Continuing our coverage of state Trees and Flowers across the country, we bring you the flagship flora of Jharkhand.
Jharkhand literally translates to ‘the land of the forests’. The state has amazing diversity in terms of culture, tradition and of course, nature, with its many hills and the green forests serving as home to several tree species. For a flora-rich state like Jharkhand, it must have been difficult to pin down one state flower and tree.
State Flower: Palash or Dhaak (Butea monosperma)
The crimson-red flower from the medium-sized Palash tree is the state flower of Jharkhand. The Palash flower is widely described in the literature and considered to be a symbol of love and harbinger of spring. The tree belongs to the family Fabaceae, which is the third largest family in terms of the number of species. Several trees produce flowers together, giving a burning appearance to the forest – hence the name, ‘Flame of the forest’. Many local communities also extract red colour from the flowers during Holi. The leaves are pinnate with three leaflets, giving birth to the popular Hindi phrase, ‘Dhak ke teen paat’. After flowering, the fruits produced are in the form of green-coloured, leaf-like pods. These pods contain a single seed and hence the species name is monosperma. During flowering and fruiting, the trees shed all their leaves, and are completely red or green in colour. It is an amazing experience to see this burning scarlet Palash during its prime flowering period.
State Tree: Sal (Shorea robusta)
Native to the Indian subcontinent, the state tree of Jharkhand is a significant timber-wood producing tree. The Sanskrit name of the tree is Ashvakarna, named so because the leaves resemble a horse’s ears. These leaves have a leathery feel and a coarse texture. Culturally, this tree is quite important. The Jains believe that the 24th Tirthankar, Mahavir, attained enlightenment under a sal tree.
Sal forests are spread across an area of nearly 10 million hectares in India. This large, semi-deciduous tree, which can grow up to a height of 50m, belongs to the family Dipterocarpaceae. This family includes about 350 species of trees, all of them tremendously valuable for their timber. In India, sal is considered as the second most significant tree for timber wood, after Teak. Sal trees grow in sandy loam soils, which are well-drained and moist. Moisture is the key characteristic which has influenced the distribution of sal. The ecological role of the sal is very important in central Indian forests. A study revealed that sal forests support much higher biomass in comparison to plantations of exotic Teak. Also, such forests are home to a greater diversity of woodpeckers as well as several other fauna species.
Cover Photo: Palash or Dhaak (Butea monosperma)
This is a joint Article by Dharmendra and Divya Khandal (Originally Published in SAEVUS Magazine Oct 2014 Issue)
Dharmendra is a Conservation Biologist with Tiger Watch. He is a researcher, monitoring anti-poaching initiatives around Ranthambhore. He is involved in reform programmes for the Mogya, a traditional hunting community. Divya Khandal is an amateur wildlife writer and photographer. She runs Dhonk, a social enterprise, which works with local communities promoting their crafts around Ranthambore National Park.
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