The Pink Pearl!

Indian Cherry (Cordia Dichotoma/भोकर, गोंधण, लसोडा) is a medium sized, almost evergreen tree with a short bole & spreading crown. It is a very important species when it comes to avifauna and arboreal animals.

The flowers are small, short-stalked, bisexual, white in colour. Flowers open only at night, hence hardly noticed. Fruits are sweet, sticky & edible; yellow or pinkish-yellow shining globose which turns black on ripening. The immature fruits are pickled and are also used as a vegetable. The tree shed leaves for a short period in early summer. It has elliptical to broadly ovate shaped, bright green leaves.

Being a quick-growing fruit tree, performing well under semi-arid conditions, Indian Cherry is suitable for planting along boundary & farm roads. The tree coppices and pollards well. The leaves are fed upon by butterfly larvae of the Oakblue butterfly and are also lopped for fodder. The seed kernel has medicinal properties and has potential as cattle feed. It is often cultivated for its fruits. It is propagated by seeds. Young seedlings are damaged by browsing and fire, but have good power of recovery from these injuries.

There are many medicinal properties and usages of Bahuvaraka mentioned in traditional literature of Ayurveda and Materia Medica. The fruits are used as an expectorant and astringent. They are also considered useful for treating all diseases related to the lungs. In Unani medicine, the fruits are considered to be anthelmintic, diuretic, expectorant, anti-inflamatory & purgative. They are used for treating dry cough, diseases of the chest and urethra, in biliousness and chronic fever, joint pains and diseases of the spleen as well. The inhabitants of Bhadrak District in Odisha take the fruit juice orally as a blood-purifier. A decoction of Indian Cherry bark is considered useful for the relief of dyspepsia and fevers, as well. It is also reported to possess anti-diabetic, anti-ulcerative, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulator and analgesic activity.

Though small, the flowers are delicately beautiful; which attracts bees and butterflies. When in season, various birds and arboreal mammals tend to be the greatest enthusiasts of the sticky pink fruit. Being as valuable as a pearl to our Environment, the tree might have given the name 'Pink Pearl'! Truly its a gem for tree-lovers!! :) 

The Crape Flower

Small Flowered Crape Myrtle or simply, Crape Flower (Lagerstroemia Parviflora/लेंदीया, बोंडारा) is a  moderate-sized deciduous tree which is a very common tree both in the moist and dry deciduous forest in many parts of India. Just like Queen's Crape Myrtle, it is a beautiful tree that you can not ignore when flowering.

In April-June, the tree flowers profusely with small white flowers which are borne in 2-6 flowers clusters in leaf axils and at the end of branches. Flowers are mildly fragrant and attract loads of bees, insects and butterflies. You may also spot various birds and fly-catchers hunting on these insects when flowering is at its peak.

Fruit is oval and is surrounded by a persistent sepal-cup at base. The fruit dehisces dispersing the winged seeds. It is propagated by seeds. For seed collection, you may have to visit the tree when the fruits are mature but not dehisced; or else you may not find the seeds. 

Till now this plant is used in India for the treatment of different diseases. The Santals of Chotanagpur region of India uses the leaves of this plant for treatment of infection and chronic sores. The plant finds wide applications by the tribal women in overcoming lactation problems. Traditional folklore opined that the whole plant can be used for treatment of strangulation of intestine and syphilis. Cough, fever, asthma and bronchitis can also be effectively well controlled by this plant. Leaf decoction cures fever while extracts derived from flowers cures chronic dysentery and abdominal pain. The tree is known to possess anti-inflammatory, antipyretic & antitussive properties. 
Crape Myrtle is a light demander and drought resistant species. Though the seedlings are killed by severe frosts, but older trees and coppice shoots are frost-resistant. It grows on a variety of soils, but does not thrive on waterlogged soils. It recovers well after fire. The tree coppices and pollards well, regrowing vigorously. The tree yields a useful timber called Ben-teak. A sweet flavored edible gum is obtained from the tree.

Though Crape Myrtle is rarely sighted in urban and sub-urb area, it could become a perfect garden tree in cities. First of all, it is a slow growing tree. Plus, you can keep it small by prunning. It won’t utilize much of your residential or commercial space. The leaves are not palatable to cattle and hence are not browsed by cattle. And last but not least, it flaunts white, fragrant flowers in dense showy masses…A unique species having all-in-one qualities of an urban species. 

Waras..The One who takes Care!

Waras (Heterophragma Quadriloculare/वारस) is an important native species of India. A large deciduous tree which is noticeably attractive when in bloom.

Its flowers occur in terminal panicles, which are densely velvet covered. They are rose-tinged white in colour and fragrant. Flowering occurs during the beginning of the hot season. The flowers have a characteristic pleasant smell which attracts bees & insects. The tree is exclusively pollinated at night by large Carpenter bees. Being highly mobile, these bees cover long distances in the search of the tree.

Leaves are compound, pinnate & crowded near the end of branches, giving dense shade. Waras harbor numbers of insects and birds. Due to its height and dense leaves, numerous birds prefer this tree as nesting sight. Hence bird-lovers prefer this tree!

Being attractive, large and dense foliage, the tree once used to be commonly planted along highways with Banyan, Peepal, Neem etc. Guess our forefathers were more intellectual than us as they preferred the indigenous species along highways. This way, travelers could enjoy the traveling and could use the shade for rest. Hence this tree is highly recommended for plantation along highways. The tree is propagated by seeds.

It is interesting to note that generally, deciduous trees shade leaves in summer. But Waras shade its leaves somewhat in Rainy season and is laden with leaves during summer; giving dense shade when it needs the most.

Waras provide green mulch, needed for reclamation of eroded lands. It also prevents soil erosion. Leaves can be used as fodder. The tree is believed to be used for treating skin diseases. It is also supposed to possess antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Waras is a Marathi word which also means ‘belongs to’ or ‘the one who takes care’. Waras literally takes care not only of birds , bees, insects & humans, but of our environment also. May be that’s why the tree has no name in english; for there is no single word in english describing the tree..! ;-) 

The Deer's Horn

Indian Screw tree (Helicteres Isora/मुरुडशेंग, केवण) is a small deciduous tree having serrated leaves & uniquely beautiful, nectary flowers in sparse clusters. Due to small size and attractive flowers, the tree is suitable for plantation in cities.

Flowers are bright orange-red or crimson coloured when young and turn purplish before fruiting. The colour changing patterns of flowers make the tree attractive & very delightful to watch. The unique, twisted, screw like shape of the fruit is what lends most of it names like Screw tree, Maror Phali, Deer's Horn.

It flowers during July to September. They are pollinated mainly by sunbirds & Flower Peckers. The caterpillars of Common Sailer and Golden Angle feed on this plant. It is also visited by many other butterflies and insects like ants, bees, sawflies, wasps etc. Hence the presence of this impressive tree in your neighborhood will attract not only your neighbor's attention, but also different birds and insects. 

Indian Screw tree possesses an impressive range of nutritional and medicinal properties. Medicinally, it is a rich source of nutrients and antioxidants of therapeutic importance. Investigations have indicated that the plant has antioxidant, anticancer, anti-diabetic and antimicrobial properties. The fruits are used in treating intestinal complaints, colic pains and flatulence. Roots are known to be useful in diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery & convulsions. The roots & stem barks are considered to be expectorant, demulcent, astringent; and are used in scabies, biliousness. Fried pods are advised to kill intestinal worms. 

The tree is hardy and can tolerate degraded soils. It also withstands dry periods. It easily propagates from seeds. The bark is the source of a strong fibre. It is used as cordage for making cots, tying cattle and ploughs. It is also good for making ropes and clothing.

Basically, Indian Screw tree is a wonderful tree having so many virtues to its name. It is a must species to have for any Nature lover!