Young World

Tribute to the queen

Queen of trees: Shelter for many. Photo: V. Sudershan  

In the banks of a silently flowing river stands an ancient tree — the Sycamore fig, also known as the Queen of Trees in Africa.

The film “The Queen of Trees” by Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone captures a unique relationship between the fig tree and the fig wasp. The fig tree and fig wasp differ in size, but they cannot exist without each other. (This is a symbiotic relationship.)

“One can withstand a river in flood, the other can drown in a dew drop,” so goes the script that is beautifully crafted, along with stunning shots and haunting music.

The dependency to grow, thrive and spread is seen from ants to elephants, predators and parasites with the fig tree as the central character. It is indeed a dramatic tale.

V. Arun, the resource person at the screening of the film at Nizhal's (an NGO, that focuses on urban greening) fifth anniversary celebrations, pointed out that nature was far too complex to understand in neat and easy terms. The film highlights a benefiting relationship. There are about 600 types of fig trees and they cannot propagate without the help of the fig wasps, so tiny that they can pass through the eye of a needle. And for each type of fig, there is a different fig wasp to do the job.

The male wasp is born inside the fig, lives there only to help the female wasp to come inside and lay eggs and then freeing the females from the secret garden inside the fig, they die. The female wasp continues the important work, to pollinate the seeds of the Queen of the trees.

The fig is also home to a Hornbill couple who have their nursery in the tree. Their lifecycle too is intertwined with the trees and the film captures happy and sad moments of this bird's life.

Around the tree unfolds a tale of drama and danger too. There are parasitic wasps that lay eggs on top of the wasps and another group that lays its eggs on top of those eggs. Defensive strategies too are highlighted. The ripening of the fruits attract other visitors too the monkeys, elephants, butterflies and green pigeons that fill their beaks with fig juice that is carried to be fed to their chicks. The figs drop into the river, food for the hundreds of fish, which in turn are food for the crocodiles lurking in the water. We see the food chain in action.

The Masai tribe depend on the fig tree for honey, for beehives thrive in the tree. They are smoked out carefully and the honey is taken. The nightlife surrounding the tree, with the attack of bats — one of the best seed dispersers — is seen. And the seeds of the fig tree are carried throughout Africa, through the travel of animals, birds and other creatures who have eaten of the fruit. Therefore it will be common to see a fig tree especially near a water body or a water hole where they have had a drink of water or perched for a breather. This and the fetilisation of the figs by the wasps are indeed a fitting tribute to the tree that nourished, nurtured and ben a surrogate mother to these living creatures.

Addressing the students of Stds. VIII and IX, Arun of Ramakrishna M.H.S.S., said that every tree has a drama being enacted inside it. If we stop long enough, we are sure enough to observe it.

Check out: myfootprint.org Remember: Plant trees, but remember to plan and plant

The right kind of trees needs to be planted — check out the environment first to see how they would thrive.

Think: Needing more cars which leads to the need of more flyovers to combat the traffic problem, lead to the indiscriminate cutting of trees. What can we do about it?


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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 8:17:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/Tribute-to-the-queen/article15783724.ece

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