Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ashoka tree

Ashoka tree
A couple of years ago, Shradhanjali introduced a new range of items – Beejika, jewels of nature. In this collection, Shradhanjali showcases the exquisite artistry of Nature, reflected in the seeds and seedpods of Auroville’s trees, planted over the last 43 years.
For us it is a way of preserving nature’s rich diversity; creating awareness and knowledge about the importance of protecting the environment.
The range consists of cards, jewelry accessories (earrings, bracelets, necklaces, hair-sticks and key-chains), mobiles and decorative flowers.

Profits from these products go towards planting indigenous trees.

The Ashoka or Mast tree
The name of the tree derives from the Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka the Great who ruled the Indian subcontinent from 269 BC to 232 BC. In Indian history Ashoka is considered one of India's greatest emperors. After he had conquered the kingdom of Kalinga, (present day Orissa), he embraced Buddhism and promulgated it as a State religion. He dedicated the rest of his life to the propagation of Buddhist precepts which still today can be found engraved on pillars or rocks.

The tree
Belongs to Anninacea Family, its botanical name is Polyalthia longifolia.
The word Polyalthia is derived from two Greek words: poly, meaning much or many and althea meaning to cure, thus polyalthia means ‘many cures’ which is a reference to its medicinal properties. Longifolia in Latin means long leaves.
The tree is known differently in each Indian language: Hindi, ashoka (devadar); Bengali, debdaru; Malayalam, choruna; North India, debadar; South India, ashoke.

Seeds and leaves
Where is it found?
A native tree of Sri Lanka and Bengal, it is found growing wild in the southernmost parts of India. It is a very common tree in eastern India.

A short description:
A tall evergreen tree with straight trunk and slender branches which are more or less at right angles to the stem and have a symmetrical pyramidal crown.
Beautiful lance-shaped glossy leaves narrowing to a long point, with wavy or undulating margins. They are light green, translucent when young, and occur in great profusion. The flowers are star-shaped, yellowish-green in colour, inconspicuous, borne on long slender stalks, appearing from February to April.
The fruiting season is in July and the fruits are egg-shaped. On account of its graceful column with downward sweeping branchlets and glossy foliage, it is highly esteemed as an avenue tree. The bark yields good fiber. The wood, light and flexible is used for making drum cylinders, pencils and boxes. When ripe its fruit is eaten by bats at night and the seeds are scattered over the ground the next morning. Festoons of its leaves are used for decorating ceremonial gates and arches.
It is different from the real Asoka (Saraca Indica) and should not be confused with it on account of its name.

Beejika range
 Interested in gardening?
It is propagated by seed, sown in July in flower pots and planted out when of suitable size. It transplants well.
When grown 15 feet apart on the southern side of the compound wall, the trees are a very good protection from the heat of the sun and dust and also act as a wind-break. It is an excellent tree for border planting in parks and homes.

Shradhanjali is extensively using the Ashoka seeds in the Beejika range.

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