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Tiruchi-based retiree P Thomas and his spouse Lourdes Mary have been nurturing over 400 species of uncommon and indigenous timber in a plot close to their residence, and donating them to temples

Tiruchi-based P Thomas and his spouse Lourdes Mary have been nurturing over 400 species of uncommon and indigenous timber in a plot close to their residence, and donating them to temples

P Thomas is a tree lover and interest arborist. A lot so, that he likes to introduce himself as ‘Timber Thomas’, and inside a couple of minutes of talking to him, it’s simple to see why.

The 68-year-old former BSNL Sub-Divisional Engineer is a mine of knowledge with regards to horticulture, specifically the uncommon and indigenous timber of Tamil Nadu. He additionally runs a charitable belief known as Timber Analysis Academic Environmental Providers in Tiruchi.

Thomas was within the information lately for rising the ‘senthooram’ (lipstick tree, Bixa orellana) sourced from Chattisgargh in his arboretum (a botanical backyard devoted to timber) for 2 years in Anbu Nagar, Tiruchi, earlier than it was transplanted to a web site at Kallukuzhi.

“Timber are very intelligent, they’ll discover their method regardless of the place you plant them,” says Thomas, who cultivates over 400 uncommon and indigenous species of timber on a 5,000 sq. ft plot close to his residence. The land, belonging to a neighbour, is linked to a particular water connection from Thomas’s residence throughout the street.

On a regular basis, Thomas and his spouse (and gardening assistant) Lourdes Mary spend hours on their ardour venture, tending to the timber rising in planters made out of plastic bubble water containers. “We are able to enter the backyard just for three months within the 12 months; as soon as the mosquitoes and monsoons take over, we keep out,” says Thomas.

Thomas had an abiding curiosity in gardening, even when he was working within the Chennai Circle workplace of BSNL. “After settling down in Tiruchi 12 years in the past, I began volunteering for teams that had been growing natural gardens within the metropolis. However I realised that timber weren’t getting the eye that natural and terrace gardens had been. So I shifted my focus,” he says.

The sturdy Aadi wind is making its presence felt within the arboretum on a latest weekday, threatening to blow the tops off timber, however the swish and sweep of leaves supplies a soothing sonic backdrop to this inexperienced patch as Thomas shares his story.

Hunt for timber

Beginning off in 2013 with a hunt for the 27 ‘nakshatra’ timber thought-about to be auspicious and celestially linked to an individual’s star check in Hinduism, Thomas hit a pace bump virtually instantly. “A plant provider mentioned that purchasing a set of 27 star tree saplings would value ₹30,000. I made a decision to search out them myself, after which reward them to temples. I give away saplings of nakshatra timber to at the very least 20 temples in a 12 months,” he says.

As an extension of this, he began in search of the 108 ‘paadam’ timber (every of the 4 associated to the star timber), however was capable of finding solely 50 of them. “I used to be astounded to see that so many timber had been worn out in my very own lifetime. They’re both extinct, or have grow to be too extensively distributed to be recognized,” says Thomas.

Whereas in search of these lacking timber, he discovered that at the very least 4700 timber had been native to Tamil Nadu at one time. “Referring to previous books, I used to be capable of finding solely round 1300 species nonetheless rising within the state. The remainder, over 3000 timber, have gone lacking. So I believed I might do my bit to revive at the very least a few of them.,” says Thomas.


Sample of names written on the leaf of an Autograph Tree (Clusia rosea), that will remain until it is shed naturally, being grown by hobby arborist P Thomas in Tiruchi.

Pattern of names written on the leaf of an Autograph Tree ( Clusia rosea), that can stay till it’s shed naturally, being grown by interest arborist P Thomas in Tiruchi.
| Picture Credit score: M SRINATH

Branching out

Since that search gave the impression to be getting tangled, Thomas has begun to search for ‘Sthala Vriksham’, timber which are indigenous to historic Hindu shrines. “These timber as soon as was honored as gods earlier than the appearance of idol worship. They’re completely different from sacred groves,” says Thomas.

“Although I’m a Catholic, I’ve been distributing tree saplings to Hindu temples, as a result of I really feel the authorities shall be finest positioned to care for these indigenous species. I’ve additionally researched on the scriptures in Hinduism whereas learning the timber, and am fairly open to sharing my data with others. The timber are my precedence,” he says.

He provides that at the very least 90 ‘sthala vrikshams’ can now not be present in Tamil Nadu, on account of which temples merely undertake any tree that’s simply obtainable.


A rare seven-leaf ‘kadamba’ tree being cultivated by P Thomas in Tiruchi.

A uncommon seven-leaf ‘kadamba’ tree being cultivated by P Thomas in Tiruchi.
| Picture Credit score: M SRINATH

Uncommon gems

The arboretum capabilities as a sensible examine centre for college students of botany, and may additionally be among the many few repositories of uncommon timber which are privately maintained within the State. Among the many many samples right here, Thomas and Lourdes Mary level out a few of their favourites. There’s the autograph tree, ( Clusia rosea), so known as as a result of the leaves will be written upon. “Our grandsons have etched out their names on this leaf, it’ll be there till it’s shed,” Lourdes Mary laughs.

The ‘yaanai kundumani’ ( Adenanthera pavonina) rising right here has a historic significance too; the pink seeds of this perennial and non-climbing species of leguminous tree had been as soon as used as a unit of weight by goldsmiths and jewellers as a result of all of them weighed the identical (0.05 grams).

We’re launched to the seven-leaf kadamba maram ( Anthocephalus cadamba), the ‘sthala vriksham’ of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. “It is extremely exhausting to develop as a result of the seeds are very minute and saplings are delicate,” says Thomas.  

After which there’s ‘iluppai’ ( Madhuca longifolia), whose thick seed oil as soon as used to mild up temple towers earlier than electrical energy got here into use. “Apart from the concentrated seed oil, its flower can be utilized as an alternative choice to cane sugar. Conventional snacks was fried in illupai oil and the temple automobiles in these days had been made out of illuppai wooden. Many shrines used to domesticate groves of those timber primarily to extract the seed oil for lighting the advanced. However this has died down after electrical energy entered the image,” says Thomas.

Searching for the following era of tree lovers to share his analysis with, Thomas has used the lockdown months to publish Tamil books on the topic. “The timber in my backyard are usually not revenue-earning; maybe this is the reason curiosity in my work is proscribed to only botanists. I’ve been spending my pension on accumulating seeds and saplings and it will be good if extra folks step as much as assist us save our uncommon timber,” he says.

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