Trees and Us

There are two things about trees and us. For one, we do not know our indigenous species. And that may be because all of us have come from Arabia, Turkey, Iran or Central Asia. We first blighted this land with eucalyptus to such an extent that so called educated people do not know that it is an alien from Australia. Now we are disfiguring it with cornucorpus, rubber tree, asoka and whatever else we can import from any old place.
The other thing that we simply lack is the acumen to see the connection between trees and ecology. So where we should be planting indigenous banyan, pipal, and neem trees – to name a few – we have diseased the land with useless species that give neither shade nor fruit nor sanctuary to our fast dwindling avian friends.
Mind you, once the song of the birds is gone, we will die from a loneliness of the soul.

·

A TREE THAT MAY IN SUMMER WEAR

A NEST OF ROBINS IN HER HAIR;

A TREE THAT LOOKS AT GOD ALL DAY,

AND LIFTS HER LEAFY ARMS TO PRAY

·

by Salman Rashid

·

In 1914, Alfred Joyce Kilmer wrote a poem titled Trees: I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest/ Against the earth’s sweet-flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day,/ And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in summer wear/ A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain;/ Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me,/ But only God can make a tree.

But we in Pakistan think that is hogwash. The Express Tribune issue of May 9 carried a news item about the cutting down of seven trees in Jinnah Supermarket, Islamabad. It detailed that the builder of a new plaza did not agree with the ugly view (as reported) that these 40-year-old trees presented to the plaza. I ask you! We are told that the Capital Development Authority only acted after the trees were destroyed to suspend the official concerned and impose a fine of Rs50,000 per tree.

There are two things about trees and us. For one, we do not know our indigenous species. And that may be because all of us have come from Arabia, Turkey, Iran or Central Asia. We first blighted this land with eucalyptus to such an extent that so-called educated people do not know that it is an alien from Australia. Now we are disfiguring it with cornucorpus, rubber tree, asoka and whatever else we can import from any old place.

The other thing is that we simply lack the acumen to see the connection between trees and ecology. So where we should be planting indigenous banyan, pipal and neem trees — to name only a few — we have diseased the land with useless species that give neither shade nor fruit nor sanctuary to our fast dwindling avian friends. Mind you, once the song of the birds is gone; we will die from a loneliness of the soul.

But the lout in Islamabad is no exception. About 18 years ago, a house was built in K Block, Model Town, Lahore. It being a corner plot, there were eight magnificent biri patti trees along the boundary. All were chopped down. As the process was afoot, I paused to take up the issue with the perpetrators. They — simple workers — said the owner wanted his house to be seen from outside. Of course, who wouldn’t when they have a façade of bathroom tiles! Even today, a couple of stumps still remind me of once beautiful spreading trees.

In 2003 or thereabouts, a new road connected Thokar Niaz Beg with WAPDA Town. It swung past a clump of three handsome pipal trees about opposite the electric grid station in Johar Town. Then it was a single two-way road. In 2004, its second track was planned. I hurried to photograph the pipal trees because I knew they figured nowhere in the grand scheme of the morons who rule our miserable lives. Sure enough, the trees, those magnificent heroes who purified the air we breathed and who sequestered the carbon that we madly generated so that this world could still be liveable for us, were brutally cut down. There was no question of anyone even considering giving the road a little swing to one side in order to let the trees live. They disappeared from sight and memory. Today, they exist only in a set of 35mm transparencies in my collection.

Come with me to my ancestral village Uggi. On the highroad to it from Jalandhar city, amid carefully tended fields of whatever may be in season, the road suddenly divides in two. There in the middle of it stands a lovely pipal tree. I joked with my kinsman Bakhshish Singh who was driving me home to Uggi: “Cut it down, you fool. It has no business in the middle of a road”.

An aghast Bakhshish stopped the car. He turned around to look me straight in the eye. “Never ever must you talk of destroying a tree,” he said. “Here we value trees more than we value human life. They are our truest friends who only do us good; and they ask for no recompense.”

So what really went wrong with us?

The writer Salman Rashid is  Fellow of Royal Geographical Society. His travel writing appears regularly in leading English language journals and he is the author of eight travel books including The Apricot Road to Yarkand and jhelum: City of the Vitasta.
You might also like:
1.My beautiful Pakistan, the land of Balochistan 2.Birds of Lahore – Sustainers of City’s Biodiversity 3. Muhammad (S.A.W.W), A Pioneer of Environment
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Published in: on 31/05/2012 at 11:21 pm  Comments (10)  
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  1. Here’s an interesting article….

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/CSM/story?id=546003&page=1

    — Hardly articulate, the tiny strangleweed, a pale parasitic plant, can sense the presence of friends, foes and food, and make adroit decisions on how to approach them.

    Mustard weed, a common plant with a six-week life cycle, can’t find its way in the world if its root-tip statolith — a starchy “brain” that communicates with the rest of the plant — is cut off.

    The ground-hugging mayapple plans its growth two years into the future, based on computations of weather patterns. And many who visit the redwoods of the Northwest come away awed by the trees’ survival for millennia — a journey that, for some trees, precedes the Parthenon.

    As trowel-wielding scientists dig up a trove of new findings, even those skeptical of the evolving paradigm of “plant intelligence” acknowledge that, down to the simplest magnolia or fern, flora have the smarts of the forest. Some scientists say they carefully consider their environment, speculate on the future, conquer territory and enemies, and are often capable of forethought — revelations that could affect everyone from gardeners to philosophers.

    Indeed, extraordinary new findings on how plants investigate and respond to their environments are part of a sprouting debate over the nature of intelligence itself.

    “The attitude of people is changing quite substantially,” says Anthony Trewavas, a plant biochemist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and a prominent scholar of plant intelligence. “The idea of intelligence is going from the very narrow view that it’s just human to something that’s much more generally found in life.”

    Indicators of Intelligence

    To be sure, there are no signs of Socratic logic or Shakespearean thought, and the subject of plant “brains” has sparked heated exchanges at botany conferences. Plants, skeptics scoff, surely don’t fall in love, bake soufflés or ponder poetry. And can a simple reaction to one’s environment truly qualify as active, intentional reasoning?

    • Steve, its awfully interesting subject you touch. In the good old days, we were being told that plants love music, that they flourish at a rapid pace, when you lovingly ‘talk’ to them. In those days it was more of a philosophical thing than a tangible, scientifically proven fact. But now when such things are being studied deeply, extensive scientific investigations being undertaken to impart tangible meanings to those philosophical findings, plant intelligence too is now no more a story of the past.

      In my small home garden, I hav grown flowers like carnations, lilies, buttercups and some others like irises and amaryllis’es. Some time it did happen that I undertook all the measures i.e. giving proper food [fertilisers etc], water, proetecting them from excessive cold in winters and intense scorching heat in summers, yet some carnations didn’t grow healthy as they should have been. Then I asked help of a plant doctor, a friend of mine. He is quite a senior guy, having about 25 years experience of practical gardening, working with flowers, vegetables and fruit plants throughtout his life, but all as a hobbyist and not as professional.

      And he asked me whether I ever cared about the mood of my plants. Flabbergasted, I asked what did you mean mood of my plants!! Man! plants are not humans, so how come should I care about a plant’s mood. “Plants are not humans, but dear me! they do have moods”. But then said I, “How do you explain, what mood and when plant has it”.

      There you come, said my friend, as we measure the body temperature with a thermometer, so do we determine the mood of plants with a pH meter. For example, says Mr. Ayub, carnations have a mood to accept food best when they have a pH of around 7.5 -7.8 vis-a-vis most other plants, who love growing in acid medium i.e. in a pH range of 5.7 to 7.

      Those of my carnations that weren’t growing well, I added a good amount of compost. The soil was much sandy as it should have been because carnations hate to have a wet foot and that’s why sand offers a good porous medium so that water does not clog the soil. But in spite of all these efforts my carnations were limpy and their blooms did not blossom to turn into full grown flowers.

      Having done an exercise with the pH meter, as per my friend’s advice, it turned out that the soil had a much lower pH which carnations don’t like and which my friend Ayub was referring to as the mood of carnations to accept food to their liking. The pH was 5.6 as compared to 7.8, a mood which enables the carnations to grow healthy. So I added a minute quantity of lime to the soil to raise the pH to around 7.8. Lo and Behold! Carnations started growing normal, brought bright, beautiful, vibrant flowers .

      I am not a botanical expert to correlate the plant intellect and behaviour, but there is definitely something to it what the botanists call the plant intelligence.

  2. […] Trees and Us 2. My beautiful Pakistan, the land of Balochistan 3. Birds of Lahore – Sustainers of City’s […]

  3. […] don’t care about their trees  2. Trees and Us 3. My beautiful Pakistan, the land of Balochistan 4. Birds of Lahore – Sustainers of City’s […]

  4. […] (Photo Credit: Trees1 @ wondersofpakistan.wordpress.com) […]

  5. […] 1. Trees and Us 2. Lahoris don’t care about their trees 3. Trees and Us […]

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  7. […] 1. Trees and Us 2. Lahoris don’t care about their trees 3. Trees and Us […]

  8. […] Trees and Us 2. My beautiful Pakistan, the land of Balochistan 3. Birds of Lahore – Sustainers of City’s […]

  9. Ah! breaks my heart when i see the trees being cut down, but people now tend to care more about immediate gains, soon the trees would be gone, the birds with them, the soils eroded, the water run off … perhaps then they will realize but it will be too late


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