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Updated: September 9, 2009 17:54 IST

Conserve these ‘living fossils’

SWATHI V.
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Highly durable: Cycad is the longest living plant species on earth.
THE HINDU Highly durable: Cycad is the longest living plant species on earth.

A Cycad tree grows very slowly and doesn’t reveal her age in her appearance

A few trees in the city have great significance merely due to their age. They can be found everywhere, in the most unexpected nooks. Felling them would amount to nothing less than knocking down a heritage structure. However, the awareness is yet to catch up among the citizens and we have age-old trees being chopped off. One example is the 50 year-old Cycad inside the Osmania University campus which was felled overnight a couple of months ago with neither forethought nor mercy.

A Cycad lies about her years, in that, she grows very slow and does not reveal age in her appearance. However, the trees are one among the longest living plant species on the earth. They have been here for about 165 to 200 million years without changes and for that reason, are known as ‘living fossils’. They were most common in the Jurassic period. “Cycads belong to the groups of gymnosperms-- plants with naked seeds, because they do not have a fruit covering the seeds. They are dioecious, meaning that there are male and female plants among them. They are very hardy and can survive despite harsh weather conditions,” says an officer from the Buddha Purnima Project. Despite their unflinching thrust for survival, Cycads are relatively a small group of plants, consisting only 292 species in 11 genera. There are eleven sub-species here, namely Cycas annakailensis, Cycas spherica, Cycas beddomei, Cycas circinalis, Cycas indica, Cycas nathorstii, Cycas pectinata and Cycas zeylanica. Andhra Pradesh has only Cycas beddomei and Cycas spherica in Tirumala hills and Srikakulam respectively.

However, Cycas revoluta is extensively used in landscaping, says the officer. “Cycad is best suited for Hyderabad due to its love for arid climates. It has no threat from animals because its leaves become poisonous once it grows up. A little protection from beetles and other insects would suffice when the plant is young,” says the officer.

Keywords: Cycadconservation

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