Thiruvananthapuram

Leftovers of an evergreen forest

'Vellapine' or white dammer tree on the Trivandrum Club premises in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: S. Gopakumar   | Photo Credit: S.GOPAKUMAR

Like silent sentries, they stand around the parking ground at the Trivandrum Club — an unassuming presence if not consciously sought.

Locally called ‘Vellapine’, the largest of the sturdy trees here rise to a height of over 30 metres and their luxuriant branches spread out far.

“While a strong wind could threaten most trees of such a height, the ‘Vellapine’ is unperturbed. These are very old too and is it believed that this tree is a remnant of an old Thiruvananthapuram, where an evergreen forest ecosystem once thrived,” says former Chief Conservator of Forests, C.K. Karunakaran.

Considered one of the prime sources of plywood, this timber has been overexploited, causing their numbers to dwindle in the evergreen forests of Kerala and Karnataka where they are found.

But few have slipped through the gaps of human activities and 20 such trees, which were documented on the premises of the Club in the heart of the city, offer standing proof of their resilience. Its biological name is ‘Vateria Indica’ and they fit the textbook description of tree with a broad girth and a flourishing canopy.

The trees found in the Club will probably be one of the largest clusters found in the city, says Mr. Karunakaran, who now is the general secretary of an organisation called Friends of Trees. He led the group’s latest project to survey the grounds of the Trivandrum Club and compile the findings in a booklet.

Fruit trees

The premises is also home to fruit-bearing trees such as mango, jackfruit and rose apple; flowering types including Queen’s Flower, and kanikonna or cassia fistula, and other timber-yielding varieties such as teak and sandal.

The survey took only a day and it revealed the presence of 167 trees of 22 different species on the campus sprawling 1.5 hectares. It was carried out by members of the non-governmental group, with the support of few staff and students of the Botany Department of Government College for Women here.

Trivandrum is the 18th institution Friends of Trees group has carried out tree documentation in, the others including University College, Women’s College, Latin Bishop’s House, Tagore Centenary Theatre Campus, and the Keltron campus. The ‘Tree Register’ they prepare contains family name, scientific and local names, and their population in an area. At the club, Friends of Trees also affixed name plates to the trees to help identifying the variety found here.

The booklet will be released on June 5, World Environment Day, at the Trivandrum Club at 10 a.m. They will also be planting saplings during the occasion.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 7:16:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/leftovers-of-an-evergreen-forest/article4783839.ece

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