Smriti Kak Ramachandran
NEW DELHI: Spread over 300 acres on Raisina Hill, Rashtrapati Bhavan is perhaps the only place in the historic city of Delhi where one will find trees bridging the geographic divide; trees from the cooler climes of the hills growing in close proximity to those from the hot plains.
From apples to palm to Indian rosewood, a variety of trees including the 16 grown-up banyans that former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam made mention of in his poem “Banyans’ Question Echoes In My Soul” stand rooted in the President’s Estate. Famous for its gardens and greenery, Rashtrapati Bhavan since its commissioning in 1929 is home to a staggering 160 varieties of trees. These varieties complete with their description, their botanical names and uses are documented in a new book, “Trees of Rashtrapati Bhavan.”
The book, which has a page devoted to each variety, has text by Brahma Singh, Officer on Special Duty (Horticulture). The book, with a foreword by Mr. Kalam, serves as a “guide” to nature lovers and a knowledge bank. “The primary aim of the book is a pictorial presentation of the trees at Rashtrapti Bhavan. Identifying, photographing and documenting the trees was a challenge, as everyday new trees were spotted,” said a senior official.
Pointing out that the diversity of trees became a cause for amazement, the official said: “We realised that the tree species added to the Estate during the creation of the herbal, nutrition, spiritual and tactile gardens during 2002-07 had been substantial.” Referring to the variety of trees that can be spotted in the Estate, the official said: “Here you can find trees that grow in different climatic zones. However, trees like the apple grow here, but do not yield fruit.”
The book also provides information on the important parts of a tree, characteristics of its bark, leaf, flower and fruit. The Estate has been divided into the Mughal Court, Schedule “A”, Schedule “B” and Dalikhana and trees growing in each of these sections have been documented.
In the Mughal Gardens, for instance, there is the lucky bean tree, Italian cypress and the torch tree — known for its ornamental value in gardens and parks.
The trees of Schedule “A” include the milk tree, whose wood is prized as excellent timber and fruits make ideal emergency food; Buddhist bauhinia whose flower buds and leaves are used as food and wood is used for making agricultural tools.
Earpod wattle used for making writing and printing paper, Indian rosewood the bark of which is used for treating dysentery and leucoderma and rai jamuna, whose fruits are known for their medicinal value are found in Schedule “B”.
The trees of Dalikhana include mango, teak, fruit bearing trees like mosambi, loquat, peach and grape fruit.