Children

What’s in a name?

Wikimedia Commons   | Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ever heard of the Woman’s Tongue? Or the Monkey Pod? Believe it or not, these are names of trees. Here are some more weird ones.

Have you ever seen a Sausage Tree? There are some at Marina Beach in Chennai and near Ulsoor Lake in Bengaluru. Huge sausage- or cucumber-like brown fruit dangle at the end of a long, rope-like stalk. Its red flowers hang downwards. These night-flowering trees are pollinated by bats and nocturnal birds and insects.

When the wind blows through the long flat pods of the Frywood Tree, it sounds like food frying. Hence the name. Another name is Woman’s Tongue, because it sounds like the sharp talk of women. Rather unfair, don’t you think? Also called the Shirish, it has silvery or pale golden leaves, and small greenish flowers. It has many medicinal uses and is also called Flea tree, Lebbek, and Koko.

Variety galore

Then there’s the African Baobab, which I’ve been dying to see since I read The Little Prince. Also called Bottle Tree, Tree of Life, Monkey Bread Tree, I knew it as the Upside-Down Tree because of its root-like branches and branch-like roots. It has a huge girth of around 12 feet and lives for 1,000 years or more. Carbon dating showed one that had lived for 1,500 years.

While reading about the Sausage Tree, I came across the Devil’s Tree. Its bark is poisonous for animals. Imagine animal mothers warning their babies: “The devil is here, don’t go near.” But here’s a strange thing — it is also called the Scholar or Blackboard Tree, as its soft bark and wood were used to make blackboards and frames for writing slates.

Then there’s the Bonfire Tree that looks like it is afire with clusters of deep orange-red flowers, like fanning out flames.

The Rain Tree with its pretty pink flowers also has some funny names: Monkey Pod Tree or False Powder Puff Tree. This majestic avenue tree grows to a great height and is an air purifier.

The Cannonball Tree, with its hard round fruit, is also called the Nagalingam or Shivalingam, because the flower looks like the hood of the cobra.

Take the Badminton Ball Tree? It looks like it has little balls growing on it.

Why is the Flame of the Forest called the Parrot Tree? How did the Butterfly Tree, Sneezewood Tree, Toothpaste Tree, Icecream Bean Tree, Shaving Brush Tree, Fried Egg Tree, Jack in the Box Tree, and the Cassowary Tree get their names? Search the Internet for images of these trees and see if their appearances provide the answer.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 1:32:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/whats-in-a-name/article34294927.ece

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