: Inclement weather and diseases have defeated Kerala’s attempt to commercially grow red sanders, a much sought after medicinal tree.
Nearly three decades ago, the research division of the Kerala Forest Department had tried planting the saplings of the species in five climatic zones. The plantings were undertaken in the research ranges of the Forest Department, including Nilambur, Mananthavady and Chalakudy. However, the efforts met with limited success and it was the saplings planted at Varantharapally that overcame the challenges of nature. In Varantharapally, near Chalakudy, 658 trees have grown up to a height of 12 metre and girth of 160 cm. The saplings were planted on a plot of nearly 1 hectare way back in 1982, said V.R. Vijayakumar, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Research Wing, North).
Besides the ones at Varantharapally, a few saplings, planted on the campus of a public sector company in Kuttanalloor, near Thrissur, have also survived.
The export of red sanders has been banned in the country. There have been several attempts in the past to smuggle them to foreign markets. The Department of Revenue Intelligence had recently seized some consignments of red sanders at the Vallarpadam International Container Terminal in Kochi. The seedlings for the field trials were brought from Andhra Pradesh. During the field trial, some of the saplings had developed blisters indicated by the oozing of the tree sap. There were also incidents of pest attack on the trees. The relatively high water table of the State might not be conducive for the trees, said another official who was associated with the project three decades ago.
Since the project proved to be commercially unsuccessful, the department did not follow it up and later abandoned it. The few trees that survived indicated that commercial plantations of the trees were not successful in the State, an official attached with the project earlier said.
The dry terrains of the Deccan Plateau are the homeland of these species. They grow well in some districts of Andhra Pradesh, including Kadapa. Extracts from the wood have medicinal applications and are used in the treatment of skin diseases, said P. Sujanapal, a researcher at the Kerala Forest Research Institute.
. The moist climate of the State is not suitable for the plant. The plants will be susceptible to various fungal infections in moist conditions prevailing here, he said.
Ptrocarpus marsupiun , a close relative of Red Sander, which is known as Venga in local parlance, grows abundantly in Kerala.