27 May 2012

Tree census narrates stories of living monuments

Asha Sridhar
The Baobab tree on the premises of the Government Museum, Egmore — Photo: Maheshwar Singh
THE HINDU The Baobab tree on the premises of the Government Museum, Egmore — Photo: Maheshwar Singh
A weary group, after travelling through time, and browsing through sculptures and inscriptions at the Government Museum, Egmore, sluggishly laid out a straw mat and broke for lunch under the shade of a living monument— a century-old mango tree.

Rarest and the oldest

The Museum, which has some of the rarest and oldest trees in the city, will soon publish the findings of a tree census that was conducted on its campus in February this year, said a department official.
“More than 80 genera have been identified and we are currently classifying them into various categories such as ornamental trees, avenue trees, trees of economical value, and such. It will take a month or two,” said the official. The campus is said to be home to more than 500 trees.
The tree census, conducted in February in the museum, was part of the larger tree census project undertaken by the Urban Forestry Division, Chennai Circle, of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. The census at the museum was organised in collaboration with the co-ordinator of the project, Dr. D. Narasimhan and saw 35 students from Women's Christian College and Presidency College taking part. The students measured the height and girth of the trees, identified the landmarks nearby, and also recorded remarks.
“Trees like Limonia acidissima , Polyalthia longifolia, Thespesia populnea, Mangifera indica, Ficus bengalensis, Guazuma tomentosa, Borassus flabellifer, Citrus, and Eucalyptus were covered,” said Project Co-ordinator, M.N. Pushpa, Curator, Botany Section of the museum.
Parks and garden areas near the National Arts Gallery, the pond area of the Museum, the Main Block, the Centenary Exhibition Hall, and the Front Building were among those covered by the project. “Around 100 trees around the pond area, 110 trees around the Museum Theatre, and 200 trees near the Front Building and the National Art Gallery were identified,” she added.
The rare trees at the museum, according to Pushpa, include the Swietenia mahogany, and the canon ball tree, which are also some of the oldest.

Centre of attraction

And one of the trees that attracts the attention of many passers-by, she said, was the fishtail palm. The boards, which have been put up by the Botany section on the trees, also provide information about the vernacular names of the trees.
“The Adansonia digitata or the Baobab, has a girth of 7.5 metres and is 12 metres tall,” she said, sounding a little astonished herself. This is said to be one of the oldest Baobab trees in the city today.

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