A.V. Vaigai Ratna, a Class VI student of TVS Matriculation Higher Secondary School here, chose a different way to spend her Sunday.

Instead of just playing with her friends as she usually does every week, Ratna chose to participate in the 22nd Tree Walk, organised by Madurai Green, an environmental organisation, and Dhan Foundation, to Kutladampatti waterfalls near Vadipatti.

As she heard D. Stephen, Assistant Professor of Botany, The American College, speak about more than 40 species of trees, Ratna returned home determined to safeguard trees in and around her home. “Whatever Mr.Stephen said about trees, especially cluster fig and jamun trees, was very interesting. I also liked the trek up to the waterfalls,” she said.

More than 50 nature enthusiasts, including 10 children, took part in the trekking. Mr.Stephen identified usilai, neem, kal aal, itchi, cluster fig, Indian elm, neikottan, ponga, jamun and kattu elimchai trees among others and explained their significance and benefits.

“Punga trees are ecologically prominent as they support insects. There is a symbiotic association between the tree and the insects,” he pointed out. “The cluster fig trees provide food for monkeys and birds. They support the wildlife,” he added.

R. Alagumani, an advocate of the Madras High Court bench here, said, “It was astonishing to hear that certain trees support at least 40 species of birds and animals. There is only a little forest cover in Madurai and it needs to be conserved properly.”

“Getting to know the medicinal values of different trees was great. The walk made us understand that each tree has great value and is useful. I will pass on whatever (details) I heard here to others,” said Mercy Daniel Rajasekaran, who took part in the walk for the first time.

Ranjitham, Principal of St. Teresa Teacher’s Training Institute, is a regular at the walks organised by Madurai Green as she thinks it helps her remain physically fit. “I have taken part in 20 tree walks. I get to know about the medicinal value and other values of the trees,” she said.

N. Chidambaram, founder of Madurai Green, M.P. Vasimalai, Executive Director of Dhan Foundation, and R. Duraipandi, Forest Range Officer, Sholavandan, were also present.