The Great Banyan Tree
The Great Banyan Tree (GBT) is an outstanding living legend of the AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden and it acts as an Iconic structure of the garden. It is one of the star attractions not only for Indian visitors but also for foreign delegates. GBT finds mention in “Guinness Book of World Records” for its massive canopy. Famous among the local public by the names like ‘Walking’ and ‘Immortal’ tree, it is certainly one of the largest living entities in the World. In comparison with garden exhibits of exotic plants like bamboos, palms, cacti & succulents etc., GBT draws maximum visitors throughout the year. Botanically known as Ficus benghalensis L. belonging to the family Moraceae, the tree is a native of India. The fruit is a small fig, red in colour when ripe and it is not edible. It is over 270 years old and in terms of area of spread known to be the largest tree. There is no clear history of the tree as to the time of planting etc. But it is mentioned in the travel books of the nineteenth century as existing on a Phoenix tree (date palm), when Col. Robert Kyd initiated this garden in the year 1787. GBT was damaged by two great cyclones of 1864 and 1867 during which, some of its main branches got damaged exposing it to the attack of a hard fungus. In 1925, it main trunk measuring 16 m in girth had to be removed after it was infected by wood rotting fungus. With its large number of aerial roots which drops from its branches and runs vertically to the ground and look like so many trunks, the GBT appears more like a miniature forest than an individual tree. Thus, as the branches grow longer horizontally, they are not only supported by a series of pillar like prop roots but are also provided with nourishment. These aerial roots are initially passed through the bamboo channels and hastened by care and trained to take a particular position in the ground finally providing maximum support to the growing horizontal branches. It is interesting to note that, despite the absence of main trunk, the tree still maintains perfect vigor and vitality. Present area occupied by the tree is about 18918 sq. m. The present crown of the tree has a circumference of 486 m. and the highest branch rises to 24.5m. The total number of aerial roots as on date is 4033 reaching down to the ground as prop roots. Thus, GBT is standing tall and as senior most citizen of the garden thereby enhancing the beauty and serenity of the area.
Cannon Ball Tree
Couroupita guianensis Aubl. of Lecythidaceae, a native to tropical South America was named by the French botanist Jean Baptiste Christophore Fusée Aublet in 1775.
It is a large deciduous tree grows to a height of 35 m. Flowers in racemes arise directly from the trunk. Stamens in two rows forming a ring around the ovary and a hooded structure over the stigma. Fruits globose, woody, 12-25 cm across.
This tree is widely cultivated in gardens of tropical and subtropical countries for its scented beautiful flowers and dense canopy. It is also planted in temples for religious significance.
The extract of various parts of the tree are used in the treatment of hypertension, tumors, pain and inflammation. The plant is also used in the treatment of common cold, stomachache, skin diseases, malaria and toothache.
In India, the tree is sacred to Hindus, who believe its hooded flowers look like the nāga, and it is grown at Shiva temples.
Pterigota alata (Roxb.) R. Br. var. irregularis (W.W. Smith) Deb and Basu, a native of our country is one of a queer member of plant kingdom whose oddity forces us to marvel at the wonder of nature.
The Mad tree is unique because leaves of this tree are variable in form, shape, nature and degree of segmentation and lobation of the lamina or the leaf blade to such an extent that no two leaves of this tall deciduous tree are similar. The mother plant affording this striking instance of leaf variation was raised and isolated in AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah in the year 1870 from the seeds obtained from Pterigota alata (Roxb.) R. Br. and planted out in the garden.
Thorough researches have proven that the leaves of the Mad tree are not similar in shape and size because of the satellite gene (the terminal part of a chromosome beyond secondary constriction, it has a constant shape and size for a particular chromosome) in its chromosome that changes position.
Adansonia digitata L. of Bombacaceae is a native of Tropical Africa and national tree of Madagascar. It is believed that Arabian traders collected this tree and grew in Egypt before a subsequent migration to other countries of Asia, including India. This tree is a symbol of fertility and is worshiped for various purposes. This tree is extremely useful for providing food and medicine, thus its name ‘tree of heaven’ or ‘tree of life’. The massiveness of the trunk and gigantic size of its branches make it a distinctive tree. The girth of the main trunk of a mature tree ranges from 25-35 m. The tree reaches about 15-25 m in height. It is the largest succulent tree that can retain more than 1 lakh liter of water inside the trunk and branches in order to survive a long drought period. The tree’s life span is estimated between 3000 – 6000 years, which is believed to be the longest life span in the plant kingdom. Leaves contain high quantity of Vitamin C. Fruits are edible and good source of vitamins, proteins, antioxidants and minerals.
Sandal wood Tree
Santalum album L. of Santalaceae is a small tropical tree, native to Southeast Asia. The plant parasitizes the roots of other tree species, but without major detriment to its hosts. It can survive up to one hundred years.
Sandalwood oil has been widely used in folk medicine for treatment of common colds, bronchitis, skin disorders, heart ailments, general weakness, fever, infection of the urinary tract, inflammation of the mouth and pharynx, liver and gallbladder complaints and other maladies. It is also considered sacred in some religions and is used in different religious traditions.
This species is listed Vulnerable by IUCN due its gradually decreasing population in wild.
Elaeocarpus serratus L., is a large evergreen broad-leaved tree whose seed is traditionally used for prayer beads in Hinduism. It is native to the South East Asia but planted as ornamental tree worldwide. Rudraksha seeds are covered by an outer husk of blue colour when fully ripe. The fruits contain high starch and sugar but low amounts of protein and iron and are used to treat dysentery and diarrhoea. It is also used to treat swollen gums.
Ficus krishnae C. DC. of Moraceae is also known as Krishna fig, Krishna’s butter cup & Makkhan Katori. Considered native to India, the species was first brought to the notice of David Prain in 1896 (the then director of Botanical Survey of India, Kolkata) from a private garden located near the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah. From there two cuttings of stem were obtained and introduced in this garden and further the twigs of this plant were distributed to various gardens in India as well as outside the country.
It is a very large, fast growing, evergreen tree up to 30 m tall, with spreading branches and aerial roots. It is considered one of the unusual fig species due to its peculiar nature of leaves. The unique feature of the tree is that the leaves have a pocket-like fold at the base, which is the source of many Indian folklores associated with the species regarding the formation of cone shaped leaves. One of the mythological stories says that Lord Krishna was very fond of butter and would even steal it. Once when he was caught by his mother, Yashoda, he tried to hide the butter by rolling it up in a leaf of this tree. Since then, the leaves of these trees have this shape.
All parts are used to cure diseases of ‘Kapha’. It is astringent to bowels; useful in treatment of ulcers, vomiting, vaginal complaints, fever, inflammations and leprosy. Latex is aphrodisiac, tonic; useful in piles and gonorrhea. The aerial root is styptic, useful in syphilis, biliousness, dysentery, inflammation of liver etc.
Kigelia pinnata DC. of Bignoniaceae is native to tropical forests of South Africa. This is tall tree with blood-red flowers that bloom at night on long, ropelike stalks that hang down from the branches. The fragrant, nectar-rich flowers are pollinated by bats, insects and sunbirds in their native habitat. The mature fruits dangle from the long stalks like giant sausages. They may be up to two feet long and weigh up to 6.8 kg.
Mainly grown as a curiosity and ornamental, both for its beautiful deep red flowers and its strange fruit. There are also a range of traditional uses for the fruit, varying from topical treatments for skin afflictions, to treatment of intestinal worms.
Red Sandal Wood
Pterocarpus santalinus L.f. of Fabaceae popularly known as Red Sanders is an endemic species confined to Southern parts of Eastern Ghats of India specially in Andhra Pradesh. It is a small to medium sized deciduous tree, with an extremely hard, dark purple heartwood with a bitter flavor.
Heartwood of Red Sanders has high demand in domestic as well as international market and the wavy grained wood is valued. Along with its extensive use in furniture, musical instrument, etc. the red dye ‘Santalin’ obtained from the wood is used as coloring agent for textile, pharmaceutical and food industry.
This extract of plant is used for treatment of diabetes. Cups made up with the woods have traditionally been used for drinking water as a treatment of diabetes. It is also useful in treating bilious affections, skin diseases such as antihelmintic, aphrodisiac and alexiteric as well as vomiting, thirst, eye diseases, ulcers and diseases of the blood. Infusion of the decoction of the fruit is used as astringent tonic in chronic dysentery. Stem bark powder with soft porridge has been used in treating diarrhea and the paste of the wood has been
considered as a cooling agent for external application treating inflammations and headache, mental aberrations, and ulcers.
Magnolia champaca (L.) Baill. ex Pierre of Magnoliaceae is a medium height native tree of India. It occurs naturally in the eastern Sub Himalayan tract.
In India, the species is grown as an ornamental and the leaves, flowers, seeds, and fruits are used for essential oils and medicine. The sweetly scented flowers are used in India for hair adornment and for essential oil extraction. The soft wood is used for packing cases, crates, carriages, furniture, carving, bentwood articles, toys, bobbins, battery separators, pencils, tea chests, and plywood and in ship and boat building.
Bambusa vulgaris Schrad. of Poaceae is an open-clump type bamboo species. It is native to Indochina and to the province of Yunnan in southern China, but it has been widely cultivated in many other places and has become naturalized in several countries. Bamboos are giant, woody grasses which grow to several full length, full diameter, culms ("stems") each year.
This bamboo having green striped yellow clums is a favourite species as ornamental bamboo and are under cultivation throughout world.
Hyphaene thebaica (L.) Mart. of Arecaceae is a native to the Arabian Peninsula and also to the northern half of Africa where it is widely distributed and tends to grow in places where groundwater is present. It is a dioecious palm with male and female flowers on separate trees. It is 10-17 m high, with a girth of 90 cm. Trunk is Y-shaped, and the tree is easily recognizable by the dichotomy of its stem forming up to 16 crowns.
Branched palm was considered sacred by the Ancient Egyptians, and the seed was found in many pharaoh's tombs.
The covering of the fruit is edible and can either be pounded to form a powder or cut off in slices; the powder is often dried then added to food as a flavouring agent. Young shoots produce tasty palm cabbage; the hypocotyl is edible, and so are the immature seeds if well prepared. The thin dried brown rind is made into molasses, cakes, and sweetmeats. In Turkana, Kenya, the powder made from the outer covering of the fruit is added to water and milk and left to stand to make a mild alcoholic drink; in other countries, the terminal meristem is tapped for making palm wine.
All parts of the tree are useful, but probably the most important product is the leaves. The fibre and leaflets are used by people along the Niger and Nile Rivers to weave baskets, such as in the material culture of the Manasir. Other things made from the leaves are mats, coarse textiles, brooms, ropes, string and thatch. The timber is used for posts and poles, furniture manufacture and beehives, and the tree provides wood for fuel. The leaf stalks are used for fencing and the fibre is used for textiles. Other products include fishing rafts, brooms, hammocks, carpets, buttons and beads.
Napoleon’s Hat Plant
Napoleonaea imperialis P. Beauv. is a small, evergreen tropical West African tree in the family Lecythidaceae. The species was described in 1804, the same year its namesake (Napoleone di Buonaparte) crowned himself Emperor of the French.
A tree or shrub to 6 m high, low-branching, dense crown, in the understorey of the closed-forest. Esteemed for the exquisite, vividly colored, saucer shaped flowers that grow from leaf axils, or directly from trunk and stem. The fruit is a berry, dark orange or reddish-brown containing a kidney-shaped seed. The reniform, reddish seeds of this species constitute a false kola, which has a taste closely resembling that of true kola. The flowers are fragrant and smell like Butterscotch!
This species is popularly cultivated as an ornamental tree. Extracts from the leaves and toxic seeds display bactericidal activity and contain various glycosides, tannins, proteins and saponins, while flavonoids, resins and steroids are absent.
Rasogolla Tree/Star Apple
Chrysophyllum cainito L. of Sapotaceae is a moderate-sized evergreen tree reaching 50 ft. with a dense crown. Leaves with silky-golden underside. The fruit is globose and typically measures from 2 to 3 inches in diameter. A cross section shows the star-like core, from which the popular name ‘Star Apple’ has been derived. This tree is native to West Indies, Panama, and Central America.
Often cultivated in towns as a roadside tree, or for its edible fruit. It is commercially grown in Australia and Mexico. When the fruit is allowed to ripen on the tree, the pulp is delicious and is eaten uncooked. It has antioxidant properties. The bark is considered a tonic and stimulant, and decoction is used as an antitussive. The colour of the fruit varies from white to purple.
Lodoicea maldivica (Gmelin) Persoon under the family Arecaceae is the largest seed bearing plant so far described in the Plant Kingdom. The fruits may weigh about 50 pounds at maturity. The seed looks like two coconut seeds fused together, for which the name stands the ‘Double-Coconut’. The species is indigenous to only two of the 115 Seychelles Islands. They have historically been found floating in the west Indian Ocean being known to the explorers long before the parent plants were discovered and later described from Maldive Islands. It is also called ‘Coco-de-Mer’ (Coconut of the sea) for such nature and belief that the fruits from Seychelles Islands reached to the Maldives through sea, where it was germinated and later on described. This giant palm survives about 1000 years. The male and female plants are different (dioecious). It is a female plant introduced in India and planted only in AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden in 1894. A leaf takes about one year for full spread and maturity. A full-grown leaf at its greatest spread can be used in thatching a hut. The fruit takes nearly 5-7 years to mature, remain dormant for 10 years and takes at least 3 years to germinate. Successful fruit setting has been achieved in this palm through artificial pollination by procuring pollen from Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, Thailand in the year 2013. Recently, in February, 2020, first two mature fruits were harvested from this tree.
Giant Water Lily
Native to the Amazon River basin, Giant Water Lily is the largest size member of the Water Lily family. It was first discovered in Bolivia in 1801 and grows in the backwaters of rivers in the Amazon basin, the Guiana and Pantanal. The Plant has very large leaves, up to 2-3 m in diameter, that float on the water’s surface on a submerged stalk, 7-8 m in length. The edges turn up to form a rim. Underside of leaf is coppery red. The flowers are white, the first night they open and become pink, the second night, and purple subsequently. They are up to 9-12 inches in diameter, and are pollinated by beetles. The flowers are also strongly fragrant.
Two species of the genus viz. Victoria amazonica (Poepp.) J.C. Sowerby & V. cruzinana A.D. Orb. Were introduced in the botanic garden in 1873 from Brazil and in 1981 from Santa Cruz respectively.
Although not currently thought to be threatened, this plant lives in a highly specialized habitat.
Brownea coccinea Jacq. of Fabaceae is a slow-growing, small tree from tropical America mainly Guyana, Venezuela, Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago with large heads of orange-red flowers, 6-8 inches across, which hang primarily beneath the foliage, on older branches. Generally, the exotic looking flowers are not visible at all from the outside. It is also commonly cultivated in other tropical countries including India.
Nux - vom Tree
Strychnos nux-vomica L. of Loganiaceae is a medium-sized tree with a short, crooked, thick trunk. The wood is white hard, close grained, durable. Fruit is about the size of a large apple with a smooth hard shell which when ripe is orange colored, filled with a soft white jelly-like pulp containing five seeds. The seeds are like flattened disks densely covered with closely appressed satiny hairs, radiating from the centre of the flattened sides and giving to the seeds a characteristic sheen.
It is a major source of the highly poisonous, intensely bitter alkaloids strychnine and brucine derived from the seeds inside the tree's round, green to orange fruit.
Nux Vomica is used for upset stomach, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, intestinal irritation, hangovers, heartburn, insomnia, certain heart diseases, circulatory problems, eye diseases, depression, migraine headaches, nervous conditions, problems related to menopause, and respiratory diseases in the elderly. It is a common homeopathic medicine prescribed for digestive problems, sensitivity to cold, and irritability.
Flower of Heaven
Amherstia nobilis Wall. of Fabaceae is a tropical tree with exceptionally beautiful flowers. It is native to Burma (Myanmar) but widely cultivated throughout the tropical countries for its beautiful flowers. The scientific name commemorates Lady Amherst, a British naturalist and botanist. The extravagant flowers are seen hanging from the long inflorescence, or flower stalk, which is a bright crimson red at the end. The fruits (legumes) are 11 to 20 cm long. They are roughly scimitar-shaped pods, and the woody outer case opens to disperse the seeds. It is a very rare in the wild and has only been collected in native habitat a few times.
Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich. of Taxodiaceae is perhaps the solitary individual tree of this species (growing in this garden) in India which is so well protected and growing well exhibiting its knee-roots due to which some people think it to be a mangrove plant. It is interesting to note that during winters, the leaves of this tree get dried and it appears that plant is dead but with the arrival of the autumn, it again becomes green and looks as atypical coniferous tree. But the presence of several peg like structures (called knee- roots) around the base of the trunk create a curiosity in one’s mind. This deciduous conifer is a native of United States where it grows on saturated and seasonally inundated soils of the south-eastern and gulf coastal plains. It is the ‘State Tree’ of Louisiana. It is a popular ornamental tree, grown for its light, feathery foliage and orange-brown to dull red fall colour. Its wood being water resistant is highly valuable. Fruiting has not been recorded in this tree in AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden since Nov. 1978.
Calamus rotang L., of Arecaceae is a plant species native to India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Rattan Cane is a strong climber, about 10 m or more long. Stems are clustered, climbing, up to 6 cm in diameter. The plants are dioecious, and flowers are clustered in attractive inflorescences, enclosed by spiny spathes. The edible fruits are top-shaped, covered in shiny, reddish-brown imbricate scales.
It is used to make furniture, baskets, walking-sticks, umbrellas, tables and general wickerwork.
Elaeis guineensis Jacq. of Arecaceae is the principal source of palm oil. It is native to west and southwest Africa and introduced in India during 1860s by British travelers.
Oil Palm is a tall tree, 8.3-20 m in height. Fruit is plum-like, ovoid-oblong, with a fibrous covering which contains the oil. This tree produces one of the most popular edible oils in the world, a versatile oil of superb nutritional value. It is the most prolific of all oil plants and in commercial terms the one which offers major prospects of development.
In traditional medicine, different parts of the plant are used as laxative and diuretic, as a poison antidote, as a cure for gonorrhea, menorrhagia, and bronchitis, to treat headaches and rheumatism, to promote healing of fresh wounds and treat skin infections.
Saraca asoca (Roxb.) Willd. of Fabaceae is one of the most legendary and sacred trees of India, and one of the most fascinating flowers in the Indian range of flower essences. Indigenous to India, Burma and Malaya, it is an erect tree, small and evergreen, with a smooth, grey-brown bark. The crown is compact and shapely. Flowers are usually to be seen throughout the year, but it is in January and February that the profusion of orange and scarlet clusters turns the tree into an object of startling beauty.
Ashoka tree has been mentioned in some of the oldest Indian text apart from Ayurveda. Across India, Ashoka tree is believed to be sacred and apart from Ramayana, Ashoka tree is mentioned in Buddhism and Jainism as well. Charaka Samhita which is believed to have been composed in 1000 BC describes about Ashoka tree and its medicinal benefits.
The juice obtained from boiling the bark is a cure for some ailments in women, and a pulp of the blossoms is used to cure dysentery.
Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr. of Myrtaceae is also known as Jamaica pepper or pimento, a midcanopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America, now cultivated in many warm parts of the world. The name "allspice" was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who valued it as a spice that combined the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.
All spice is the dried fruit of the plant picked when green and unripe and are traditionally dried in the sun. Fresh leaves are similar in texture to bay leaves and similarly used in cooking.
Swietenia mahagoni (L.) Jacq., of Meliaceae was a successful introduction of high quality timber yielding tree from West Indies in Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah in 1795, just after a few years of inception of this Garden. Sir. J. D. Hooker, then the Director of Kew Botanic Garden in England, supplied several species of mahogany to establish in Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah. Large scale multiplication of mahogany carried out here and distributed to different parts of India. Today it is one of the unparalleled timbers of high quality found in the forest areas of India. A native to islands in the Caribbean, this is the national tree of the Dominican Republic.
Mahogany's first major use in Spain and England was for ship building, and during the 18th century it was the chief wood employed in Europe for that purpose.
Parmentiera cereifera Seem. of Bignoniaceae is native to Central America. This tree grows up to 6 meters tall. The oppositely-arranged leaves are each made up of three leaflets. They are borne on winged petioles up to 5 cm long. The flower is solitary or borne in a cluster of up to four. The five-lobed corolla is greenish white. Interestingly, the flowers emerge directly on the bark of the tree. The fruit is a taper-shaped berry up to 60 cm long. It is green, ripening yellow, and waxy in texture. The fleshy fruit is edible. It is also grown as an ornamental for its flowers and unusual appearance when the fruits are ripening.
Samanea saman (Jacq.) Merrill of Fabaceae is a large, handsome and spreading, tree is easily recognized by its umbrella like canopy of evergreen, feathery foliage and puffs of pink flowers. It is frequently planted in groups or as an avenue because of its ability to keep its symmetrical conformation in spite of prevailing winds. It is a tree of rapid growth, brought originally from Central America. The origin of the name "rain tree" is unknown. It has been variously attributed to the way the leaves fold during rainy days (allowing rain to fall through the tree); the relative abundance of grass under the tree in comparison to surrounding areas; the steady drizzle of honeydew-like discharge of cicadas feeding on the leaves; the occasional shower of sugary secretions from the nectaries on the leaf petioles; to the shedding of stamens during heavy flowering.
Pandanus odoratissimus L. of Pandanaceae is native to South Asia and India and grows along the coastal areas.
Perennial, bushy shrub or small tree, branching di-or trichotomous or spreading irregularly. Male spikes cylindric, 6-9 cm long. Female inflorescence terminal, unbranched, with solitary spike. Fruit ovoid, 14-30 cm long.
It is traditionally recommended by the Indian Ayurvedic medicines for treatment of headache, rheumatism, spasm, cold/flu, epilepsy, wounds, boils, scabies, leucoderma, ulcers, colic, hepatitis, smallpox, leprosy, syphilis, and cancer and as a cardiotonic, antioxidant, dysuric, and aphrodisiac.
The trunk and large branches are commonly used for building materials in house construction and for ladders. They are also used to make headrests/hard pillows, vases, and fish traps, as sources of glue or caulking for canoes, to extract cream from grated coconuts, and as an aid in making string. Trunks and branches may be burnt for fuel wood or used to make compost. Prop or aerial roots are used in fabrication of house walls and as supports, basket handles, paintbrushes, and skipping ropes. They are also used to produce dyes and in production of traditional medicines. The leaves of selected varieties are treated by soaking in the sea and/or boiling or heating and dying and are then used to make mats, baskets, hats, fans, pillows, toys, and other plaited wares. The leaves are also used for thatching.
Cinnamomum camphora (L.) J.Presl of Lauraceae is a large evergreen tree that grows up to 20-30 m tall. The leaves have a glossy, waxy appearance and smell of camphor when crushed. Camphor Tree is native to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and adjacent parts of East Asia. It is now cultivated in many parts of the world for its timber and camphor production.
The bark is used as sedative antispasmodic, diaphoretic and anthelmintic. It is also used in diarrhoea from cold. The camphor is employed externally in the form of spirit or liniment as a rubefacient; internally as a mild antiseptic and carminative and hypodermically in the form of a sterile solution in oil, as a cardiac stimulant. The wood has an insect-repellent quality.
Commiphora wightii (Arn.) Bhandari of Burseraceae is an important medicinal plant found in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharastra and Karnataka. It is a tall bushy shrub, with branches aromatic, thorny and knotty with silvery, peeling off bark. Enlisted under the Critically Endangered category of IUCN Red list.
The plant is an important source of Indian Bdellium – a oleo-gum-resin that exudes from the branches which is under use since many centauries in Indian system of medicine and by tribal in the Thar Desert in various diseases. It is highly effective in the treatment of rheumatism, obesity, neurological disorder, syphilitic disease, urinary disorders, skin disease, pyorrhea, swollen gums, throat ulcer, etc. It is largely used as an incense candle, and as fixative in perfumery.
Ensete superbum (Roxb.) Cheesman of Musaceae is a curious banana plant endemic to Western Ghats of India. In Kerala, the plant is locally known as ‘Kallu Vazha’ or ‘Stone Banana’ and it grows almost in hilly areas or rocky places. This plant may grow up to 12 ft tall and the pseudo-stem may be up to half the height with a swollen base up to 8 ft in circumference at the base. The fruits are about 3 inches long and more or less triangular with dark brown seeds.
Historical records reveal that this species was introduced in Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah in 1800 AD.
In the Indian system of medicine, stone banana is prescribed for diabetics. Therapeutic potential of its seeds for human ailments such as renal calculi, dysuria, leucorrhoea, measles, etc. are well reported. Flowers, immature fruits, and pseudo-stem are edible as vegetable by ethnic groups.
African Orchid Nutmeg
Monodora myristica (Gaertn.) Dunal of Annonaceae is a tropical tree native to Africa. This tree bears eye-catching heart-shaped, colourful and fragrant flowers. The flowers look very similar to an orchid and the nearly spherical drupes resembling a nutmeg and so the common name. The scented waxy flowers are suspended on long stalks. The large woody fruits are with numerous oblongoid, pale brown seeds embedded in aromatic pulp.
Seeds are most economically important parts of this tree. They are widely used in West Africa as a substitute of nutmeg in soups, stews and cakes. In traditional medicine, the seeds are used as a stimulant and stomachic. They are also considered by some to have magical properties. Seeds oil shows antimicrobial activity. The hard timber is easy to work and used for various carpentry work.
A tree is grown at AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah in front of the Kiosk Building.
Crescentia cujete L. of Bignoniaceae, also known as Calabash Tree is a low-growing tree native to Central, South America, West Indies and southern Florida. The tree has a rounded or spreading crown, rarely reaching a height of 12 m. Leaves are trifoliate, alternate or clustered, with prominently winged leaf-stalks. Flowers are bell-shaped, yellow-green to maroon, on short stalk. Fruit is cannon ball like, nearly round, sometimes oval, hard-shelled, smooth, green to purple, becoming yellow-green before falling, commonly 4-5 inches in diameter. The fruit is used to make small vessels for serving or drinking. It is cultivated in India as a small ornamental tree.
Putranjiva roxburghii Wall. of Euphorbiaceae is a famous, moderate-sized, evergreen tree, growing up to 12 m in height. It is native to Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Japan, southern China, and New Guinea. Fruits ellipsoid or rounded, white velvety.
In traditional medicine and Ayurveda, its leaves and fruits are being used for the treatment of fever, muscle twisting, arthralgia, and rheumatism.
Para Rubber Tree
Hevea brasiliensis (Willd. ex A.Juss.) Müll.Arg. of Euphorbiaceae is the most economically important member of the genus Hevea because the milky latex extracted from the tree is the primary source of natural rubber. It is a deciduous tree, typically 30-40 m tall, with a leafy crown. The trunk is cylindrical with abundant white or cream coloured latex.
The para rubber tree initially grew only in the Amazon rainforest. The name of the tree derives from Para, the second largest Brazilian state, the capital of which is Belem. These trees were used to obtain rubber by the natives that inhabited within its geographical distribution. Increasing demand and the discovery of the vulcanization procedure in 1839 led to the rubber boom that region, enriching the cities of Belem and Manaus.
Sir George King in 1873 brought a few seedlings of this species given by Sir J.D. Hooker, the then Director of Royal Botanic Garden, Kew for cultivation in Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah. He tried a lot to establish those plants in Kolkata. However, he often encountered setback as because the climate of Kolkata is unsuitable for rubber cultivation. Later he sent those plants to other climatically suitable areas of British Empire such as Burma, Malaya, South India and Ceylon. Now we can see that the rubber is the chief economic crop in these areas.