The Blue Mist Tree

Ironwood tree or Anjani (Memecylon Umbellatum/अंजनी) is a small, evergreen tree with amazing bright blue flowers and with dense, dark green foliage. The tree is a predominant arboreal species in the dry evergreen and semi-deciduous tropical forests along the western and eastern coasts. It is also known as ‘Pride of Matheran’ as it is found in abundance at the famous hill station Matheran, in Maharashtra.

The flowers are mildly scented and are so beautiful that they look almost unreal. The tree produces showy clusters of tiny purple flowers, which are grouped in great quantity in axillary umbrellas, close together and compact, appear in the lower part of the branches having no leaves. The trees bloom once or twice a year and are then indeed a beautiful sight. As the flower petals are shed, the soil below appears purple in colour. May be that’s why the tree is also called Blue Mist tree. 

The fruits of Ironwood tree are small, about 1cm and are green, turning red then black as they ripen. The fruits are pulpy, astringent & edible and were consumed in the past during famine periods. The leaf edges look golden if held against light. All together flowers, fruits and leaves make it a wonderful play of colours. 

This tree is not only beautiful, but also useful. It provides hard timber used for making boats. Dyes employed in the textile factories are extracted from its leaves and flowers. Although the species is widespread in nature and is much appreciated by the local populations, it is relatively little known in urban localities. It is a tough species having a long tap-root system. It usually & easily reproduces by seeds and the growth is moderately fast. 

The tree had a long history of traditional uses for wide range of diseases. It has been proved that various parts of the plant were used in traditional systems of Ayurveda to treat various ailments. In recent years it has been experimentally proved that the plant possess analgesic, anti-inflammatory, wound healing, hypoglycemic, antimicrobial, anti-spasmodic, nephro-protective and hepato-protective activity. In Ayurveda, the leaves are used as a cooling astringent and are given in leucorrhoea & gonorrhea. The leaves are reported to possess antiviral activity and also used in snakebite. The seeds are used to cure cough and sedative. Anjani is one of the important medicinal plants used by Paliyan tribes in Sirumalai hills of Eastern Ghats of India, especially for skin diseases.

We should not underestimate its potentiality as Agroforestry species. The tree can be used as windbreaks at farms. Also it does not compete with adjacent plants for water due to the long tap-root. Without doubt, it is an ornamental plant having showy blooming which, almost entirely, covers the branches in the part bearing no leaves. The flowers and fruits are visited by bees, butterflies and birds; increasing its natural beauty beyond limits! 

1 comment:

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