel and industrial uses, thatch, an alcoholic beverage, timber and a variety of miscellaneous products for use as domestic fuel.

The sacred Coconut is supposed to be one of the five legendary Devavrikshas and is eulogized as Kalpavriksha - the all giving tree in Indian classics. All parts of the palm are used in someway or another in the daily life of the people of the west coast of India; the traditional Coconut growing area. Its fruit is used in social and religious functions in India irrespective of whether palm is locally grown or not.

It is an essential element of rituals in Hindu tradition. It is offered during worship to a Hindu God or Goddess. Irrespective of their religious affiliation, fishermen of India often offer it to the rivers and seas in the hopes of having bountiful catches. Hindus often initiate the beginning of any new activity by breaking a Coconut to ensure the blessings of the Gods and successful completion of the activity. The Hindu Goddess of well-being and wealth, Lakshmi, is often shown holding a Coconut. In Hindu wedding ceremonies, a Coconut is placed over the opening of a pot, representing a womb. Coconut flowers are auspicious symbols at Hindu & Buddhist weddings and other important occasions. In Kerala, coconut flowers must be present during a marriage ceremony. The flowers are inserted into a barrel of unhusked rice (paddy) and placed within sight of the wedding ceremony. This all is, however, not enough to explain the importance of the tree.

Commercially, an oil is obtained from the nut. It can be used to make shampoos and applied to the scalp to enrich the hair or encourage its growth. Refined, it is taken as a substitute for cod-liver oil. It is almost indispensable to the native for culinary purposes, in lamps and as a liniment, while large quantities are shipped abroad for use in the manufacture of soap and candles.

Commercial Copra is obtained by cutting the nut open and drying the white meat. This is used extensively in confectionery, margarine, etc. The Copra residue is the dried kernels after the oil has been expressed and is used as a fattening food for fowls and cattle, also as manure for young palms. Coir is the thick, fibrous rind of the nut and has many uses. It is equally adequate as a stuffing for mattresses and saddles, for making carpets and mats and for the construction of strong ropes, durable in salt water. Dried and polished, the hard cases of the nuts make useful cups and vessels. Burnt husks form a useful sort of potash that is used to fertilize the trees. The husks also make valuable mulch for moisture conservation in the dry season and help to suppress weeds. Perhaps, apart from these various products, most interesting product from the tree is Neera, a non-alcoholic and unfermented beverage. It is the sap derived from incising the flower clusters of the Coconut and when fermented, it gets converted to Toddy. From this Toddy, even sugar or jaggery can be obtained.

The Coconut provides a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk and oil that has fed and nourished populations around the world for generations. On many islands Coconut is a staple in the diet and provides the majority of the food eaten. Nearly one third of the world's population depends on Coconut to some degree for their food and their economy. Among these cultures the Coconut has a long and respected history.

Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is classified as a 'Functional food' because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders consider Coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The Coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called 'The Tree of Life.' Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to Coconut's amazing healing powers.

Modern medical science is now confirming the use of Coconut in treating many of the above conditions. Published studies in medical journals show that Coconut, in one form or another, may provide a wide range of health benefits. Some of these are summarized below:

Coconut - 1. Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS and other illnesses.
2. Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease & cavities, pneumonia, gonorrhea and other diseases.
3. Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash and other infections.
4. Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia and other parasites.
5. Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
6. Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
7. Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
8. Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
9. Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
10. Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
11. Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
12. Reduces problems associated with mal-absorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
13. Improves calcium & magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones & teeth.
14. Helps protect against osteoporosis.
15. Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
16. Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and stomach ulcers.
17. Improves digestion and bowel function.
18. Relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids.
19. Reduces inflammation.
20. Supports tissue healing and repair.
21. Supports and aids immune system function.
22. Helps protect the body from breast, colon and other cancers.
23. Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
24. Protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease.
25. Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay.
26. Functions as a protective antioxidant.
27. Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
28. Does not deplete the body's antioxidant reserves like other oils do.
29. Improves utilization of essential fatty acids and protects them from oxidation.
30. Helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
31. Relieves symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia.
32. Reduces epileptic seizures.
33. Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
34. Dissolves kidney stones.
35. Helps prevent liver disease.
36. Is lower in calories than all other fats.
37. Supports thyroid function.
38. Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate.
39. Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
40. Helps prevent obesity and overweight problems.
41. Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection.
42. Reduces symptoms associated the psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis.
43. Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
44. Softens skin and helps relieve dryness & flaking.
45. Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin and age spots.
46. Promotes healthy looking hair and complexion.
47. Provides protection from damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
48. Helps control dandruff.
49. Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do.
50. Has no harmful or discomforting side effects and is completely non-toxic to humans & animals.

Huhh !! So much this hardy tree has inside it! Though it takes much time to germinate from seed, once established it grows rapidly. The Coconut palm thrives on sandy soils and is highly tolerant of salinity.

Some people believe that this coconut palm is the symbol of romance in the tropics. People associate the Coconut palm with relaxation and shade looking out over the sea to the horizon!

Coconut is the state tree of southern Indian state of Kerala. In fact, Kerala is named after the Coconut tree. Kera means Coconut tree and Alam means Land; so 'Land of Coconut Trees'. Various terms like Copra, Coir are derived from the native Malayalam language. Coconuts' versatility is sometimes noted in its naming. In Sanskrit, it is Kalpavriksha meaning 'the tree which provides all the necessities of life' and in the Malay language, it is Pokok Seribu Guna which means 'the tree of a thousand uses'. :-)

People from many diverse cultures, languages, religions and races scattered around the globe have revered the Coconut as a valuable source of both food and medicine. Wherever the Coconut palm grows the people have learned of its importance as a effective medicine. For thousands of years Coconut products have held a respected and valuable place in local folk medicine.

"Plant Trees, Nurture Trees, Save Trees!"

Today, bird's chatter woke me up early in the morning. In fact I am used to it now! I have planted numerous native trees in a garden near my house. Actually it was just an open space out there four years ago, where public used to throw their garbage; I made it a garden. So not only birds, but the garden was regularly visited by colourful butterflies, lizards and diverse insects also. I used to enjoy this lovely & delightful scene everyday. I was very much into nature since childhood. I even remember me running behind butterflies and birds. 'Why I could not fly like them?' the thought that haunted me several times!

Anyways, while enjoying the chirp of different birds, I came into the garden. Visiting the garden, watering plants is my favorite pastime. Even my little friends used enjoy this shower, which include Bulbuls, Prinias, Sparrows, Sunbirds, White-Eyes and Drongos! Koel also used to visit quite a few times. I called them friends because we all used to meet everyday. We never skipped our meeting! :) Today also we enjoyed together like hell. It was amazing! I used to love this event. Why only near my house? Whole city and the surrounding should wear green, I felt.

But only daydreaming doesn't help, does it? May be that is why I enrolled as a active member in a local nature society. Together we used to organize tree planting campaigns. "Plant Trees, Nurture Trees, Save Trees!", yes this is work for me. God allotted this noble work to me and I will devote at least some of my time to this. It also helped me to meet other nature-loving people. I always felt proud our work. In the ever increasing concrete jungle, if we can create a suitable habitat for birds and insects, then what else could be better than this?!

Today also I planted a new native sapling. It was swaying due to wind. Then only I heard the sound thak thak. I moved my head towards the sound and there was a man felling a road-side tree. Oh! He was the same watchman who lives in a neighboring building. Nowadays, these guys are hired during construction of the building. They get only a tin-shed. And then they kill such living trees for cooking & other purposes. Sad! I knew one can file a complaint at police station for illegal tree felling.

My face turned red. I was losing my temper. I thought, do we plant trees for these nonsense, selfish guys or what?! These people only are responsible for Global Warming and Climate Change! I came into the house. And my feet turned to the telephone kept on a wooden teapoy. Suddenly..I stopped on the spot! My focus diverted on our wooden furniture. Chair, bed, desk, much stuff! O God! How many trees were cut for all these?! My anger was replaced by shame. I had cut many trees. What even if I had bought these articles, many trees were killed for them, wasn't it? We buy & love wooden articles but it is main reason for trees or forests being cut!

My feet just went lifeless and my head got crowded by numerous thoughts!