Kerala is a green state having variety of trees. The trees of Kerala are grown in forests, villages and in cityscapes. Trees are very useful in various ways where it provides food, medicine, timber, firewood etc. Trees also have many medicinal values. Some of the main trees found in our state include the following
Thengu (Coconut tree)
Coconut tree is the state tree of Kerala. In Kerala, coconut tree is called Kalpavriksha and is a tall and branchless tree. The fruit of the tree is big and oval shaped. Inside the fruit lies the thick brown fibre which surrounds the hard shell. The sweet and the pleasant edible material and the milk stay within this shell. It is used in the preparation of almost all kinds of dishes in Kerala. Oil extracted from ‘Copra’ obtained by drying the edible part is used for cooking, for making shampoos and can be applied to the hair for its enrichment. After the oil is extracted the copra is used as a food for fowls and cattle. Oil is used in the manufacture of soaps and candles. Coir is the solid skin of the nut and is used for making mats and strong ropes which are durable in salt water. Tender coconut water is a natural healthy drink and is good for dysentery, vomiting etc. Toddy obtained from coconut tree is a beverage. The leaves are used for thatching and the trunk is used for roof beam and bridges. The hard cases of the nuts are used for manufacturing cups and vessels.
Athi (Cluster fig tree)
This large deciduous tree grows in evergreen forests, moist places, near streams etc. It is often cultivated in villages and its edible fruit is known for its nutrient richness. These are trees with aerial roots. Barks are used for rinderpest disease seen in cattle. Athi is one of the four trees in Nalpamara, a prime mix of ayurveda includes athi, ithi, arrayal and peraal. Root used in diarrhea and diabetes. Fruit stomachic and carminative used in hemoptysis. Latex is used for cracks, piles and diarrhea.
It is also called as Arasu or Bodhi and it is of great medicinal values. Peepal is closely linked with Indian culture. Most of the temple premises have vast spreading peepal trees, which was once a platform for social gatherings of devotees. It is considered as a sacred tree and its leaves are used for religious purposes. It is believed that Lord Krishna passed away under this tree after which the Kaliyuga had begun. Lord Buddha attained enlightenment meditating under the Peepal tree. Peepal leaves have numerous benefits as a result of which it is used in ayurveda. It is especially useful for patients suffering from jaundice to control urine. For constipation problem, there can be no better remedy. Peepal leaves can help to get rid of mumps. Having very thick leaf strength, peepal contributes much to strengthen the ozone layer releasing large amount of oxygen at any time.
Asokam (Asoka tree)
The flowers are flame coloured, fragrant and are considered that of kamadeva, God of romance in Hindu mythology. The skin of the bark, leaves, fruits and flowers of Asoka are used for medicinal purpose. It is used for the treatment of uterine bleeding, dysmenorrheal-painful menstruation, bleeding piles, and many other diseases. This herb is rarely used externally and when used, the paste of its bark-skin is good for fighting pain associated with swelling. It can be used internally by women for treating various gynecological disorders. Asoka blooms in the summer and produces fruits in October. The fruit is bitter and astringent in taste, pungent in post digestive effect and has a cold potency. It helps to reduce vata and kapha dosas.
Neem is popularly known as divine tree. Ability to purify air makes it an inevitable part of courtyard trees. The neem tree is drought resistance and is found in areas with sub-arid to sub-humid conditions where annual rainfall between 400 and 1200mm. It grows in regions where annual rainfall is below 400mm and in such cases it depends upon ground water levels. Products made from neem have several medicinal properties such as antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial and many others. It is a major ingredient in ayurvedic medicine and is prescribed for skin disease. It is a source of environment-friendly biopesticides.
Elanji (West Indian Medlar)
Elanji is a tropical tree that produces tiny flowers having sweet aroma during night. The leaves form a part of perfumes with intoxicating fragrance. The fruit is edible, has a thick outer skin which encloses sweet yellow pulp and a hard shell seed. Different parts of the tree have medicinal properties. In Kerala, people are very familiar to Elanjithara melam, very scintillating and highly appreciated percussion held at Elanjithara in the Vadakkumnatha temple compound during Thrissur Pooram.
Kanikkonna (Golden Shower tree)
It is also known as the golden-shower tree. It is the official flower of Kerala. The flower is golden yellow in colour and is of great importance during the festival Vishu. During this festival, the kanikkonna is worn on Lord Krishna’s idol and is shown to all as their first sight on the Vishu. They bloom during the Months April-May. When the flowers bloom, it is a treat to the eye and the leaves are not seen due to the presence of the golden flower. The petals when fell on the ground is so beautiful to see which gave the plant the name golden shower. The tree is an indicator of rain, blooming before the onset of monsoon. Parts of the tree such as roots, bark and fruit pulp are often used in ayurvedic medicines. The bark of the tree is rich in tannins and is used in leather processing and fabric colouring.
Basically Kanjiram is a perennial tree. It is medium-sized with short, thick, trunk. It can be used in the form of tonic, stimulant and febrifuge. The useful parts of the plant are seed, bark, roots and leaves. The plant is also good to pacify vitiates kapha, vata, hypotension, arthritis and dementia. In large doses all part of the tree is toxic. Kanjiram is good for upset stomach, constipation, hangovers, heartburn, certain heart diseases, circulatory problems, depression, headaches, nervous conditions and respiratory diseases. Thus, kanjiram is a one end solution for almost all intestinal and nervous disorders.
Ilavu (Silk cotton tree)
It is a deciduous tree with a straight trunk and spreading branches. Flowers are red in colour and the seeds contain stable oils. It is used to cure vata and pitta disorders. It helps in relieving from burning sensation and it removes mark caused due to burning. It is also a remedy for dysentery, diarrhea, cough, cold and general body weakness.
Karinochi (Five leaved chaste tree)
Karinochi is a large aromatic shrub whose leaves and roots have medicinal properties. The juice of the leaves have anti inflammatory, anti bacterial, anti fungal and analgesic properties. It is also used in the treatment of bruises, injuries and other skin infections. Leaves are used like tea for getting relief from cough and asthma. The root is used to cure the dyspepsia, colic, rheumatism, worms and leprosy. The flowers are used for curing diseases like diarrhea, cholera, fever and diseases of liver. The seeds are a cooling medicine for various skin diseases.
It is a small to moderate sized thorny tree that grows up to 10 m in height and has golden flowers. Bark and gum are useful part of the tree.
Ezhilam pala (Devil tree)
Ezhilam pala, the name itself makes one to think of ‘Yakshi’, is a moderate to large sized evergreen tree which grows up to 30 m in height. The leaves come out in whorls of seven, elliptic-oblong, obtuse and petiolate, flowers small greenish white, found in umbellate cymes, fruits follicles about 50 cm long, contain papillose seeds with hairs on each ends. The blooms are associated with very strong aroma. The soft wood is used for manufacturing packing cases, match sticks, black boards, pencils etc.
Koovalam (Wood apple)
Its mythological links to Lord Shiva makes ‘Koovalam’ a sacred plant to Hindus. The garland made of koovalam leaves is special to Lord Shiva and this tree is planted in the temple premises. Very much known for its medicinal properties, unripe or half ripe fruits are used as astringent, digestive etc. Its cooled aromatic pulp can be used to cure diabetes, inflammation, diarrhea, constipation etc. The fruits are edible and the bark of the tree is toxic.
It is a perennial tree which quenches severe thirst and has high medicinal value. It is a medium sized thorny deciduous tree with beautiful flowers. Karingali is good for diabetic patients. Its stem is used for brushing teeth to protect gums and teeth from decay. Drinking water boiled with dried karingali powder has brownish colour and it acts as a good appetizer. Karingali is an essential ingredient of arishtam and kashayam, good for curing the illness of cough, itching etc. It can be planted as an ornamental tree.
Nenmeni Vaka (East Indian Walnut)
Nenmeni vaka is a medium sized deciduous tree, makes a haven of pinkish white or yellowish white fragrant flowers. Bark, flowers and seed of the plant pacifies vitiated pitta, kapha, urinary retention etc. It is used to produce timber.
Choondappana (Wine Palm)
Choondappana is one of the commonest wild palms on the Western Ghats. Its ornamental feature makes an attractive pot plant at its young age. The stem of the tree is smooth and similar to cylinders in shape. The fruits are reddish in colour. The wood is much stronger and durable than the other palm trees and is useful for domestic purposes. Toddy can be obtained by tapping. If you remove the fatal bud or the cabbage of the tree, it will kill the tree. Fibre that is made from the sheaths of the leaf stalks is very strong and can be used in making ropes, brushes etc.
Palakappayani (Indian trumfruit tree)
Palakappayani is a night bloomer which has a strong stinky odour and attracts bats. It is an evergreen deciduous tree and is pollinated naturally by bats. The roots are sweet, astringent, bitter, refrigerant and are used for treating various health issues. The paste of the stem bark is applied for curing scabies and arthritis.
Poovarasu / Cheelanthi (Portia tree)
Poovarasu, which has beautiful yellow flower, is an evergreen tree with high medicinal value. Its leaves, bark and flowers are used in Ayurvedic medicines for skin disease, jaundice and cough. Being salt resistant, this tree is more commonly seen in the coastal belt. Different parts of Poovarasu are used in the treatment of various disorders. It is also used for making furniture.
Chempakam is also known as champak and is a perennial flowering tree mostly found in Kerala. Its flowers are used to produce certain essential oils for aromatherapy. Flower oil is used for cephalagia. Its strong fragrant yellow or white flowers are used in the perfume manufacturing. It is known for its medicinal properties and is used to cure stomachic, fever etc.
Chandanam (Sandal wood)
Sandalwood is an evergreen tree known for its cooling and healing properties. It has small dull purple flowers in small bunches and round purple black succulent fruits. Its sedative and cooling property makes a remedy for prickly heat, excessive sweating and inflammation problems of the skin. Sandalwood in various forms paste, dry powder or oil mixed with others can be used for profuse sweating. Sandalwood powder is useful in the treatment of gonorrhea. Sandalwood oil is used in treating, painful and difficult urination and inflammation of the bladder. Incense from sandalwood has a calming effect and is conducive to pacify mind. Sandalwood paste is a vital ingredient in the Hindu rituals. It is believed that the sandalwood paste has the power to increase the concentration power of an individual when smeared on forehead constantly. Sandalwood paste applied on head relieves headache and bring down the temperature in fever.
Thek (Teak wood)
The teak tree is one of the tropical hardwood trees which can grow 30 to 40 m in height and often live to an age of 100 years. Its longevity is very great and specially noted for its capacity to withstand seasonal variations. The resin present in the heartwood in highly water resistant and it protects the teak from decay, insects and bacteria. Other characteristics of teak wood are durability, elasticity and presence of solid fibre. It is also used for making indoor and outdoor furniture making.
Punna (Alexandrian laurel)
Punna is a large evergreen tree, has hard and strong wood. It has been mainly used in construction of boats. Punnakka or the fruit is a favourite feed of the bats. It is a most wanted ingredient in cosmetics.
Plasu / Chamata (Flame of the forest)
Chamata is the version of Sanskrit word ‘Samidha’, which is a wooden piece used for fire rituals. It is dry season deciduous tree and is used for timber, resin, fodder, medicine and dye. Its wood is water durable and is used for well curbs and water scoops.
Eeti / Veti (East Indian Rosewood )
Eeti is premium quality timber species internationally known as Indian Rosewood. It is used to make furniture and ornamental products. The tree attains a height of 20 to 40 m. The colour of the heart wood darkens with time and the colour varies from light golden brown to light purple with dark streaks. The wood has high density and so is difficult to work on it and has fragrance. Rosewood has dimensional stability and therefore regains the shape after seasoning. The heartwood is durable and resistant to termites.
Venga (Malabar keno)
Venga is a large deciduous tree which commonly grown in western and southern parts of India. Parts of the plant like heartwood, leaves and flowers have medicinal properties. It helps to improve insulin and proinsulin levels. The heartwood is used as astringent, anti inflammatory etc.
Kavungu (Areca nut tree)
Kavungu is used as kodimaram during festivals in temples. Chewing the mixture of areca nut with betal leaf, tobacco and lime paste was an integral part of day to day life. Areca nut is an important item in dakshina to elders. It is a way to show respect to elders. The husk of the areca nut is green while fresh and becomes yellow to orange when it ripens. As it dries, the fruit inside hardens and can only be sliced using nut cracker.
Karimpana (Palmyra palm tree)
The tree has a very important role in taking knowledge from past to the present generation with the inscriptions made on its leaves. In ancient times, manuscripts like Upanishads, Panchathantra were inscribed on Palm leaves. The tree is tall with black cylinder like stem and has fan shaped leaves. The leaves are used to make fans, mats, baskets etc. They can also be used for thatching roofs. The toddy obtained by tapping the tip of the inflorescence is a very popular beverage.
Manchadi (Red sandal wood)
Manchadi is a medicinal plant and the seeds are bright red with hard shells. This plant is useful for nitrogen fixation. It is often cultivated as forage and an ornamental plant. The wood is extremely hard and is used in boat building and making furniture. The tree is useful in treating boils, used for making soap, tonic etc.
Kudappana / Talippana (Talipot palm)
Kudappana which is one of the largest palm in the world has the largest inflorescence. The palm is monocarp, flowering only once, when it is 30 to 80 years old. The fruit takes a year to get matured and produces numerous round and yellow green fruit that has a single seed. The plant dies after producing the fruit. In Malabar area, the palm leaves were used for making traditional umbrellas. The leaves are used for thatching and making hats etc.
Chempa / Ezhachempakam (Temple tree)
Chempa is a broadly grown tree having some very exotic followers. As it produces leaves and flowers even after being lifted from the soil the Buddhists think the tree as a symbol of immortality. It is usually planted near temples and is used in temples for pooja. Funnel shaped flowers have five petals. This combined with sandalwood oil and camphor is best for itching.
Vella mandaram (Buddhist Bauhinia)
Vella mandaram, a perennial tree has sweetly scented white flowers. These flowers boom from January to April and then followed by long, slender seedpods. Before the leaves fall, the tree is covered with many delightfully fragrant, white, orchid shaped blossoms. The root of the plant is used as carminative and flower buds as laxative.
Chuvanna mandaram (Bauhinia purpurea)
Chuvanna manadaram is a large moderate sized deciduous tree that grows up to 10 m in height. It is related to peacock flower and is beautiful when in bloom. The flowers are five irregular, slightly overlapping petals in colours of magenta, lavender, purple etc. The bark, flowers and roots of the tree has medicinal properties.