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State gets its first arboretum

P. Oppili
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A variety of wood plants cultivated for scientific, educational and ornamental purposes

Bamboo plantations at the arboretum.— Photo: P. Oppili
Bamboo plantations at the arboretum.— Photo: P. Oppili

Philanthropy combined with technical expertise, support from the local community and the State Forest department, has resulted in the creation of what is described as Tamil Nadu’s first scientific arboretum, located about 100 km south of Chennai near here in Kancheepuram district.

C. Ramakrishna, an advocate, has provided his 10-acre land for creating the arboretum, where a wide variety of wood plants are cultivated for scientific, educational and ornamental purposes.

One can find a total of 854 plants, covering 320 species in the wooded garden. The garden has been divided into Bamboo Settum, Ficorium and Palmatarium. In the garden, 35 species of bamboo, including one species from China, 19 species of palm and 29 species of Ficus, besides 26 star trees and other trees of different size classes have been planted.

Originally, it was proposed to plant some fig trees, but the idea was changed to a variety of trees to form an arboretum. “Mainly, the children in the neighbourhood should visit, learn and develop love for plants and nature”, said Mr Ramakrishna.

Finding the availability of plants was a huge task for the team and the procurement work began in June and July 2009 and it was completed in October this year.

Planting work continued, replacing the dead ones and adding new species as and when available.

A visit to the garden on Monday revealed the dedication of the team in creating the garden.

Bamboo Settum has come up well. Similarly, the Ficorium and Palmatrium have come up very well at the place.

V.S. Vijayan, chairman, Dr. Salim Ali Foundation, said this is the first-ever arboretum in the State. In a short period, biodiversity had begun to flourish in the area, and many birds and insects were attracted to it.

K.P. Geethakrishnan, former civil servant, who developed the project, said officials from the State Forest Department had extended their full cooperation in getting the required saplings.

Apart from the special aggregations of tree varieties at the garden, on the western side small trees were planted and on the eastern side tall trees. This was done to help the small trees to get the evening sunlight fully.

Thalippanai, a rare Palm species, which blooms only at its 80th year and African Baobab were some of the rare species planted in the garden.

As part of the 116th birth anniversary of ornithologist Salim Ali, a book on the arboretum was released in the city.  

C.K. Sreedharan, former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, opined that a full-fledged research centre should be created at the arboretum, which will help the researchers as well as the farming community.

Mr. Ramakrishna said initially the locals were not enthusiastic about the project. But watching the evolution of the arboretum, they turned into its protectors and extended full support, he said.

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