Saturday, October 24, 2015

August 16, 2015: Tree walk - "Paarkum Marangal Ellaam" at Kotturpuram Tree Park by Nizhal Foundation

Attended Tree Walk - Parkkum Marangal Ellaam organized by Nizhal Foundation at 4.30 PM. The walk was good and two volunteers from Nizhal, Ms. Ranjani, a school teacher and Mr. Gajendran, a college student, identified each tree and explained their uses and cited references in Sangam literature.  So, having spent much of the week visiting old dilapidated buildings and listening to lectures on sepulchres from the Stone Age, it was a different sort of heritage for me - Chennai's rich indigenous plant wealth. I have never known that such an extensive and well-maintained park existed on the fringes of the Adyar River (I don't know if the Adyar Eco Park had so many species of indigenous plants - it was more suited to bird-watching, I guess). It was a wonderful intitiative by Nizhal and I never knew that Sangam Age works provided such deep insights into the flora of ancient Tamizhakam. I shall jot down here as much as I can remember. I can give no assurances upon the veracity of my account or its completeness.

The entrance to the Kotturpuram Tree Park, also known as Riverview Avenue Park

Narrators Mr. Gajendran (in yellow shirt) and Ms. Ranjani (in green dress) along with volunteers from the Nizhal Foundation.

Punnai or the alexandrian laurel (Calophyllum inophyllum) is the sthala vruksham in the Kapaleeswarar Temple, Mylapore and
Thiruvidandhai. The leaves, bark, flower and fruits of the tree have medicinal uses. It is endemic to the Neythal areas.

The Ashoka tree (saraca asoka), the narrators said,  is believed to be the tree under which the Buddha was born. There are found in large numbers in the island of Sri Lanka. Ashoka trees often grow to great sizes and occupy large spaces, our hosts explained,  that it is difficult to contain within the small space available in a park. 

The Magizham tree (Mimusops elengi) gets its name because its flowers have a pleasing odour. The tree is also known as bullet wood as its fruits are shaped like bullets. The fruit is edible and sweet to taste.

The Vengai tree (Pterocarpus indicus) is intimately associated with the worship of the Hindu god Murugan. When Valli's brothers and father came to meet him, Murugan transformed himself into a Vengai tree.

The Neer Marudhu or Arjuna Tree (Terminalia arjuna) is a tree which is endemic to the Marudham areas.

The Veppalai is a tree which is endemic to the Palai or desert areas. Its prevalence in dry barren lands is attributed to its low water requirement. Veppalai flowers are white in colour and during dispersal, mimic snowfall. The fruits of the plant appear like tongs of a blacksmith.

The flowers of the Nocchi plant (Vitex Negundu). The Nocchi tree has medicinal uses. It has sets of five leaves arranged around a single stem. The flowers are purple in colour.

The Iluppai tree (Madhura longifolia), also called Iruppai and Mahua, bears flowers which are sweet to taste. They were often used as a substitute for sugar and  used by tribals in manufacture of a kind of local toddy. The leaves resemble those of  mango and the tree itself resembles a mango tree. However, the leaves are more softer and lighter than the thick and heavy ones of the mango. The tree is highly venerated and protected by India's forest tribes.

The walk ended with a passionate appeal from the organizers for the proliferation of local tree varieties. We were requested to assist by volunteering on weekends in shramdaans at the Kotturpuram Tree Park or lend a hand in the creation of the planned garden of herbal medicine nearby. Nizhal also promised their expertise and assistance if we wished to developed parks in our areas or conduct tree walks.

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