The Hindu

‘Trees must suit the environmen­t’


CHENNAI: Hundreds of trees uprooted in the rains in Chennai have underscore­d the need for a rethinking in selection of tree species suitable for urban and coastal districts of Tamil Nadu. Careless planting methods and poor maintenanc­e cause death of trees during monsoons, say naturalist­s.

“Can you identify a single Tamarind among the uprooted trees in the rain? We have this species thriving in [areas adjacent to sea]. Trees including Poovarasu, Punnai, Mahilam and Veppalai take deep root and are capable of withstandi­ng gusty winds during rain,” said Professor D. Narasimhan of the Madras Christian College.

52 native species and four exotic species

He has identified 52 native species and four exotic species suitable for planting along avenues and for urban forestry.

Two of the trees that have borne the fury of the monsoon are Peltophoru­m, a native to Sri Lanka and Malaysia, and Gulmohar, introduced from Madagascar and known for their bright-coloured flowers.

Late naturalist Ma. Krishnan consistent­ly campaigned against exotic species and advocated “cultivatio­n of a narrow sort of patriotism in our floral preference­s.”

Writer Ramachandr­a Guha in his introducti­on to Krishnan’s book Nature’s Spokespers­on recalled an incident which clearly explained his take on exotic species.

“Disgracefu­l. You should uproot all those foreign,” he said when asked about spectacula­r yellow flowers of tabebuia, a Central American tree, planted at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

Describing the Gulmohar as a vermilion strumpet, Krishnan had said, “If you want to see truly impressive crown of red, you should see the flameof-the-forest

Mr. Narasimhan said the canopy formed by Peltophoru­m and Gulmohar make them “headstrong” eventually leading to their fall.

Careless planting

The careless planting of trees—shallow planting and denying them adequate space to breathe and take root—make them vulnerable during rains.

“Government agencies should not think their job is over after plating saplings. Regular pruning, especially in Tamil month of Aadi, is vital. It will help the tree sprouting new green shoots and prepare for a monsoon,” said Mr. Narasimhan, while agreeing that he could see a lot of local species getting planted.

“Aftercare is crucial. What is the point in planting a sapling and covering its trunk with concrete or vitrified tiles? Give it adequate space and allow it to spread its roots deeply,” he said.

Careless planting methods and poor maintenanc­e cause the death of trees during monsoons, say naturalist­s

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