TRAVANCORE STATE MANUAL Volume One
V. NAGAM AIYA
Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
Righteous Rama, soft-eyed Sita, and the gallant Lakshman stood
In the wilderness of Dandak, — trackless, pathless, boundless wood,
But within its gloomy gorges, dark and deep and known to few,
Humble homes of hermit sages rose before the prince’s view.
* * * * * *
Creepers threw their clasping tendrils round the trees of ample height,
Stately palm and feathered cocoa, fruit and blossom pleased the sight,
Herds of tame and gentle creatures in the grassy meadow strayed,
Kokils sang in leafy thicket, birds of plumage lit the shade.
Limpid lakes of scented lotus with their fragrance tilled the air.
Homos and huts of rustic beauty peeped through bushes green and fair,
Blossoms rich in tint and fragrance in the checkered shadow gleamed,
Clustering fruits of golden beauty in the yellow sunlight beamed! “
Ramayana (R C. Dutt).
The special characteristics of Travancore flora are its diversity, beauty and economic value. The peculiar climate of the country, its rich forest soil and the extraordinary rainfall foster the growth of the several species of the indigenous trees and shrubs. From the middle of June to the middle of December the hills and plateaus are filled with rank vegetation and present a rich green appearance. During this period several valleys are impervious to men and some glens are inaccessible even to day-light. Hundreds of shrubs rise in the shade of the gigantic trees and entwine themselves with the climbing creepers that almost cover the trees. The rains cease with the beginning of December and most of these shrubs and creepers probably die before January closes. In the hot months, the dried underwood may be seen burning on all the hill tops. These fires are sometimes caused by excessive heat of the sun but more often by the hill Kanis for purposes of cultivation.
Of the forest trees, the Teak is the most valuable, being fit for all purposes where strength and durability are required. The Poon is found in the less accessible spots and is specially fitted for masts by its height and straightness. The Anjili affords excellent planks which are largely used in house-building. The stately Cotton tree is generally used for boat-making. The Arayanjili and the Caryota yield good fibres specially adapted to the manufacture of cordage and ropes. The Bamboo and the allied reeds are plentiful on the river banks. The wild Mango, the wild Jack, and the black, red and iron wood trees are common everywhere; those yielding gamboge, dragon’s blood, Muttippal and other kinds of aromatic gums are met with amongst the species of resin trees. Travancore seems to’ be the home of the Palm of which there are at least six species in the forests, two cultivated — the Borassus flabelliformis or Palmyra palm and the Corypha unbraculifera or the Talipot palm, and four wild — Pinanga dichronii, Caryota urens, Bentinckia condapana and Arenga Wightii.
The plains are not so thickly wooded and in certain places are bare as in parts of South Travancore, though this part of the country and the adjacent districts of Pandi must have been at one time covered with dense jungle. The low country trees are of the ordinary type and there is a lamentable absence of good fruit trees. The Jack and the Mango, generally of the inferior sort, are met with in every compound and garden. The Palmyra abounds in South Travancore as does the Cocoanut in Central and North Travancore; the Tamarind is but poorly represented considering the facilities for its growth. The Bamboo is practically unknown in the plains though the banks of rivers and channels afford fine soil for its growth. The avenue trees are chiefly Banyan, Arasu, Poo-arasu, Ichi and Naval interspersed occasionally with the Mango, Jack and Tamarind. There is a large variety of medicinal plants, and those yielding fibres, gums, resins, and dyes, a reference to which will be made later on.
Mr. T. F. Bourdillon, the Conservator of Forests, after commenting on the similarity of the flora of Travancore and Assam thus observes in an interesting article on the Flora of Travancore*: —
“From this it is reasonable to infer that one continuous forest of uniform character stretched from the west coast of India to Assam and Burma, and that the plants now found in the opposite extremes of India are the descendants of a common ancestor. The forests that still remain are the relic and the development of the great forest that covered the continent, and in the interests of science, the preservation of these remains from complete destruction has not come a day too soon.”
NOTEs: *The Malabar Quarterly Review June 1903
Of the general characteristics of the Travancore flora, he writes: —
“Undoubtedly the most remarkable feature of the forests of Travancore is the extent and variety of the Flora. Many writers have commented on the small number of the species in temperate and arctic climates as compared with the variety of species in tropical countries from the time that Darwin published his ‘Voyage round the world.’ Readers of that inimitable work will remember his description of the dark and sodden forests that clothe the Island of Tierra del Fuego, composed of one species of tree only.
“The most recent authority who has referred to the subject is Gamble, in his preface to the new edition of his Manual of Indian Timbers. He there places ‘the limiting number of species in the woody vegetation of India at 5,000. This includes shrubs and climbers as well as trees. With this he compares the 397 species mentioned in the Forest Flora of France, which includes many quite small plants, and the 134 species mentioned in Hooker’s Student’s Flora, as occurring in England.
“Now in Travancore more than 600 species of trees are known to occur which attain a height of 20 feet and upwards, excluding climbers and bushes of all sorts, and so little do we know of the trees that inhabit the interior that it is very probable that another 50 to 60 species will be added to the list when all parts of the forests have been explored. We may say that in this State which covers an area of about 7,000 square miles, there are to be found no fewer than 700 kinds of trees or one new kind of tree for every 10 square miles. When it is remembered that about half of the area is open inhabited country, rich in paddy fields and cocoanut topes and watered by numerous lakes and rivers, the variety of species becomes the more remarkable. This variety is due no doubt to differences of elevation from — 9,000 feet and to differences of aspect and of rainfall, for according to the locality, the rain falls in different months, and the amount varies from 20 inches to 300 during the year. But there is the result, this astonishing wealth of species, surely nowhere equalled in any other part of the world.
“In one respect this great variety of species may be looked on as an advantage, in another as a disadvantage. Among so many hundreds — nay thousands of trees and shrubs and herbs, there might be a large number capable of producing useful products — timber or fruits, gums, oils, or medicines. The field of work is wide — the results to be obtained both useful and interesting. Who will devote himself to the study? And it must be remembered that there is no finality about the work. We may examine one species of tree or plant and decide that it has no properties which will ever be of any use to man, and the timber, the fruit and the resin may be regarded in the present state of our knowledge as worthless. Let us therefore destroy the plant wherever found, to make way for the betters. But next year some chemical discovery may bring to light the fact that this very despised plant has certain properties possessed by no others, such for instance as the peculiar property of dulling the taste of sweet things, possessed by the pretty little creeper Cymuehttt sylvestre. One of the commonest trees in our low country forests is the Charei or Chera, Holigarna ferruginea. From its stem, from its leaves and from its fruit issues a blistering juice, of which nothing is known at present except that when it touches the skin of certain persons, the results are swelling and much pain. The immediate conclusion to be arrived at is that such a tree should be exterminated wherever found, for its timber is soft and worthless and is not suitable even for fuel, but who can say that within a dozen years, we shall not be asked to collect the acrid juice of this tree as a valuable medical agent? In this way the great variety of our Flora is interesting because it opens up such a wide field for study, and because it foreshadows the great possibilities and the great discoveries yet to be made.
“But from another point of view the variety is a disadvantage. In his report on the Forests of Ceylon written some 20 years ago, Mr. Vincent expressed the opinion that not more than 2 per cent of the species of trees to be found in Ceylon were of any commercial value, and judged by the standard of our present knowledge, the proportion of useful trees in Travancore is very small. There is an unlimited demand for certain timbers, but for others, hardly inferior to the favoured ones, and much appreciated in other parts of India, there is no demand. Who will be so enterprising as to experiment with the despised woods? Many times have we offered them for sale, and promised their good qualities, but in vain. The ordinary Timber merchant will buy the 20 kinds which he knows readily. All the rest are ‘Palmaram’, useless species to him and only to be consumed as fuel.
“It has often been said that the trees and plants of. India have no flowers and that such flowers as they have are without scent, and that except for the mango and the pine-apples there is no fruit worth eating. This by comparison with Europe. But the comparison is hardly fair. The truth is that the wild products of the one continent are as good as those of the other. Our cultivated plants and fruits are indeed vastly inferior to those of Europe, and the reason is not far to seek. They have not been selected and improved in the way that they have been improved in Europe, because the class of market gardeners and florists, and that of wealthy landowners interested in scientific agriculture does not exist in India, but the material from which to evolve the better product is not wanting.
“It is in the spring time that in Europe the earth puts on her garment of beautiful flowers. Our spring time is in September. It is then that the grassy uplands are covered with balsams, with white and pink orchids and yellow stone-crop. Most of the herbaceous plants blossom then, the pleasantest time of the year when the rains have poured their water on the soil, and the air is cool with soft breezes. So far as the wild flowers go, I do not think that Travancore is far behind other countries. We have no primroses or violets with their sweet scent but we have many beautiful orchids and others such as lilies, and amaryllis all awaiting the art of the horticulturist to improve them almost out of recognition.
“As regards fruits, we have the wild Jack and Mango which bear insipid or acid fruit in the wild state. The difference between the wild and the cultivated forms shows what can be done by cultivation. One of our commonest trees in the forests is the Longan — Nephdium longana — which in China produces a fruit of great excellence. It is largely exported from that country. The wild fruit is the size of the top of the thumb, round and wrinkled. Its appearance would not lead one to suppose that it could ever be improved into a fruit for the dessert table. The hillmen recognise many other fruits as fit for food even in their wild state. Some of them are not bad eating, and are at least much better than the wild mango. Perhaps the best of these is the fruit of Clausena villdenovvi— the ‘Potti’ of the Hillmen, of which Beddome said, it is ‘very delicious, as large as a large cherry, succulent as a grape, and somewhat of the flavour of black currant’. The fruit is not unlike a white grape but instead of growing in bunches, 6 or 8 fruits grow along a common stalk. This and many other wild fruits are well worthy of improvement and cultivation but this Clausena in particular. It does not like being moved from the climate and surroundings in which it is generally found.
“The vegetation and Flora of Travancore are of exceptional interest first, because they are the relic and development of flora which was at one time uniform over a large part of India, secondly, because of the extraordinary variety of species occurring within a small area, and thirdly because many of these species have been taken as types of plants with which others from all parts of the world have been compared.”
This chapter* is treated under the following heads: —
(1 Valuable timber trees
(2 Trees yielding gums, resins, and dyes
(3 Avenue trees
(4 Cycads and palms
(5 Bamboos and reeds
(6 Fibrous plants
(7 Medicinal plants
(8 Flowering and Ornamental plants
NOTEs: * The information for this chapter is based on Mr. Bourdillon’s exhaustive “Report on the Forests of Travancore” and his “Notes on some of the coninioner trees of the Travancore forests”, Dmry’s “Useful plants of India”, and Balfour’s “Timber trees of India”. The draft as originally prepared, from which this one is condensed, has been kindly corrected by Mr. Bonrdillon himself.
Valuable timber trees. There are nearly 650 indigenous trees in the forests of Travancore. This number includes many species occurring in North India and others peculiar to Ceylon. The uses only of a very few trees are known in Travancore. Others are considered useless and are popularly known as Palmarangal. In other parts of India these trees are highly valued. As the trees which are now considered valuable are getting rarer, the latter trees will in future be looked upon by the people as valuable and will be utilized.
This is rightly called “the monarch of the woods” as it is the most highly-priced timber under favourable circumstances and is perhaps the most useful of all the timber trees of India. It generally grows to a height of 80 to 100 feet to the first branch with a girth of 22 feet. In Travancore the tree seldom attains a height of more than 50 feet to the fork and a girth of 10 feet. It thrives best with a rainfall of from 120 to 150 inches and in a temperature ranging from 60° to 90° and attains its maturity in from 80 to 100 years and is sometimes found 400 years old. It grows in open forest, wants much room and light and never occurs in heavy moist forest from sea-level up to 8,000 feet elevation. The teak tree is usually found with such trees as Dalbergia latifolia, Pterocarpus marsupium, Terminalia paniculata, Anogeissus latifolia, Schleichera trijuga, Gmelina arborea, Sterospermum xylocarpum, Careya arboreay Phyllanthus emblica and others. It grows best at an elevation of 1,000 — 2,000 feet. The Idiyara valley has long been celebrated for the quality and size of its teak. Fifty or sixty years must pass after plantation before the tree can yield serviceable timber. The wood is brown in colour and when fresh sawn has the fragrance of rosewood — hard yet light, easily worked, strong and durable though porous. Its strength and durability are well known; for house-building and furniture it is the best of woods.
The Malabar teak is generally esteemed the best. For ship -building purposes, it is superior to every other sort of wood, being light, strong and durable whether in or out of water and hence it is extensively used for that purpose. A cubic foot of seasoned wood weighs about 40 lbs, that of unseasoned 55 lbs. or more. Burma teak is much lighter and Kole teak is heavier. A commercially valuable oil is extracted from the teak wood.
Kole teak is teak occurring in hard and unsuitable soil and hence growing not more than 3 feet in girth. Most of the teak in the low country if Ifdi tef aj|d its wood is close-grained and heavier than the ordinary
There are two species which yield blackwood, found in Travancore, viz., D, latifolia and D. sissoides. It attains an enormous size in Malabar and is often crooked. It is one of the most valuable trees of the Travancore forests. It is heavy and close-grained admitting of fine polish and is much used for furniture but seldom for building. The wood is white externally; in the centre of the trunk and the large branches it is purple or purplish black, often mottled or with light coloured veins running in various directions. The tree grows to a height of 60 to 80 feet and requires a temperature slightly cooler than that in which teak thrives, with a rainfall averaging from 50 to 150 inches. In strength it excels teak, but is very scarce and of slow growth, and less adapted for plantation than the teak. It does not seem to prefer any particular soil. It grows in the Travancore hills at an elevation of 0-3,600 feet and prefers a rather higher elevation than teak. One cubic foot of seasoned wood weighs 52 lbs; unseasoned 60 - 66 lbs.
This is a large tree 80 or 90 feet in height and 6 or 8 feet in girth growing in the Travancore forest at an elevation of 0-2,000 feet. It requires a considerable rainfall, but still it is very sparingly distributed. The heart-wood is black, hard and heavy, and is most valuable. In strength it excels teak. It is not much used as a building material for the pimple reason that wood of this kind, more than 6 inches square, is very seldom obtained. When young the wood is white, but as the tree advances in age the black portion increases until at last in the later stages of its growth the black heart is of considerable size. But there is always a large quantity of sap-wood even in old trees. It is used chiefly for ornamental work, furniture, inlaying, mathematical instruments, rulers &c.
The tree is of very slow growth. More than 100 years should elapse before an ebony tree attains a diameter of 1 foot. It is not suited for plantations. There are nearly 20 other kinds of Diospyros, but none of them have blackwood except D. ebenum which is extremely rare. One cubic foot of seasoned wood weighs 81 lbs; unseasoned 90-100 lbs.
This small tree (height never more than 20 feet grows in the Travancore hills at an elevation of 3,000 feet, and is celebrated for its highly scented and valuable timber. It is very sparingly distributed in Travancore, being found only in the Anchanad valley. Three varieties of sandalwood are known in commerce, the white, the yellow, and the red — the two former coming under Santalum album now under notice. The timber is eminently fitted for carving and other ornamental work such as small boxes, walking sticks, pen-holders and other fine articles. From this wood is produced the paste Chandanam which is used by Hindus for their caste marks. A valuable oil is distilled from the wood, 1 pound of the wood yielding about 2 drams of oil. The fragrance increases as the tree advances in age.
This also is a tree of slow growth, reaching its full development in 60 to 100 years, by which time the tree will have a diameter of one foot of heart- wood. It is well adapted for plantations if suitable land is selected, i. e., land with good soil and elevation not less than 1,000 feet and a light rainfall of 20 to 50 inches.
Thu lofty and handsome tree (height 100-160 feet, girth 16 feet grows in the Travancore forests at an elevation of 0-8,000 feet. It yields the valuable wood so well known on this coast for house-building, furniture, frame works, boats etc. It grows very rapidly on yellow loam with a rainfall exceeding 60 inches, reaching its maturity in 25 to 40 years. Its wood is bright yellow turning to brown with age, very straight-grained and free from knots and takes a fine polish. The bark yields a brown dye and the fruit is edible. The tree is well suited for plantations. Weight of seasoned wood 42 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 48 lbs.
This lofty tree (height 100 feet, girth 15 feet thrives best in heavy forest at an elevation of from 800 to 8,000 feet. It is also found to some extent along the banks of rivers in the low country. The wood is close-grained, heavy and yellow becoming darker with age. It is used for bridges and buildings of all sorts and occasionally for boats. It stands exposure when sawn into scantlings but cracks if sawn into thin planks. It is not attacked by white ants.
This tree grows nearly as fast as Anjili but is difficult to raise from seed. It is well suited for plantations.
This is a large and very beautiful tree, especially when in flower at the beginning of the rains (height 80 to 90 feet, girth 10 feet). It yields one of the most abundant and useful timbers, the Venga wood of South India. It is widely diffused and is found in large numbers in the forests of Travancore. It grows best on stiff soil at an elevation of 0-3,000 feet and is found in company with Eattie, Thembavu and other trees. It is found in abundance where teak is scarce. It is a fast grower and attains maturity in about 60 to 80 years and grows to double that age, but is not suited for plantation as it is not gregarious. The timber is as strong as teak, heavier, and less liable to split after long exposure. The colour of the wood is dirty yellow darkening with exposure. It is never used for house-building in Travancore, as, when wet or unseasoned, it imparts a yellow stain and gives out to wet lime a dark rusty brown colour. It is specially useful for fine furniture and resembles fine Mahogany but must be well seasoned to avoid the yellow stain. Seasoned wood weighs 56 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 65-70 lbs.
This tree yields a resinous substance which is exported in large quantities. This is the gum Kino of commerce used largely for dyeing and calico-printing.
This is another huge tree (height 80 to 120 feet, girth 12 feet) growing in open grass forest at an elevation of 0-3,000 feet in company with blackwood, teak and other trees. Its growth is fairly fast; it reaches maturity in 80-100 years and lives for more than 200 years. The wood is dark brown, hard and heavy, and is much used for house-building. In matured trees, the wood is exceedingly heavy, of the same weight as water and is not easily worked. It is a disappointing timber. Its strength and durability are uncertain or it would be used even more largely than it is. The weight of seasoned wood is 60 lbs. a cubic foot, and that of unseasoned 75-80 lbs.
The ashes of the burned bark produce a kind of chunam which contains much potash. The bark is used in tanning and the leaves for manuring the paddy fields. The leaves form the food of the Tusser silk worm. A dyeing substance is obtained from the bark of this tree, which is used for brown colouring.
This lofty tree (height 120 feet, girth 16 feet) is found only on the West Coast of India from Canara to Cape Comorin and there, it is abundant and well distributed. It grows in moist forest at an elevation of 0-3,000 feet and attains its greatest size at an elevation of 1,400 feet. The wood is pale yellow with a smooth silky vein, sweet-scented and easily worked and is used for oil casks. It does not stand exposure. Seasoned wood weighs 42 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 52 lbs.
The cedar is a tree of moderate growth, 500 years being the limit of its life; it grows more rapidly in its younger stages.
This large and valuable tree (height 60 feet) is abundant in Travancore. It grows at an elevation of 0-4,000 feet and is common on the Peermade hills. This is well suited for plantations and grows well with Anjili. The wood, coarse, red and sweet-scented, is used for furniture of idl kinds, house-building and carving and is called the “Mahogany of India” which it resembles closely, though lighter and not so close in the grain. It admits of fine polish. It is used also for tea boxes, shingles and cigar boxes.
This is a large tree with a straight stem, (height 120 feet, girth 12 feet), with a smooth, very pale bark scaling off in thin flakes not much thicker than paper and found only on the West Coast from Bombay to Cape Comorin. It grows to its largest size in the forests of the north at a low elevation of 200 to 300 feet; it is never found in the dense moist forests. It lives for more than 200 years but grows very slowly and is not therefore suited for plantations. The wood is light brown, straight-fibred and elastic but splits easily. It is not strong and does not stand exposure to the weather.
This valuable fruit and timber tree is much planted and grows largely all over Travancore. It grows best in rich red soil with a rainfall of not less than 50 inches. It grows rapidly when young, but after it has attained a diameter of 2 feet its growth is slow. It lives for more than 200 years. It is much cultivated in the low lands for fruits and along the roods for shade. It attains a height of about 80-100 feet with thick spreading branches. The fruit is very large weighing from 30 to 40 lbs. The green fruit is used in curries. The tree bears fruit in about 7 years, the fruit appearing in all parts even at the very root. Hence the proverb:— വേണമെങ്കിൽ ചക്ക വേരിലും കായ്ക്കും
The wood is excellent and is highly valued; it is yellow when cut, afterwards changing into dull red or mahogany colour. It admits of fine polish. It is used both for building purposes and for furniture of various kinds, such as chairs, tables &c., musical instruments and ornamental work. Of late years jack wood has been superseded by blackwood in the matter of furniture making. The weight of seasoned wood is 42 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 50 lbs.
There are several varieties of the Jack tree, but what is called Varikka or the honey Jack is the sweetest and best. The fruits yield a good red dye.
This tree is not found in South Travancore, but is common in North Travancore. It is a large tree growing to a height of 80-100 feet with a girth of 9 feet. It is always found in company with teak and requires a rainfall of not less than 100 inches. The wood is dark red, hard, heavy, durable and close-grained but not easily worked. It is used for boats, sleepers, posts, carts, house-building etc. It lasts a long time under water and is hence used in the construction of bridges, but in small scantling it is inclined to split and warp if exposed. It is however not much valued in Travancore. The weight of seasoned wood is 58 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 70 lbs.
This is a large tree with a height of 80 feet and a girth of 12 feet, widely distributed throughout Travancore at all elevations between sea-level and 3000 feet. It is a moderately fast grower. It increases in diameter 1 inch in 5 years and lives to be nearly 300 years old. The wood is hard, durable and flexible, with a coarse grain, is light brown in colour and does not split nor warp. It is highly esteemed in other parts of India for buildings, carts &c., but here in Travancore the people prefer other trees for such purposes. The unseasoned wood weighs 63 lbs. a cubic foot, and seasoned wood 53 lbs.
The Vernacular name covers two other varieties viz., Vitex pubescens and V. leucoxylon,
This lofty tree (height 100 feet, girth 9-16 feet) is found only in the open moist forests between sea-level and 3,000 feet elevation; it is particularly abundant and reaches a very large size in the forests near Konniyur and in North Travancore. The wood is light yellow seasoning to nut brown, close-grained, smooth and light, and admits of a fine polish but does not stand exposure to water. It is used for building, furniture, boxes, turnings &c., in other parts of India, but in Travancore it is not much used. Weight of seasoned wood 42 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 50 lbs.
This is a large handsome tree of slow growth (height 100 feet, girth 15 feet). It lives to a great age of nearly 300 years but is not suited for plantation as its growth is too slow and its value too small. It is found in Travancore with Irul, Maruthu &c., on the deciduous forests 0-2,000 feet. Its wood is strong and durable, seasons and polishes well and is used for carts, sugar and oil mills, and a variety of other useful purposes. Weight 67 lbs. a cubic foot.
This is a medium-sized tree of very ornamental appearance on account of its handsome pink flowers, found along the banks of streams and in the open forests. It lives to be nearly 200 years old. Its wood is pale red, tough and very durable under water but it decays under ground and is seldom used in Travancore. Seasoned wood weighs 38 lbs. and unseasoned 48 lbs. a cubic foot. Silkworms feed on the leaves of this tree.
This useful tree is found wild in our moist forests at all elevations up to 2,000 feet. In the low country it is much planted for its fruit. It is not a very rapid grower and lives for a century and a half. The wild fruit is hardly edible but the low country fruit is very wholesome and when unripe is much used in curries, preserves &c. Its flowering time is January, February and March and the fruits ripen from May to July, There are several varieties found in Travancore. The wood, dull grey and porous, is very serviceable for planks when not exposed to wet and hence much used for house purposes. It can also be used for canoes as it bears the action of salt water well. Seasoned wood weighs 42 lbs. a cubic foot and unseasoned 55 lbs. The leaves form an excellent food for silkworms.
This is a handsome tree of very large size reaching a height of 120 feet or more and a girth of 10 feet, found all through Travancore in the dense evergreen forests from 300 feet elevation to 400 feet. It requires a rainfall of not less than 100 inches and thrives on very poor soil where no other tree will succeed. The wood is reddish, loose-grained, long-fibred and elastic. In the coffee and tea plantations it is used for reapers, packing cases, rough planking and furniture; its chief use however is for spars of vessels, its great length, lightness, straightness and elasticity making it most suitable for this purpose; a single spar sometimes realises 1,000 Rs. but the demand is uncertain and unequal. The Pinnakai oil so largely used for burning lamps is made from the seeds of the Alexandrine Laurel, Calophyllum inophyllum, a small tree abundantly planted in the low country.
This is a very lofty tree (height 120 feet) with grey shining bark and small flowers, widely distributed in Travancore. It requires a very heavy rainfall, grows very fast and lives for more than 200 years. Its wood, dirty white, exceedingly light, soft and even-grained, takes a good polish and paint and is used for canoes, boats and catamarans, carved toys &c. , but it is neither strong nor durable and white ants eat it. This tree is not suited for plantations on account of its low value.
This is another large and handsome tree (height 100 feet, girth 8 feet) with very beautiful pinkish flowers and occurs in Travancore from sea-level up to 3,000 feet both in the dense moist forests of the hills and in the open forests and in grass land, associated with teak and other trees. It is much planted on account of its ornamental appearance. Its wood, orange or reddish brown, is close and even-grained, elastic, durable and easily worked, gives a smooth surface and is used for house-building and for furniture and makes excellent fuel. This is a moderately fast growing tree and lives for more than a century. Seasoned wood weighs 48 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 58 lbs.
This large and stately tree (height 150 feet or more, girth 18 or 20 feet) with very large and showy flowers occurs in Travancore from sea-level up to 3,000 feet attaining its greatest height and girth in moist forests at the foot of the hills. Its wood is whitish, coarse-grained and brittle, but stands the action of water well and is hence used for floating rafts and packing boxes. Cotton or the wool of the pods is used for stuffing pillows, cushions &c. This is a fast-growing tree and lives for more than 200 years. Silkworms feed on the leaves of this tree and the large honey bee makes its nest chiefly in this tree.
This is a moderate-sized, fast-growing tree (height 30 feet, girth 6 feet) occurring in moist situations as on river banks. It flourishes best in open situations and is not found south of Trivandrum. The sapwood is yellowish white and not durable while the heart-wood is brown, straight and even-grained, seasons well, works freely, and admits of fine polish and is hence good for furniture, boxes, agricultural implements.
Weight averages 46 lbs. a cubic foot.
These are the most valuable timber trees of Travancore. Among the other useful trees employed in the low country and having some market value may be mentioned the following: —
This tree is common in the drier districts of South Travancore and on the Peermade hills near Kambam and in the deciduous forests near Konniyur. The wood is dark-coloured and strong and is used for bandy poles and agricultural implements. A valuable gum is obtained from its stem which is used in cloth-printing and its leaves are used for tanning.
This tree is abundant in the evergreen forests from 0-6,000 feet. Ito wood is very heavy, hard and durable; but for its great weight it woul be more commonly used for building. It gives out great heat when burnt and makes first rate charcoal.
This is a straight tree abundant in the forests of North Travancore. The wood is light and very elastic and is very well adapted for masts and yards.
A very large tree yielding timber of an excellent quality for beams and a variety of uses, found only on the Western Ghauts from South Canara to Cape Comorin. The wood is brown and exudes a sticky oil resembling Copaiba balsam for which it may be substituted.
This beautiful tree which is so much planted in gardens and along avenues for the fragrance of its flowers and which is very abundant in the moist forests, is sometimes cut for boats. It is better known for its gum called white dammer, an excellent varnish resembling copal
These are felled for building and boats; the former especially is said to be very good wood and is an exceedingly handsome tree.
This is a small-sized tree with a light reddish wood, very useful for furniture and house-building.
A moderate-sized tree of light wood growing in the moist forests, much used for boats.
An immense tree-of the dense moist forests with light wood, not strong or durable, used for boats, tea boxes Ac. Its inner bark is composed of very strong tenacious fibres and seems excellently fitted for cordage and matting.
Another tree of immense size common in the moist forests of the north. The wood is light and fairly durable if smoked; it is sawn into planks or fashioned into boats.
A lofty tree found in the evergreen forests and on river banks U-3000 feet. Wood is light, white, useful and durable if smoked.
A large and handsome tree common in the deciduous forests 0-3000 feet with a milky juice; wood white, and very light but not durable, used for rough planking.
A tree of moderate size, occasionally cut into boats.
14. Maruthu or Pumaruthu — Terminalia paniculata
A large tree and one of the commonest of the deciduous forests. Wood is strong and durable but not much appreciated in Travancore, used for buildings to a small extent.
Two botanical names come under this, viz., Miliusa velutina and Bocagea dalzelli. These are very elastic woods which may be used for carriage shafts, spear handles and such purposes. The former is found in the deciduous forests, while the latter occurs only in the moist forests.
A large tree resembling Anjili, generally felled for boats; grows in the moist forests of North Travancore.
Wood hard and heavy, used only to a limited extent in Travancore, though much valued in other countries.
A moderate-sized tree, possessing light wood used for carving; the image put up in Roman Catholic churches is commonly made of this timber.
These are the only trees yielding timber commercially valuable; many other trees there are, indigenous to the country, used for rough house-building, for posts or for the construction of jungle wood-roofs but they have no commercial value and are used only by the poor or for temporary buildings.
The following is a list of trees exclusively used by the planters living at elevations between 1500 and 4000 feet —
1. Kattu Iluppa or Pala, of which there are two species viz., Dichopsis elliptica and Chrysophylhum roxburghii.
The latter has very poor timber, while the former yields a reddish brown timber with straight grain, easily worked when young, but hardening with age, and used for shingles. A sticky milky juice exudes from both of them, which is commercially valuable.
A large tree occuring in the moist forests up to 2,000 feet yielding a hard, heavy and durable reddish wood used for building.
A large tree common in the Peermade plateau; wood dull white resembling mango wood, used for rough planking and building.
This is another very large tree common in the evergreen forests 0-8,000 feet. It yields soft resinous wood used for reapers, but which decays rapidly with exposure.
A very large forest tree, confined to the extreme south of the Peninsula and ascending the hills to an elevation of 4,000 feet. It yields a beautiful red wood suitable for furniture but not strong.
Wood, hard, yellowish red; suitable for buildings if cut in large scantlings but liable to crack if sawn thin.
Found only in places where the climate is dry; wood pink and splits easily used for shingles as well as for buildings and furniture.
A small tree common in the evergreen forests growing at an elevation of 2,000 to 4,000 feet, with a white, hard and heavy wood used for turning and posts, H.elata another tree of the same species possessing a like wood.
First comes the beautiful Venga tree, Pterocarpus marsupium, already described, which yields the dragon’s blood or gum kino of commerce. The gum is collected by incisions in the bark. Of dammer there are two varieties, the white dammer or Vella Kundrikam, the product of Vateria indica or the Payin tree, and the black dammer, the product of Canarium strictum or Thellimaram, a lofty tree very abundant in our dense moist forests from 0-5,000 feet. The gum exudes from all parts of the tree and is semi-transparent in small pieces, but black in masses and tastes like fennel. It is collected and used for bottling and varnishes. A solid oil is also obtained from the seeds of Vateria indica, known as vegetable tallow, of which candles are made, which diffuse an agreeable fragrance and give a clear light with little smoke. The oil is used also as a local application in chronic rheumatism.
The lofty Ailantus malabarica, common in the evergreen forests of North Travancore, yields a fragrant resinous juice known as Muttipal which is burnt as incense and used also for medicinal purposes. Reference has already been made to the Shurali or Hardwickia binata yielding a gum said to be as useful as copaiba. Butea superba as well as its allied species B. frondosa or the Palasa tree yield a kind of East Indian kino flowing from fissures in the bark, which becomes opaque and dark-coloured after a time. This gum which dissolves in hot water imparting to it a fine red colour contains a large proportion of tannin which might render it useful in the arts and in tanning leather especially for thick hides. The fruit of the Panichimaram, Diospyros embryopteris, contains a large proportion of tannin and a gum used for fishing lines &c.
The Kattucheru or Holigarna arnottiana is one of the trees yielding the well-known black lacquer varnish. The juice of the fruit is used by painters and also for fixing indelible colours figured on linen cloths. The small and thorny Karuvelam tree. Acacia arabica, yields a valuable transparent gum which is used as a substitute for gum Arabic, which itself is the product of A. vera. The bark of this tree is used for tanning leather and also for medicinal purposes. The Pattathamara, Macaranga indica a very common tree in Travancore, produces a gum of a light crimson colour used for taking impressions of leaves, coins, medallions &c. The stem of the Vilatti or wood-apple, Feronia elephantum, yields a transparent gummy substance which is used for mixing with painter’s colours, in dyeing and also in ink and varnish. The gum called in Tamil Velan pishin, resembles the true gum Arabic and is also used for medicinal purposes. The Vembu, Melia azadirachta, the Iluppa, Bassia longifolia, the Bilva, Æegle marmelos and the Cashewnut, Anacardium occidentale are some of the other common trees yielding useful gums.
The Gamboge tree, Garcinia pictoria, abundant in the moist forests yields a very bright orange pigment which is excellent and equal to the best gamboge. Two other trees of the same species also are said to yield good pigments, viz., G. morella and G. travancorica. The Kamila dye is the product of Ponnagam, Mallotus philippinensis, a middle-sized tree found in the secondary and open forests from 0-5,000 feet. Kamila is the powder rubbed off the capsules and is also found though in smaller quantities on the leaves and stalks of the plant. It is of a rich red colour, used all over India especially for silk to which it imparts a fine yellow colour. Two species of myrabolans are gathered from the Kadukai or Terminalia chebula and the Tani or T. Belerica, the former especially being in good demand. They are very astringent and are used for tanning, also for making ink; with alum they make a good yellow dye. The Manjanatti or Morinda tinrtoria, a very common tree, frequently met with in gardens as well as in the forests, yields a yellow timber which takes a polish equal to jack wood, the interior wood of the old trees yielding a dye.
The Noonamaram or Morinda umbellata a common climbing plant, yields a dye of permanent yellow from its root; with the addition of sappan wood a red dye also can be prepared from the same. It is said that the colours dyed with this as well as the other species of the Indian mulberry plant are for the most part exceedingly brilliant and the colouring matter far more permanent than many other red colours and that with improved management the dye would probably rival that of madder. The Manjadi or Adcnunthera pavonina also yields a red dye. And lastly we have the Sappan wood. Ceasalpina sappan, a small tree whose wood called the red wood of commerce is extensively used in dyeing and is exported for that purpose. It grows freely without any care and is of the first quality in Malabar. It yields a first class dye much used on the other coast.
Foremost among the avenue trees comes the Banyan or Alamaram, Ficus bengalensis, an immense tree with branches spreading over a large area. It is remarkable for the singular property of letting a gummy kind of rootlet fall from its branches. These on reaching the ground soon form a natural support to the larger branches of the tree, and several of these extending and increasing from year to year forming a vast assemblage of pillar-like stems, rover a considerable area round the original trunk. This tree is wild throughout India, and is much planted for avenues everywhere. It is of rapid growth and grows best from large cuttings 6 or 7 feet long planted in the ground. In Travancore it is found both in the moist and deciduous forests from sea-level to 4,000 feet. The wood is light, coarse-grained, brittle and not durable, but lasts under water and is hence used for wells, water conduits &c. The root ‘drops’ are tough and elastic and are used for tent poles, cart yokes &c. Bird-lime is made of the milky juice which abounds in every part of the tree. The leaves are used as plates and the fruit is occasionally eaten. Birds are very fond of it.
The Arasu or Ficus religiosa is found wild in our subalpine forests but is not abundant. It is however very widely planted everywhere near temples and along avenues. It does not ascend the hills to any elevation. It is sacred tree and is much respected by the Hindus who are very unwilling to cut it down at any time. The wood is white, light and perishable. It is used for fuel, charcoal and packing cases. Elephants eat its leaves and branches and the silkworms feed on its leaves. Stick-lac is produced from it and the glutinous juice which exudes from the stem is made into bird-lime.
Eight other varieties of the Ficus species are found in Travancore, viz., Ficus tomentosa, F. altissima or Kal-atthi, F. benjamina, F. tsiela, F. Infectoria F.asperrima or Theragam, F. hispida or Erumanaku and F. glomerata, or Atthi, of which the last is the most important. This is found throughout Travancore in the secondary and open forests 0-3,000 feet. It grows rapidly and gives a light pleasant shade. It is much planted in coffee estates. The wood is white, light and not durable except under water; it is used for well rings. Bird-lime is made from the milky juice and the leaves are largely used as fodder for elephant and cattle.
The Naval or Eugenia jambolana is a very large tree found in the evergreen forests and much planted for avenues. The wood is reddish or dark brown, close-grained, but not straight; it is hard, and heavy but difficult to work and is therefore unsuitable for any use. The fruit is eatable, and the loaves and bark are used in native medicine.
The Poo-arasu or Thespesia populnea is another tree planted for roadside avenues, being remarkable for its easy and rapid growth from cuttings and yielding a good shade. It yields when ripe a very strong, hard and durable timber with a colour like mahogany, but its use is limited on account of the difficulty of getting it in large size.
The other trees planted for avenues are the Casuarina, the Tamarind, the Jack, the Mango, the Margosa, the Alexandrine laurel, the Payin and the Cashew-nut trees. Of these the jack, mango and payin have already been noticed under the valuable timber trees. The casuarina does not grow in the Travancore forests except when planted, as its introduction into Southern India itself from Chittagong, its native province, is only of recent date. It may however be of interest to state that the timber of casuarina which grows well from seeds and is a very rapid grower is without exception the strongest wood known for bearing cross strains and very valuable for fuel.
The Tamarind or Puli, Tamarindus indica, is planted largely for its fruit; it also runs wild in the dry forests from 0-2,000 feet. This is a graceful avenue tree of slow growth but attaining great size. The timber which is hard, heavy and durable is converted to many useful purposes in building, for mills and the teeth of wheels etc., and makes excellent fuel. The pulp of the pods is used both in food and in medicine. The natives have a prejudice against sleeping under the tree as its shade is considered unhealthy, and the tree haunted.
The Margosa or Vembu, Melia azadirachta, is a small and beautiful tree much planted in the low country for ornament and shade. Its uses are referred to a little later under medicinal plants.
The Alexandrine Laurel or Punna, Calophyllum inophyllum is another beautiful tree common on the banks of rivers and “not less esteemed for its ornamental appearance than for the delicious fragrance of its flowers”.
The Cashew-nut or Parangimavu, Anacardium occidentale, originally belonging to the West Indies is now common all over India. As the vernacular name implies, this seems to have been introduced by the Portuguese and has now run wild in the maritime forests all over Western India. Two kinds of oil can be prepared from the hard fruit borne at the end of the fleshy peduncle, viz., (1) a sweet nourishing table-oil from the kernels, pronounced equal to almond oil and superior to olive oil, and (2) a brown blistering oil from the rind (cardol). But this is scarcely done, the kernels being used only as a table-fruit. The wood is of no value but is largely used as fuel.
The most important of the indigenous cycads is the Eentha or Cyras circinalis, a small tree very abundant in the deciduous forests 0- 3,000 feet. It produces a good abundance of spherical fruit containing a kernel. The hillmen and the low country people in some parts collect these fruits and convert the kernels into an insipid flour which is baked into cakes. The fruit forms the staple food of some of the hill-tribes for several months together.
Exclusive of the Cocoanut and Areca palms, whose cultivation forms such a striking feature of the garden lands of Travancore, 6 other varieties of palms are known, of which 4 are wild. They are — the Palmyra or Borasus flabelliformis, the Talipot or Corypha umbraculifera the Bastard Sago or Caryota urens, the Bentinckia condapana, the Pinanga dichronii, and the Arenga wightii.
The palmyra is much planted in the drier districts of South Travancore. The fruit is not much used and the tree is valued mainly for the juice which is either drunk as toddy, distilled into arrack or made into jaggery. The leaves are used for several purposes like those of the cocoanut palm and the wood is valuable for rafters. The mighty talipot is doubtfully indigenous and is found all through our forests. Its large broad fronds are used for thatching and also for writing on with an iron style. The dried leaf is very strong and is commonly used for umbrellas. A kind of flour or sago is prepared from the pith of the trunk. As observed by Mr. Bruce Foote, late of the Geological Survey of India,
“The most striking feature in the flora of South Travancore is the immense forest of fan palms (Borasus flabelliformis) which covers a great part of the country. The fan palms, or palmyras, attain here to much greater height than they generally do elsewhere. Trees measuring from 90 to 100 feet in height are not uncommon in places, and with their stems greatly covered by white or silvery grey lichens, they present a much finer appearance than the comparatively stunted specimens one is accustomed to see in the Carnatic or on the Mysore and Deccan plateaus. Whether these Travancore trees owe any part of their greatly superior height to superior age, as compared with the palms in the great Palmyra forest in South Tinnevelly, I could not make out but the white colour of their stems, added to their great height certainly gives them a much more hoary and venerable appearance.”
The Bastard Sago, Caryota urens, common in the evergreen forests 0-3,000 feet, is a large tree yielding toddy. Sago is prepared from the stem. The tree is valued for the good quantity of sap it yields and also for its fibre. In times of scarcity these trees which are planted about the low country, are felled, and the pith is mixed with water and the resulting fluid is strained, and a flour is prepared from it.
The Bamboo is the most gigantic of the grasses and consists of several species all useful to man in a variety of ways. Seven species are known in Travancore, of which the most useful is the ubiquitous bamboo, Bambusa arundinacca commonly called Mungil or Mulah. The uses &c., of this and the other species of bamboos in general are thus described by Drury: —
“These gigantic arborescent glasses which cover the sides and tops of the mountains throughout the continent of India form one of the peculiar as well as the most striking features of Oriental scenery. Few objects present a more attractive sight in the wild forest of this country than a clump of these beautiful plants with their tall bending stems and delicate light-green foliage. With the exception of the Cocoa and some other palms perhaps, the Bamboo is the most useful and economical of all the vegetable products of the East. In no other plant is strength and lightness combined to that degree which renders this so important an article in building houses, lifting weights, forming rafts and a thousand other uses which might here be enumerated. It attains a considerable height, — some 70-80 feet — and has been known to spring up 80 inches in 6 days. At the age of 15* years, the bamboo is said to bear fruit, a whitish seed-like rice, and then to die. These seeds are eaten by the poorer classes.
NOTEs: * According to Mr. Bourdillon, 30.
“The purpose to which different species of bamboo are applied are so numerous that it would be difficult to point out an object in which strength and elasticity are requisite, and for which lightness is no objection to which the stems are not adapted in the countries where they grow. The young shoots of some species are cut when tender and eaten like asparagus. The full-grown stems, while green, form elegant cases, exhaling a perpetual moisture, and capable of transporting fresh flowers for hundreds of miles. When ripe and hard they are converted into bows, arrows, and quivers, lance-shafts, masts of vessels, bed-posts, walking-sticks, the poles of palanquins, to floors and supporters of rustic bridges, and a variety of similar purposes. In a growing state, the spiny kinds are formed into stockades, which are impenetrable to any but regular infantry, aided by artillery. By notching their sides, the Malays make wonderfully light scaling ladders, which can be conveyed with facility where heavier machines could not be transported.
Bruised and crushed in water, the leaves and stems form Chinese paper, the finer qualities of which are only improved by a mixture of raw cotton and by more careful pounding. The leaves of a small species are the material used by the Chinese for the lining of their tea-chests. Cut into lengths and the partitions knocked out, they form durable water-pipes, or, by a little contrivance are made into excellent cases for holding rolls of papers. Slit into strips, they afford a most durable material for weaving into mats, baskets, window-blinds and even the sails of boats. Finally, the larger and thicker truncheons are exquisitely carved by the Chinese into beautiful ornaments.
No plant in Bengal is applied to such a variety of useful purposes as the bamboo. Of it are made implements for weaving, the post and the frames of the roofs of huts, scaffoldings for buildings, portable stages for native processions, raised floors for granaries, stakes for nets in rivers, rafts, masts, yards, oars, spars, and in boat-decks. It is used for building bridges across creeks, for fences, as a lever for raising water for irrigation, and as flag-poles. Several agricultural instruments are made of it, as are also hackeries or carts, doolies or litters and biers, the shafts of javelins or spears, bows and arrows clubs and fishing-rods. A joint of bamboo senses as a holder for pens, small instruments and tools. It is used as a case in which things of little bulk are sent to a distance; the eggs of silkworms were brought into a bamboo cane from China to Constantinople in the time of Justinian. A joint of bamboo answers the purpose of a bottle, and a section of it is a measure for solids and liquids in bazaars.
A piece of it is used as a blow-pipe and as a tube in a distilling apparatus. A small bit of it split at one end, serves as tongs to take up burning charcoal, and a thin slip of it is sharp enough to be used as knife in shelling betel-nuts &c. Its surface is so hard, that it answers the purpose of a whet-stone upon which the ryots sharpen their bill-hooks and sickles.”
2. Male Bamboo or Kalmulah — Dendrocalamus strictus. This species of bamboo (culms up to 3 inches in diameter and 30 feet high has great strength and solidity and is very straight hence it is better suited far a variety of uses than the common bamboo. The natives make great use of it for spears, shafts &c. It is clearly a distinct species, growing in a drier situation than other bamboos. In Travancore its habitat is the Anchanad valley 3,000-4,000 feet.
8. Arambu — Oxytenanthera bourdilloni, A species of thornless bamboo growing on rocky cliffs found only at elevations between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. It attains a diameter of about 4 inches and a height of 40 feet. The hillmen use this for making combs and other household implements.
4. Oxytenanthera thwaitesii. Found in the evergreen forests 3,000-6,000 feet; reeds not exceeding 1 inch in diameter and 10 feet high.
5. The Eetta or Eeral reed — Ochlandra travancorica. This forms the undergrowth in many parts of the Travancore forests and is used by the hillmen for temporary huts, the reeds themselves being employed for frame work and the leaves serving as thatch. The reeds are also used for fencing, basket-making, mats &c., and an excellent paper is made out of the fibre.
6. Teinostachyum wightii.Another reed found on the hills and evergreen forests 3,000-4,000 feet; reeds not exceeding 1 inch in diameter and 10 feet high.
7. Amma — Ochlandra rheedii. Found on the banks of rivers in the low country; reeds up to ¾ inch in diameter and 10 feet high, used for basket-making.
There are also many other kinds of reeds not yet identified. Of grasses the most important is the lemon grass, Andropogon schaenanthus from which the famous lemon grass oil is extracted.
The Vakkanar, a very strong and durable fibre exclusively used for the dragging of timber by elephants, is made of the bark of Sterculia villosa, a small tree of rapid growth with straight trunk and smooth bark. All the layers of this tree can be stripped off from the bottom to the top with great facility and fine pliable ropes are formed from the inner layers while the outer ones yield coarser ropes. The fibre is unusually strong as the strands not only run lengthwise but are formed into a net-work by other strands crossing them diagonally. Sterculia guttata is another tree of the same species yielding a useful fibre which is generally used for making coarse bags.
The Arayanjili, Antiarius toxicaria, yields, as we have already noticed, strong fibres which are excellently fitted for matting, sacking and cordage. The Kaivanar so largely used by the Chalpans of Trivandrum, and the low-caste dhobies of Central and North Travancore for making coarse cloths, gunny bags and sacking is obtained from the bark of Valampiri or Helicteres isora which occurs as an undershrub in most of the lower and outer forests of Travancore. The fibres are strong and white-coloured and are well adapted for ropes and cordage. A fortnight’s soaking of the fresh stems in running water yields a fibre of very good colour with a pearly lustre.
Strong fibres are also made from the bark of Pulimanji or Hibiscus cannabinus and its allied species H. tilaceus (Nirparuthi), of Cherutali or Antidesma bunias and Nagavalli or Bauhinia scandens and from the roots of Butea superba and its allied one Butea frondosa. A species of Crotalaria resembling Crotalaria juncea or sunn-hemp is largely grown in Shencottah and the northern districts of Ampalapuzha, Shertallay, Vaikam, Alangad, Kunnatnad and Parur, especially in Vaikam. Here the plant as well as its fibre are called Wuckoo, the latter being largely employed in the manufacture of fishing net and tackle. Some specimens of strong canvas made of this fibre were sent to the Madras Exhibition of 1851, which have been much approved of by competent judges from the compactness and strength of the manufacture.
The Erukkalai plant, Calotropis gigantea, a plant growing wild in Travancore, generally on hot stretches of bare sand as well as in dry, rocky and exposed situations, yields useful fibres which are soft, white, silky and very tenacious. But the comparative shortness of the staple and the difficulty of extracting the fibres probably explain the sparing use made of them in the arts and manufactures. The fibre possesses many of the properties of the European flax and can be spun into the finest thread for sewing and weaving cloth. The white silk-like material of the pods has been successfully tried to mix with silk.
Among other common plants of Travancore yielding useful fibres may be mentioned, the Indian hemp largely grown for Ganja, Inja, Chiyakka, Jack and Anjili, Rattans, Ilavu, Mul Ilavu, Murunga, some species of Banyan, Nedunar, Poonga, Venga and Pooarasu. Of the plants yielding useful leaf-fibres the commonest are the plantains, of which there are several species. A regular industry has grown up on the plantain fibre, an account of which is given in the Chapter on Arts and Industries. Next come the Aloes, of which the Mexican aloe or Anakkattazha and the green aloe of St. Helena have become naturalised in the country. The pine-apple which is now regularly cultivated in some of the districts, especially in the South, yields an excellent fibre which from its silky lustre and great strength has been suggested as a fair substitute for flax.
The fibre of the palms requires special mention. The cocoanut, the palmyra, the talipot, the bastard sago and the wild dates, all yield good fibres which are “characterised by extreme tenacity, a certain degree of elasticity, firmness and gloss”, and are specially adapted for the manufacture of brushes, cordage, ropes and cables. The Kittul fibre of commerce is obtained from the fronds of Caryota urens which is much valued for its sago and toddy as well. Coir, the produce of the cocoanut palm, is not a true fibre but only a seed-hair like cotton and other vegetable flosses.
The number of medicinal plants seems to be legion. The native doctors use a very large variety of plants and shrubs for medicinal purposes. A short notice of only a few of them is attempted here.
We will start with those trees that are poisonous as well as medicinal. Of these, the Yettimaram or Kanjiram, Strychnos nux-vomica comes first. It is a tree of middle size common throughout Travancore. The seeds are most valued both in native and European medicine, and the well-known poison Strychnine is prepared from the kernel of the fruit. The pulp of the fruit is harmless and eaten by birds, monkeys and cattle.
It is believed that the seeds of the fruit if taken for two years one or two every day have the effect of rendering innoxious bites of poisonous cobras. The Tettankotta or Strychnos potatorum is harmless and is used for several medicinal purposes. The seeds of this tree have the singular property of clearing muddy water, if it is poured into a vessel of which the sides have been rubbed with bruised or sliced seeds. They are devoid of all poisonous properties and are used as a remedy in diabetes and gonorrhoea.
The Odallam, Cerbera odollam a small tree growing largely on the banks of canals and backwaters, yields a very poisonous fruit somewhat resembling a mango. The Vellai-oomatha, Datura alba, and the Karioomatha. Datura fastuosa, are both very common weeds famous for the intoxicating and narcotic properties of their fruits. Their medicinal and poisonous properties are well known. Of the two, the former is said not be quite so virulently poisonous as the latter. Both are used as anodyne and antispasmodic. Among other poisonous plants mention may be made of Sapium insigney a small tree growing on the upper hills, from which exudes a very poisonous and acrid juice, and the Chera or Holigarna ferruginea, a lofty tree found both on the slopes of the hills up to 3,000 feet and in the low country. This latter yields a sap which on exposure to air becomes dark like tar and when it falls on the body raises large blisters. The root of Mettonni or Gloriosa superba, a very handsome climbing plant, “one of the most ornamental plants any country can boast of,” is used medicinally by the natives and is commonly believed to be very poisonous. It is applied in paste to the hands and feet of women in difficult parturition; mixed with honey it is given in gonorrhoea. It is not poisonous in twelve-grain doses; on the contrary it is alterative, tonic and antiperiodic.
The following are some of the commoner medicinal plants arranged in the alphabetical order of their botanical names: —
Vettila Kasturi — Abelmoschus moschatus, A very common plant in Travancore, whose seeds have been given with the best effect in counteracting bites of venomous reptiles, being applied internally and externally.
Peruntutti — Abutilon indicum. The leaves of this shrub in decoction are used by European and native physicians as an emollient fomentation and an infusion of the roots is given as a cooling drink in fevers. The root is also used in leprosy and the seeds are reckoned laxative.
Kuppameni — Acalypha indica. The root of this small plant bruised in hot water is employed as cathartic, and the leaves as a laxative in decoction; mixed with salt the latter are applied externally in scabies. A decoction of the plant mixed with oil is a specific against gout and mixed with chunam is applied externally in cutaneous diseases.
Nayuri — Achyranthes aspera. The seeds are given in hydc0phobia and in cases of snake-bites, as well as in ophthalmia and cutaneoas diseases. The flowering spikes rubbed with a little sugar are made into pills and given internally in cases of dog-bites, while the leaves taken fresh and rubbed to a pulp are considered a good remedy for scorpion-bites. The root is used as a sort of tooth-brush in some parts of India.
Vasamboo — Acorus calamus. An aromatic bitter principle exists in the rhizomes of this plant, on account of which they are regarded as useful additions to tonic and purgative medicines, being much given to children in cases of dyspepsia, especially when attended with looseness of bowels. It is also beneficially employed in chronic catarrh, asthmatic complaints and intermittent fevers.
Adatoda— Adathoda vasica. The flowers, leaves and root are all considered antispasmodic and are given in cases of asthma and intermittent fever. The leaves given in conjunction with those of Tooduvala aad Kandankathri are employed internally in decoction as anthelmintic.
Bilva - Aegle marmelos. The root, bark, leaves and the fruit are all medicinally used. The half-ripe fruit, especially newly gathered, is a very good remedy for chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. The root, bark is a remedy in hypochondriasis, melancholia and palpitation of the heart and the leaves in decoction are used in asthma.
Chittaratta — Alpina galanga. The tubers which are faintly aromatic, pungent and somewhat bitter are the larger galangal of the shops and are used as a substitute for ginger. They are given in infusion in fevers, rheumatism and catarrhal affections.
Lemon grass — Andropogon schaenanthus. An infusion of the fragrant leaves which are bitter and aromatic is given to children as an excellent stomachic. It is also diaphoretic. The oil prepared from it is a most valuable remedy in rheumatism applied externally.
Vilamicham — Andropogon muricatum. An infusion of the roots is given medicinally as a gentle stimulant and a grateful drink in feverish cases. The roots reduced to powder are given in bilious affections, and mixed with milk and applied externally as cooling applications to the skin when irritated. They are delightfully fragrant and aromatic and contain a volatile oil used in perfumery. The root in infusion is also used in cases of gout and rheumatism.
Karuntumba — Anisomeles malabarica. The juice of the leaves of this shrub is given to children in colic and indigestion and fevers arising from teething; it is also employed in stomachic complaints, dysentery and intermittent fevers.
Samudrachedi — Argyreia speciosa. The leaves are used in the preparation of emollient poultices and also in cutaneous complaints being applied externally to the parts affected.
Perumarundoo — Aristolochia indica. The root which is nauseously bitter is said to possess emmenagogue and antarthritic virtues. It is said to be a valuable antidote to snake-bites, being applied both internally and externally. Mixed with honey the root is given in leprosy and the leaves internally in fever.
Nirmulli — Asteracantha longifolia. This plant is commonly met with by the side of paddy fields and other damp situations. The roots are considered tonic and diuretic; administered in decoction, they are aim employed in dropsical affections and gravel.
Kattu Atthi — Bauhinia tomentosa. The dried leaves and young flowers are administered in dysenteric affections and a decoction of the bark of the root is given in cases of liver and phlegmatic complaints and also as a vermifuge. The bruised bark is also occasionally applied to tumours and wounds.
Alpam — Bragantia wallichii. This is peculiar to the Malabar Coast. The whole plant mixed with oil and reduced to an ointment is said to be very efficacious in the treatment of inveterate ulcers. Bartolomeo refers to this plant as “the only Malabar plant which I can with certainty call an antidote to poison’’. The root is powdered and administered in warm water to those who are poisoned. The familiar Malayalam proverb is “Alpam akathu visham porathu” i e., as soon as the Alpam root enters the body, poison leaves it.
Erukkalai — Calotropis gigantea. The acrid milky juice flowing from every part of this shrub is used by the natives for medicinal purposes in many different ways, besides preparations of the plant itself in epilepsy, paralysis, bites of poisonous animals, as a vermifuge &c. The root, bark and juice are used as powerful alteratives and purgatives. The plant as we have seen already is also valuable for the fine strong fibres with which it abounds.
Modakattan — Cardiospermum halicacabum. The root of the plant is diaphoretic and diuretic and is given in decoction as an aperient; the leaves are administered in pulmonic complaints and mixed with castor oil are internally employed in rheumatism and lumbago, and the whole plant boiled in oil is rubbed over the body in bilious affections. The leaves mixed with jaggery and boiled in oil are a good specific in sore eyes.
Seema Agathi — Caasia alata. The juice of the leaves mixed with lime-juice is a useful remedy for ringworm; the fresh leaves simply bruised and rubbed on the parts affected sometimes remove the eruption. The plant is also considered a cm*e in all poisonous bites, besides cutaneous affections.
Karuva or Kattulavangam — Cinnamomum zeylanicum. This small tree is very common in the jungles on the western coast. The seeds bruised or mixed with honey or sugar are given to children in dysentery and coughs and combined with other ingredients in fevers.
Elumichai — Citrus medica. Lime-juice is much used in medicine by native practitioners, possessing all the virtues attributed to that of the English lemon. It is considered to possess virtues in checking bilious vomiting and to be refrigerent, astringent, stomachic and tonic; diluted with water and sweetened it forms a refreshing drink. The dried rind of the fruit also is used as a vegetable drug.
Sankhapushpam — Clitorea ternatea. The seeds of this common creeper are a useful purgative. The root is used in croup; it is also given as a laxative to children and is diuretic.
Nervalam — Croton tiglium. The seeds of this small plant yield the well-known Croton oil. They are of the size of a sloe and are considered one of the most drastic purgatives known. The oil is chiefly employed in incipient apoplexy, visceral obstruction and occasionally in dropsy. The seeds mixed with honey and water are often applied to obstruct buboes. The expressed oil of the seeds is a good remedy externally applied in rheumatic and indolent tumours.
Mavilangam or Nirmathalam — Cratava religiosa. This small tree is abundant on river banks from 0-5,000 feet. The bark, leaf and root are all used medicinally. The leaves are slightly aromatic and bitter and are considered stomachic. The root is supposed to possess alterative properties. The juice of the bark is given in convulsions and flatulency and boiled in oil is externally applied in rheumatism.
Kuvamanjal — Curcuma angustifolia. An excellent kind of arrowroot is prepared from the tubers of this species, especially in Travancore, where the plant grows in great abundance, and this is a favourite article of diet. The flour powdered and boiled in milk is an excellent diet for sick people or children.
Wild Turmeric, Kasturimanjal — Curcuma aromatica. This is an ornamental and beautiful plant abounding in our forests. The root is used as a perfume and also medicinally both when fresh and dried. It possesses aromatic and tonic properties and is less heating than ginger.
Veliparuthi — Daemia extensa. This twining plant abounds in milky juice. In medicine the natives use the whole in infusion in pulmonary affections; if given in large doses it will cause nausea and vomiting. The juice of the leaves mixed with chunam is applied externally in rheumatic swellings of the limbs.
Karusalankanni — Eclipta erecta. The whole plant is alterative, tonic, purgative and diuretic. In paste with gingelly oil it is a good remedy for elephantiasis, applied externally. It has a peculiarly bitter taste and strong smell. The root has purgative and emetic properties assigned to it, and is also used in case of liver, spleen and dropsy.
Mullumurunga — Erythrina indica. The leaves and bark of this prickly tree are used in cases of fevers. The leaves pulverised and boiled with ripe cocoanut are also applied to venereal buboes and pains in the joints, and mixed with jaggery are apphed externally to the stomach in grips and colic.
Devadaram — Erythroxylon monogynum. The young leaves and tender shoots of this small tree are reckoned refrigerent. Bruised and mixed with gingelly oil they are applied as a liniment to the head. The bark is occasionally administered in infusion as a tonic.
Kammatti — Excoecaria camettia. This shrub grows abundantly along our backwaters and canals. It abounds in an acrid milky juice which is poisonous and blinding and is known as the “Tiger’s milk tree”. The juice is applied with good effect to inveterate ulcers. The leaves also are used for the purpose in decoction.
Karunochi — Gendarussa vulgaris. The leaves and tender stalks of this shrub are prescribed in certain cases of chronic rheumatism. The leaves in infusion are given internally in fevers, and a bath in which these leaves are saturated is very efficacious in the same complaint. The juice of the leaves is administered in coughs to children and the same mixed in oil as an embrocation in glandular swellings of the neck and the throat; mixed with mustard seed it is also a good emetic.
Choratti — Gomphia angustifolia. The root and leaves which are bitter are given as tonics in these parts. A decoction of the leaves is given in heart-burn and also applied in ulcers. The leaves, flowers and fruits boiled in water arc administered as a wash in gingiva and for strengthening the gums. The root boiled in milk and mixed with cummin seeds is said to allay vomiting and the root and bark pulverised and mixed with oil are made into an ointment for scabies and other cutaneous affections.
Kazhanchi — Guilandina banduc. The kernels of the nuts are very bitter and said to be powerfully tonic. They are given in cases of intermittent fevers mixed with spices in the form of powder. Pounded and mixed with castor oil they are applied externally in hydrocele.
Narunindi or Nannari — Hemidesmusindicus. This is the country Sarsaparilla very common in Travancore. The root is used largely for the thrush in children, a drachm every morning and evening of the powder fried in butter. Dried and reduced to powder and mixed with honey, it is reckoned a good specific in rheumatic pains, boils &c., and in decoction with onions and cocoanut oil is internally recommenced in haemorrhoids, and simply bruised and mixed with water in diarrhoea. This has been employed as a chief and efficacious substitute for Sarsaparilla in cachectic diseases, increasing the appetite and improving the health. The milky juice of the fresh plant boiled in oil is applied externally in rheumatism and an infusion of the whole plant is given in fevers. Carivilandi or Smilax ovalifolia also possess all the virtues of the true sarsaparilla.
Kodagapala — Holarrhena antidysenterica. This is a common but handsome flowering shrub in the Malabar Coast. A medicine is prepared from the long pods, which is efficacious in cases of dysentery. The plant has astringent and tonic properties in its bark and is a remedy in fevers.
Modirakanni — Hugania mystax. This is a handsome shrub with beautiful golden yellow flowers. The bruised roots are used in reducing inflammatory tumours, as a febrifuge and anthelmintic, especially for children, and also as a remedy in the case of snake-bites.
Maravetti — Hydnocarpus wightiana. The fruit if eaten occasions giddiness. An oil is extracted from the seeds given in cutaneous diseases and ophthalmia, causing an excessive flow of tears.
Vallarai — Hydrocotyle asiatica. The leaves of this wildly distributed herb are roasted and given in infusion to children in bowel complaints and fevers. They are also applied to parts that have suffered from blows and bruises as anti-inflammatory. The plant is also said to be an excellent specific for leprosy.
Orelatamara — lonidium suffruticosum. The fruit in infusion is diuretic, and is a remedy in gonorrhoea and affections of the urinary organs. The leaves and tender stalks are demulcent and are used in decoction and electuary; also employed mixed with oil as a cooling liniment for the head.
Indian Jalap, Shevatai — Ipmoea turpethum. The fresh bark of the root is employed as a purgative mixed up with milk. Being free from any nauseous taste or smell, the root possesses a decided superiority over jalap for which it might well be substituted.
Kattumallika — Jasminum angustifolium The bitter root of this twining shrub ground small and mixed with lime-juice and Vasamboo root is considered a good remedy in ringworm. The leaves of its allied species, Jirakamulla or J. sambac if boiled in oil exude a balsam which is used for anointing the head in eye-complaints. It is said to strengthen the vision. An oil is also expressed from the roots used medicinally.
Kattamanakku — Jatropha curcas. The seeds of this shrub are purgative occasionally exciting vomiting. A fixed oil is prepared from the seeds useful in cutaneous diseases and chronic rheumatism applied externally, also for burning in lamps. The leaves warmed and rubbed with caster oil are applied to inflammations when suppuration is wished for, and the juice of the plant is used for haemorrhoids. The oil is a very much more powerful purgative than castor oil but very uncertain in its action. The Chittamanakku or ordinary castor oil plant belongs to a different species, Ricinus communis whose oil is used largely as a mild laxative and for burning lamps.
Vembu or Neem tree — Melia azadirachta. This is a beautiful tree whose leaves, bark, seeds and oil are all medicinally used by the natives. The bark which has a remarkably bitter taste is considered & most useful tonic in intermittent fevers and chronic rheumatism, administered either in decoction or powder. The oil which is of a deep yellow colour and much used for burning lamps, is a useful remedy in leprosy and is moreover anthelmintic and stimulant, being used externally in bad ulcers and as a liniment in headaches and rheumatic affections.
Champaka — Michelia champaca. The bark of the root is red, bitter and very acid and when pulverised is reckoned emmenagogne the flowers beaten up with oil are applied to fetid discharges from the nostrils, and all parts of the tree are said to the powerfully stimulant.
Thottavadi — Mimosa puidica. This is the common sensitive plant. Mixed with gingelly it is given as a drink in gonorrhoea.
Karuveppila — Murraya koeningii This is the curry-leaf tree whose leaves are used for flavouring curries. The leaves are further used in dysentery and to stop nausea; the root is laxative and both bark and roots are stimulants and are used externally as remedies in eruption and in infusion to check vomiting in cholera.
Wild Nutmeg, Jatikkai — Myristica laurifolia. This is a large tree common in the evergreen forests. The mace of this kind of nutmeg has not the same virtues as that of the common one, Mixed with honey it is administered in coughs and pectoral afifections but generally in combination with other ingredients.
Sweet Basil, Vellatulasi— Ocimum bacilicum. The whole plant is aromatic and fragrant. The seeds are cooling and mucilaginous and are said to be very nourishing and demulcent. An infusion is given as a remedy in gonorrhoea, catarrh, dysentery and chronic diarrhoea, and the juice of the leaves is squeezed in the ear in ear-ache. It is said the seeds are a favourite medicine with Hindu women for relieving the after-pains of parturition.
Tulasi — Ocimum sanctum. The juice of this plant is given in catarrhal affections in children and mixed with lime-juice is an excellent remedy in cutaneous affections, ringworms &c. The root is given in decoction in fevers.
Nelli — Phyllanthus emblica. The seeds are given internally as a cooling remedy in bilious affections and nausea, and in infusion it makes a good drink in fevers. They are are also used in diabetes. The bark of the tree is used for dysentery and diarrhoea, and mixed with honey it is applied to aphthous inflamations of the mouth. The fruit is pickled or preserved in sugar. The young branches of the tree are put into wells to impart a pleasant flavour to the water, especially if it be impure from the accumulation of vegetable matter or other causes.
Kilanelli — Phyllanthus niruri. The root, leaves and young shoots are all used medicinally, the two first in powder or decoction in jaundice or bilious complaints and the last in infusion in dysentery. The juice of the stem mixed with oil is employed in ophthalmia.
Pevetti — Physalis somnifera. The root of this shrub is said to have deobstruent and diuretic properties. The leaves moistened with wann castor oil are externally employed in cases of carbuncle. They are very bitter and are given in infusion in fevers. The root and leaves are powerfully narcotic; the latter is applied to inflamed tumours, while the former in obstinate ulcers and rheumatic swellings of the joints mixed with dry ginger.
Black Pepper, Nallamilagu— Piper nigrum. This is Indigenous to the forests of Malabar and Travancore. For centuries past pepper has been an article of export to the European countries and even to-day a considerable quantity is annually exported from Travancore. The cultivation of this very common vine is described elsewhere. The berries medicinally used are given us stimulant and stomachic, and when toasted have been employed successfully in stopping vomiting in cases of cholera. The root is used as a tonic, stimulant and cordial. A liniment is also prepared which is used in chronic rheumatism. The watery infusion is used a gargle in relaxation of the uvula. As a seasoner of food, it is well known for its excellent stomachic qualities. Pepper in over-doses acts as a poison by over-exerting the inflammation of the stomach and its acting powerfully on the nervous system. It is also successfully used in vertigo, and paralytic and arthritic disorders.
Kodiveli — Plumbago zeylanica. The fresh bark bruised is made into a paste, mixed with rice conjec and applied to buboes. It acts as a vesicatory. It is believed that the root reduced to powder and administered during pregnancy will cause abortion.
Pomegranate, Mathalam — Punica granatum. All the parts of this tree are used medicinally. The rind of the fruit and flowers which are powerfully astringent are employed successfully as gargles, in diarrhoea and dysentery; the pulp is sub-acid, quenching thirst and gently laxative, while the bark is a remedy for tape-worm given in decoction.
Nagamalli — Rhinacanthus communis. The fresh root and leaves of this shrub bruised and mixed with lime-juice are considered a useful remedy in ringworm and other cutaneous affections. Milk boiled in the root is reckoned aphrodisiacal and the roots are used as a cure for bites of poisonous snakes.
Karinghota — Samadera indica. This tree grows abundantly in Travancore and Cochin. The bark has febrifugal properties and is used by the natives for this purpose. An oil extracted from the kernels of the fruit is extensively used in rheumatism.
Sandalwood — Santalum album. Sandal reduced to powder is supposed to possess sedative and cooling properties and is hence prescribed in fever and gonorrhoea. Mixed with butter it is applied in headaches. Internally it is given in fevers and bilious affections and externally in prickly heat and cutaneous eruptions. It yields by distillation a pale* yellow volatile oil, which is stated to be a successful remedy in gonorrhoea.
Belamodagam — Scœvola kœnigii. The leaves of this common shrub made into a poultice are powerfully emollient in tumours. Boiled in water a drhik is prepared from them and administered internally to excite the flow of mine and in lochial obstructions.
Ealettadi-maravara — Scindapsus pertusus. The pericarp of this singular looking plant common in the jungles between Quilon and Courtallam is used in leprosy and scabies generally combined with other ingredients and in infusion for cough and rheumatism. Anattippili, Scindapsus officinalis, another plant of the same species, is reputed to have stimulant, diaphoretic and anthelmintic virtues.
Senkottai—Semecarpiis anacardium. The acrid juice of the shells is given in small doses in leprous and scrofulous affection. An oil is prepared from the kernels useful in rheumatism and sprains; undiluted it acts as a blister.
Agathi — Sesbania grandiflora. The bark is powerfully bitter and is used as a tonic. The tender leaves, lagumes, and flowers are all eaten by the natives in their curries. An infusion of the leaves is given in cases of catarrh.
Kandankathri — Solanum jacquini. There are two varieties of this prickly creeper. The fruit is bitter and sub-acid and considered as an expectorant by the natives and given by them in coughs and consumptive complaints; also in decoction in humoral asthma. They are said to be good for the digestion.
Tooduvala — Solanum trilobatum. This is another creeper of the same species, much used in native medicine. The roots and leaves are given in decoction or powder in consumptive complaints, while the berries and flowers are given in decoction for coughs. Cheruchunda or Solanum indicum is also used largely in medicine.
Tanikai — Terminalia belerica. The kernel of the nut mixed with honey is given in certain cases of ophthalmia. The juice of the bark and root is given in decoction with rice and milk in colic. The fruit is astringent in taste, and is tonic and attenuent; it is also used in dropsy, diarrhoea, piles and leprosy, as well as for coughs. In large doses it becomes a narcotic poison.
Indian Almond, Vadankotta — Terminalia catappa. The kernel of the nuts of this tree has the taste of an almond and may be used for the same purposes but does not contain so much oil. The juice of the leaves with infusion of rice is given for bile, headache and colic pains. An ointment is made from the young leaves and milk of the nut, which is applied medicinally in scabies, leprosy and similar cutaneous affections.
Kadukai— Terminalia chebula. The gall-nuts when rubbed with an equal portion of catechu are used in aphthous complaints and considered a valuable remedy. The unripe dried fruits are recommended as purgative by the natives; mixed with honey the fruit is given in infusion in dropsy and diabetes, and haemorrhoidal affections and externally in cases of sore eyes &c.
Sirukanjori—Tragina cannabina. The root of this stinging plant is considered diaphoretic and is prescribed in decoction as an alterative; also in infusion in ardent fevers.
Nerunji — Tribulus lanuginosus. The leaves and root are said to possess diuretic properties, and are prescribed in decoction, while the seeds powdered are given in infusion to increase the urinary discharge, also in dropsy and gonorrhoea. The herb is said to be astringent and vermifuge and the seeds cordial.
Peppodal — Trichosanthes cucumerina. The seeds are reputed good in disorders of the stomach and the tender shoots and dried capsules are very bitter and aperient and are reckoned among the laxative medicines- In decoction with sugar they are given to assist digestion. The juice of the leaves is emetic and that of the root very purgative, while the stalk in decoction is expectorant.
Narumpanel — Uvaria narum. This climbing shrub seems peculiar to Travancore. A sweet-scented greenish oil is obtained from the roots by distillation, which as well as the root itself is used in various diseases. The roots which are fragrant and aromatic are also used in fevers and hepatic as well as cutaneous diseases.
Chembaravalli — Vitis indica. The juice of this plant mixed with oil is applied to affections of the eyes. The root beaten up and mixed with oil and cocoanut milk is said to be a cure for carbuncles, pustules and boils, and the juice of the root mixed with sugar is cathartic.
Ginger, Inji — Zingiber officinale. The ginger plant is extensively cultivated all over Travancore and its method of cultivation is described elsewhere. The ginger from Malabar is reckoned superior to any other. Ginger from its stimulant and carminative properties is used in toothaches, gout, rheumatism of the jaw and relaxed uvula with good effect and the essence of ginger is said to promote digestion. It is said to act powerfully on the mucous membrane though its effects are not always so decided on the remoter organs as on those into which it comes into immediate contact. Beneficial results have been arrived at when it been administered in pulmonary and catarrhal affections. Headaches have also been frequently relieved by the application of ginger poultices to ihe forehead. The native doctors recommend it in a variety of ways, externally in paralysis and rheumatism, and internally with other ingredients in intermittent fevers.
Jujube, Elantha — Zizyphus jujuba. The fruit of this small tree is sweet and palatable, and the seeds are given internally with other ingredients to allay irritation in the throat, coughs &c. Mixed with buttermilk the seeds are also given in bilious affections, and mixed with oil externally in rheumatism. The bark of root powdered and mixed with oil is supplied to ulcers. A drink prepared from the leaves boiled in milk is given in virulent gonorrhoea; the leaves boiled and applied to the navel in the form of a plaster take away dysuria and strangury, and the juice of the root mixed with castor oil seeds is used as a purgative in bad stomachic complaints.
Allamanda cathartica. This showy plant was introduced into India from Guiana in 1803. It has become quite naturalised and is one of the handsomest ornaments of gardens. If allowed to climb up large trees, the effect is very striking and beautiful owing to the clusters of bright yellow flowers it is covered with.
Samstravadi — Barringtonia acutangula. This as well as its allied species, B. racemosa, are both handsome trees with long pendulous racemes of scarlet flowers, commonly to be met with along the banks of our backwaters.
Mandarai. There are two varieties. The Velutha mandarai, Bauhinia acuminata, is a favourite shrub in gardens, the large white fragrant flowers having a pretty appearance; the Chuvanna mandarai, Bauhinia variegata, is a small handsome and ornamental tree in gardens having beautiful purple flowers.
Porasu, or Palasa — Butea frondosa. This is a middle - sized tree which when in flower has a very striking appearance from its bright scarlet corollas. The natives are fond of offering the flowers in their temples and the women by intertwining the rich scarlet blossoms in their hair assume a very attractive and pleasing appearance.
Saralkonnai — Cassia fistula. This is easily recognised by its beautiful and fragrant long pendulous racemes of yellow flowers and is used largely in medicine. The flowers form a favourite offering to the God Siva.
Chirutekku — Clerodendron serratum. This is a very ornamental shrub cultivated in Travancore. Its flowers are pale blue with lower lip indigo-coloured.
Sankhapushpam — Clitorea ternatea. This a very common creeper with pretty blue or white flowers. It is very ornamental for trellis work but by its quick spreading it is apt to become a little troublesome in gardens.
Kasturimanjal — Curcuma arcmatica. An ornamental and beautiful plant, abounding in the Travancore forests with flowers, largish, pale-rose coloured with a yellow tinge along the middle of the lip.
Murunga — Erythrina indica. A small tree with scarlet flowers much used in these parts for the support of the betel vines and serving as an excellent hedge plant from its being armed with numerous prickles.
Gloriosa superba. This splendid creeper with flowers yellow and crimson-mixed is commonly met with in the Travancore forests. It is considered one of the most ornamental plants any country can boast of,
Chemparuthi — Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. This shrub is generally cultivated in gardens and grows to a height of 12-15 feet. Throughout the year may be seen its large flowers, single or double, crimson, yellow or white.
Adakodien — Holostemma rheedii. The flowers of this creeper found largely in the Covalam jungles near Trivandrum are remarkably pretty and would answer well for trellis work in gardens.
Thetti — Ixora coccinea. The Ixoras are all very ornamental plants with white, cream or orange-coloured flowers. The shrubs grow to a height of 4 or 5 feet and flower all through the year. The name ixora is derived from the Hindu deity Iswara to whom the beautiful scarlet flowers are offered in temples.
Kattumallika — Jasminum angustifolium. The flowers of this twining shrub are large, white with a faint tinge of red, star-shaped and fragrant.
Kattujirakamulla — Jasminum hirsutum. This is a fine-looking plant and very desirable in gardens from its white fragrant flowers which open in succession. Jirakamulla or Jasminum sambac is another plant of the same species commonly cultivated in gardens for its fragrant flowers.
Manimaruthu— Lagerstroemia flos-reginae. This, as already refer« red to, is without exception one of the most showy trees of the Indian forests when in blossom. It is now commonly cultivated in gardens on this coast where the moist damp climate is most suitable for its growth and the full development of its rich rose-coloured blossoms. In the forests near the banks of rivers it grows to an enormous size, some having purple flowers and forming a most beautiful and striking appearance.
Nedumchetti — Memecylon amplexicaule. A handsome flowering shrub common in our forests. In April and May it is covered with numerous very small bluish purple flowers. M. tinctorium, another shrub of the same species, is also common and highly ornamental in gardens when in flower, the stem being crowded with beautiful sessile purple florets.
Champaka — Michelia champaca. This tree is celebrated for the exquisite perfume of its flowers and is highly venerated by the Hindus being dedicated to Vishnu. The natives adorn their heads with them, the rich orange colour of the flowers contrasting strongly with their dark black hair. Its medicinal properties have already been referred to.
Indian Cork tree — Millingtonia hortensis. This tree with numerous, large, pure white and fragrant flowers is very handsome and ornamental and well adapted for avenues and plantations.
Vellila or Vellimadantai — Musscenda frondosa. A common shrub having gold-coloured flowers all through the year. The white calycine leaf contrasting with the golden coloured flower gives this shrub a conspicuous appearance.
Lotus, Tamara — Nelumbium speciosum. The large white or rose-coloured flowers of the lotus common in tanks throughout India are held specially sacred among the Hindus.
Sweet-scented Oleander, Arali — Nerium odorum. There are two or three varieties of this shrub common on the banks of rivers and channels with deep red, white, rose-coloured, single and double flowers.
Parijatakam or Pavazhamalli — Nyctanthes arbor-tristis. The bright red flowers of this small tree give it a very lively and attractive appearance, especially in the evenings and nights when a very delicious fragrance is given out.
Alli — Nymphae rubra. This beautiful flower is common in ditches and tanks but neither so common nor so grand as the Tamara.
Kaitha, Tazhai — Pandanus odoratissimus. This large and singular- looking shrub is very common along the banks of our canals and backwaters where they are planted to bind the soil. The flowers are very fragrant but are seldom visible; the large red fruit much like a pine-apple is very attractive. There is a special variety of this in Central Travancore, known by the name of Kanaganaire.
Venga — Pterocarpus marsupium. This has been already referred to as being a large and very beautiful tree especially when in flower, with flowers small, sweet-scented and bright yellow.
Nandiyavatta — Tabernaemontana coronaria. There is a variety with double flowers which are fragrant at night. It is more common in gardens than the single one.
Among the other indigenous flowers may be mentioned, the Javanti (Vicoa auriculata?), the common rose, found only in gardens, the Andimallika, a small violet flower blossoming in the evening, and the Kolundu, a shrub whose leaves are very fragrant.
The foregoing account of our forests might produce an impression on the general reader of the abundance of forest wealth in Travancore. This however is a chimera, whatever might have been their condition in bygone times, when Travancore forests are said to have been indented upon for the building of the British Navy, and Travancore Teak entered largely in the construction of ships that fought the battle of the Nile and gave victory to Nelson at Trafalgar. Such is not the case at any rate now. In the first place, there is no part of Travancore known as the ‘Impenetrable forest’ marked in Ward and Conner’s maps, except in the sense of underwood and ‘Inja-padappu’ (thicket of Acacia intsia) growing luxuriantly to the detriment of the jungle-wallah’s easy movements. In the second place, Travancore-grown teak has been found not enough to satisfy local Marahmut or D. P. W. wants.
Burma teak has been imported more than once. And there is besides a perennial complaint from the people that they cannot get fairly good teak, nor in sufficient quantities, for their own house-building purposes. Considered in any light, it may be safely stated that the ‘untold wealth’ of the Travancore forests is a thing of the past; it cannot apply to present-day conditions. If a sustained policy of care and economy is vigilantly followed for the next 100 years or so, the Travancore forests may be resuscitated with real advantage to the State and prosperity to the agricultural ryots. The work of devastation has been unfortunately carried out with such activity, especially in the sixties and seventies of the last century. But there is no doubt that a vast field for private enterprise exists in the Travancore jungles and Travancore minerals. It requires knowledge, perseverance, capital and combined effort to utilize them. Mr. T. Ponnambalam Pillay* M. R. A. S. has collected some valuable data on this subject while he acted as Conservator of our Forests, 3 years ago. He believes that there are 1,000 species of trees in Travancore against 1,200 for all India and 160 in Europe. Out of this, the Forest Department of the State respects only 4 Royal and 20 Reserved trees. There is a piece of forest known as the Yerur Reserve. It has an area of 100 square miles, each square mile containing timber of the 24 species to the value of 1 lac of rupees. Thus for 100 square miles the value of this timber is 100 lacs. The extent of the total reserved area in Travancore is about 2,350 square miles. Of this, some tracts such as Kulattupuzha, Ranni, Konni and Malayattur are superior to Yerur, while there are others inferior to it. To add to these, there are unreserved forests in which are to be found the superior species already referred to, besides the Royal trees found in private property.
NOTEs: * In a lecture delivered under the auspices of the Public Lecture Committee, Trivandrum, in 1902
Thus following the calculation, the amount of the value of the timber from those trees can be put down at 2,500 lacs of Rupees or 25 years’ revenue of the State. Only a few species of trees are made use of by the people in Travancore. This is due either to ignorance of the quality of the other species, or to sentiment on the part of the consumers. The timber called Irul or Irupul or Iron-wood (Xylia dolabriformis) is largely used in Burma and Ceylon for building purposes. Though it is a very hardy wood it is not in requisition in Travancore. For a long time Thambagam or Kongu (Hopea parvi-flora) was not used in Travancore, and it is only some time since its virtues were known to the house-building public. It is therefore possible to introduce into the market those species that are now not known.
Again there are certain trees which are not close-grained and of a perishable nature. Scientists have found out a method by means of which certain chemical substances are injected into the trees to render the timber durable, and to secure immunity from the attacks of insects.
Thus the wealth of the Forests can be increased. It has been seen that the value of the 24 species of timber in the forests came to 25 years revenue of the State, and the value of the remaining ones can safely be put down to an equal amount. In speaking of timber, fire-wood has not been included. This article of daily want is obtained from the country and not imported from outside Travancore. Every individual of the State consumes at the rate of a chuckram (six and three-fourth pies) worth of fuel every day. Omitting one-fourth of the population who live on the sea-board towns and villages and use cocoanut shells for fire-wood, and omitting another one-fourth of the population who are able to get their fuel from their private compounds, and a third one-fourth of the population who gather dried leaves and twigs on the road side and other places and use them and cow-dung cakes in the place of fire-wood, there remains but one-fourth of the whole population of the State who get their fire-wood from the forest and the value of the quantity used by them comes to Rs.25,000 daily.
The value of the large quantities that are exported as well as those used for the several mills and factories, and for the manufacture of sugar, lemon-grass oil, and charcoal may be put down at Rs. 5,000. Thus the cost of the total quantity of fire-wood used in a day may be put down at Es. 30,000. To this an equal amount which rots away in the forests may well be added without exaggeration. The amount of Rs. 60,000 is the value of the fire-wood at the place of consumption or outside the forests. Its value at the forests themselves may be put down at one-third of that value. Thus the amount consumed in a year is 73 lacs of Rupees worth of fire -wood which is the lowest figure possible. The capital amount that will be required to produce the 73 lacs must be another 2,500 lacs of Rupees. Notwithstanding the fact that a large quantity of fuel is available in the country the public demand is not met. There is not a single private depot in all Travancore, excepting at the mills where the rates are exorbitant. People go in for cocoanut shells because they cannot get fire-wood. These are not only costly but also not suited for cooking, owing to the violent way in which they burn.
At the present moment it may not pay to bring in all the fire-wood that rots away in the forests. But certainly there is a large quantity that could be brought with advantage in order to create a trade in it. In Madras there are fuel-depots in every street. Though the proprietors do not take the commodity from long distances, still they manage to get about 10 per cent profit. In Trivandrum and other populous centres south of Quilon, excepting in small bazaars, we cannot get fire-wood unless we take advantage of the carts that perambulate the streets in the mornings. This industry has not yet been touched; undoubtedly there is plenty of money in it. The sap-wood of all coloured trees and the entire volume of all colourless trees, provided there is cellulose substance in them, can be made use of for making wood-pulp, which plays an important part in the manufacture of paper. The cellulose substance found in them should be separated from the rest. This is done by putting together small pieces of fresh cut wood and grinding them in a mill where water must constantly be poured in. By constant repetition of this process the fibrous substance will be retained and ground down. The same substance is also obtained by boiling the fresh cut pieces already referred to, and separating the cementing substances from the fibres.
By either process one-fourth of the original weight can be obtained as pulp. It is largely in demand in all manufacturing countries, and the quantity that is annually imported into Great Britain and Ireland is alone worth four millions of pounds sterling. Young shoots of bamboos, portions of matured bamboos and the surplus quantity of those that are not wanted for domestic purposes, several kinds of reeds, the wild sugar-cane and the refuse of the sugar-cane mills are considered to be good paper materials.
Teak, Sandalwood, Lemon-grass and Cheru punna can give oils of commercial value and will form a basis of remunerative industry. Tar, gums, resins, tannic acid and dye are also obtainable from ordinary trees if people will come forward and take up the matter. The abundance of fibre-material in Travancore is already known. It can be increased still more. The well-known senna-leaves are found largely in South Travancore. It is as good as the Tinnevelly senna which is in great demand in the European markets. Gum kino is not only useful for dyeing, but it is also a very valuable medicinal product. The value of 1 lb of it when sent back from England with English labels on is about Rs. 17, but if it is locally prepared it will not exceed Rs. 6. It is believed that the Travancore forests contain wealth to the extent of 100 years’ revenue of the State, or 1,000 millions sterling and thus afford an inexhaustible field for private industry.