Uncommon Trees of Mysore
By K.B. Sadananda
Mysore city, famous as a heritage city of Karnataka State and for the beautiful parks, gardens and avenues, has some uncommon trees. The usual trees in the parks are Gulmohar, Jacaranda, Bauhinias, Raintree, Copperpod, Mahogany, etc. However, if one goes along the roads and visits public or private gardens one comes across some trees which are generally not seen commonly. So, here is an attempt to list such trees, its locations and provide brief descriptions. This is definitely not a complete or comprehensive documentation. Many more trees are seen and they will also be recorded in future. A few of such trees are:
Common name: Baobab, Juda’s Bag, Monkey-bread tree
Kannada name: Aane hunase
Origin/Distribution: Native to drier parts of tropical and southern Africa, also found in Arabian Peninsula.
Habitat and uses: A remarkable large deciduous tree, growing to a height of about 12 meters and a girth of 8 meters at base. With this enormous girth so disproportionate to height, the tree ranks as the largest tree in the world. It also presents a grotesque sight, especially when the leaves are shed, leaving the bare branches looking like upward growing roots. The whole tree looks like a huge bottle! In fact in its native land, Africa people believe that God planted this tree upside down! The tree is also known to live for a very long time, nearly 2000 years. Carbon dating aged a tree in as 1275 year old. One of the oldest trees could be seen at Savanur, Haveri District, Karnataka. Another interesting thing is if for some reason like fire etc. the central part of the main trunk dies, the outer bark part, remains intact giving the tree an appearance of hollow shelter. This is sometimes used as a house, or prison-cell, or a refuge to escape from marauding wild Animals! All these have led to several stories being spun around the tree.
The baobab has been known in India for many centuries. Muslim traders are instrumental in introduction and dispersal of this in our country from tropical Africa. The tree has digitately compound leaves, each with 3-7 lobes. The flowers are dull waxy white in colour, auxiliary, solitary and have unpleasant smell. They are bat pollinated. Fruits are large, ovoid with a hard fibrous shell and powdery pulp in which several seeds are embedded. The fruits are dispersed by baboons and elephants which eat them with relish in their native habitat.
The pulp is rich in citric and tartaric acids and can be used to prepare a refreshing drink. It is also known to have medicinal properties. The bark is fibrous and pliable and used for making rough clothing, ropes. The fruit and seeds used as fuel.
Miscellaneous: The name Adansonia is in honour of a celebrated French botanist Michel Adanson (1727-1806) who resided in Senegal, West tropical Africa and published Families des Plantes (1763).
Where to see: Two young trees are in the beautiful sprawling campus of Sri Ramakrishna Vidyashaala, Yadavagiri.
Common name: Noble Amherstia, Orchid Tree
Kannada name: None
Origin/Distribution: Myanmar. Very rare in wild, seen only in cultivation as an ornamental.
Habitat and uses: Tropical tree from Burma is known for its exceptionally beautiful flowers. Long inflorescence with bright crimson red flowers made it to call Orchid Tree. A very handsome tree said to be the most beautiful of all flowering trees in the world. It grows to a fairly large size and is endowed with alternate pinnately compound leaves, which when young are drooping and reddish in colour. Later they become erect and green. The flowers are arranged in long pendulous bunches and bright orange-red in colour. They are very attractive and somewhat resemble orchid flowers; hence the tree is sometimes called Orchid tree. The fruits are beak shaped and reddish in colour with yellow patches. The tree is of
ornamental importance only.
Miscellaneous: The tree is name after Lady Sarah Amherst (d.1838), wife of the Earl, who took Dr. Clarke Abel on his mission to Peking (1816) and who later became Governor General of India.
The tree is very rare in wild sate in Myanmar and is said to have been seen only on two occasions by Wallich. However it is very popular as a beautiful tree and is in great demand.
Where to see: In Mysore, one large and 2 smaller trees are in the beautiful sprawling campus of Sri Ramakrishna Vidyashaala, yadavagiri.
Synonyms: Anthocephalus cadamba, Anthocephalus chinensis
Common name: Kedam
Kannada name: Kadamba, Kadvala
Origin/Distribution: Indo-malaya to tropical Australia in mangrove habitat.
Habitat and uses: A large fast growing deciduous tree with horizontal branches. Leaves alternate, large broadly ovate. Flowers which are orange yellow in colour and sweet scented are arranged in large globose heads. They have their own charm. The tree is rare, growing in wet places such a river margins. The tree yields timber which can be used for ceiling boards, construction light furniture, packing cases, canoes etc.
Miscellaneous: The tree is held sacred by Hindus and is associated with Goddess Parvathi, who is said to dwell in Kadamba groves. And Krishna, who spent his childhood days with his friends Gopas playing in Kadmba groves.
Where to see: There is one tree in Sri Ramakrishna Vidyashaala, yadavagiri.
Synonyms: Agasta asiatica, Agasta indica Miers, Barringtonia butonica, Barringtonia speciosa, Mammea asiatica, Michelia asiatica
Common name: Fish poison Tree
Kannada name: None
Origin/Distribution: South Pacific Islands
Habitat and uses: A large tree with a dense canopy of large obovate leathery leaves. Flowers are large, with brush like white stamens tipped crimson and opening in the evening and falling in the morning. Fruit is quadrangular (large, 13 Cm) yellowish brown when ripe and contain one large poisonous seed. The seeds are crushed and used as fish poison. The tree with its dense leaves can be used for planting along roads for shade.
Miscellaneous: The plant is named after the Honorary Daines Barrington (1727-1800), English Jurist, antiquary, botanist.
Where to see: There is a single tree on the footpath of Gokulam Main Road, VV Mohalla, Mysore.
Common name: Calabash Tree
Kannada name: Sanyasi bakkare
Origin/Distribution: Tropical America
Habitat and uses: This is a small to medium sized tree, which bears flowers on the trunk as well as old branches (Cauliflorous). The leaves are large. The fruits are large gourd like berries with nectarines. The nectarines produce disagreeable chemicals which ward off herbivores. The pulp is soft and is embedded with numerous seeds. The pulp cam be removed and the fruits with then shard shell like pericarp can be used as bowls. Young fruits are pickled and seeds which are edible can be cooked and used. A drink is prepared in Africa.
Miscellaneous: The tree is named after Pietro Crescenzi (1230-1321), Italian author who wrote a book of country life.
Where to see: There is one tree in the campus of Sri Ramakrishna Vidyashaala, Yadavagiri. There are several one planted in the premises of Lingambudhi Lake, Ramakrishna Nagar.
Common name: Bastard Rosewood
Kannada name: Bili beete
Origin/Distribution: India. Found throughout the peninsula in deciduous forest
Habitat and uses: A large handsome deciduous tree growing up to 20 mts. Leaves are imparipinnately compound each having 7-21 leaflets which are alternate. Flowers are arranged in terminal or axillary panicles and are of light pinkish colour. Generally, when flowering the trees are leafless or with few leaves and the flowers give the tree beautiful aspect. The flowers are also mildly fragrant and attract honey bees. The timber of the tree is said to be useful for construction and making tool handles, as well as carving the agricultural implements.
Miscellaneous: The tree is closely related to the more famous and familiar trees such as Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia and Dalbergia sissoo) The genus name Dalbergia is in honour of two brothers Nels Dahlberg (1736-1820) Swedish Botanist and Royal Physician and Carl Gustav Dahlberg (1754-1775), Swedish officer, who owned an estate in Surinam and who sent botanical specimens to Carolus Linnaeus.
Where to see: There is one tree on the Kalidasa Road, VV Mohalla, Mysore.
Common name: Natal Fig
Kannada name: None
Origin/Distribution: Natal (South Africa)
Habitat and uses: A medium sized evergreen tree with a spreading dense canopy. Leaves alternate, ovate with a broad round apex. Generally the leaf is triangular midrib splits into two towards apex of the leaf
Miscellaneous: The genus gets its name Ficus, which in Greek means Fig. Related species of this plant are Banyan, Cluster Fig, Peepal etc.
Where to see: A few trees are to be seen as avenue trees on road in Tonachikoppal, from CTTC to Water storage tanks in Kuvempunagar, Mysore.
Synonyms: Talipariti tiliaceum
Common name: Coast Hibiscus
Kannada name: None
Habitat and uses: A small
tree growing up to 6 mts. Grows well in coastal estuaries and tidal river beds. The canopy is dense. Leaves are alternate and circular in shape. Apex abruptly pointed, base cordate, and petiole long. Flowers are large, axillary, showy yellow when fresh, turning to red on ageing. The central part is deep maroon. The stems and branches are long and flexuous. In Africa, stem is used in making ropes or strings.
Miscellaneous: Hibisucs is the Greek name for mallow.
Where to see: One tree is in the small park in saraswathipuram, between 2nd and 3th main Road.
Synonyms: Parmentiera edulis, Crescentia aculeata
Common name: Penama candle Tree
Origin/Distribution: Panama, very rare in other places, seen in gardens and parks.
Habitat and uses: This cultivated deciduo
us tree is a small one attaining a height of 3 to 5 mts. The leaves are pinnately compound each with 3 elliptic leaflets, their apices acuminate. Flowers are not shwy, greenish white in colour and borne an old stem and branches(hence, cauliflorous). Fruits are long candle like.
Miscellaneous: The tree is name after Antoine Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813), a French agricultural economist who promoted cultivation of potato in France.
Where to see: Only one tree is to be seen in gardens near Hardinge Circle.
Photo courtesy: S/s Siddeshone, Abhijit APC and ASP