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The 'Great Banyan Tree' at a historic Botanic Garden Escapes a Cyclone

Inside the walled gates of the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden located at Shibpur in Howrah district, the chirping of birds gets distinctly louder.

Set up in 1787, the 273 acre garden, located at the other end of the river Hooghly, has turned into a graveyard of trees. Massive trees, hundreds in number, with trunks having a girth of several metres, have fallen all over the garden, completely blocking access to large parts of the campus.

“We have lost nearly 1,000 trees, including some notable and rare species,” Kanad Das, scientist, Botanical Survey of India (BSI), and in-charge of the Botanic Garden, said. The garden has over 13, 000 trees of about 1,100 species.

Among the rare trees that have fallen include the only full-grown kalpabriksha (Adansonia digitata) tree in the garden, the mad tree (Pterygota alata var. irregularis), the para rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), the Malabar chestnut (Pachira insignis), the Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii), and several century-old mahogany trees (Swietenia mahagoni) in the garden’s famous Mahogany Avenue.

Most of these trees were introduced to the garden by British botanists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Commercial cultivation of mahogany and rubber began in India after the species were first introduced in this garden.

The cyclone also did not spare the iron fencing along the Hooghly River; the brick wall along the Andul Road of the Botanic Garden has suffered significant damage too.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020