Saving a rare tree

Updates from :  the Hindu :

Members of Tree Walk were able to save Kaim tree on the premises of State Central Library campus at Palayam

It was in 2012 that Tree Walk, a group of nature lovers, noticed this single tree standing on the State Central Library campus at Palayam in the middle of the city. The reason was the huge pile of wood lying there, which were the remains of many trees that were cut to make space for a new building. The light green leaves and rounded flowers attracted our attention and we set about identifying the tree. It turned out to be the Kaim tree (Mitragyna parviflora/parvifolia) called Manja Kadambu or Neer Kadambu in Malayalam.

It was obvious to us tree lovers that this tree was not found anywhere else in the city. That made us write a letter to the Library authorities requesting them to retain the tree when construction started and the building came up. We kept a watch over the tree and were relieved to see it standing tall amidst the concrete and cement and behind the blue metal wall that was constructed around it. Late Gen SK Pillai was so fascinated by this tree that he would report about its health each time he passed by.

In between, we got a verbal reassurance from the chief librarian Shobhana P, that they would take care not to destroy the tree. And then the day came when the blue metal walls were removed and we saw the pleasant sight of the Kaim with a sensitively constructed concrete base with soil in it and a space for people to enjoy its shade.

Kaim tree or Neer Kadamba in Malayalam

Kaim tree or Neer Kadamba in Malayalam   | Photo Credit: madhava Kurup

The Kaim is a deciduous tree that sheds its leaves and grows in the sandy beds of seasonal streams as the name in Malayalam indicates. It is a wonder that an inhabitant of North East and Peninsular India extending up to Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Cambodia has found a comfortable space in hot, humid and wet Thiruvananthapuram. With not a sign of water anywhere nearby, the Neer kadambu stands tall and green in our city.

It is interesting to note that this tree is the true Kadambu mentioned in the stories of Lord Krishna. Many parts of the tree including the leaves, stem, bark and root are used by tribal and local populations to treat a variety of ailments like jaundice, rheumatic pains and fever.

Belonging to the Coffee family (Rubiaceae), its flowers are fragrant. The tree is considered endangered as the habitat it grows in has been exploited indiscriminately. The songs and poems of Rabindranath Tagore mention the flowers of this tree.

(Anitha is the coordinator of Tree Walk)

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