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Tree Walk in the Victoria Memorial Grounds: Would you like to join?

23 March, 2022 12:18:50
Tree Walk in the Victoria Memorial Grounds: Would you like to join?

“What happens if you take a rich magistrate’s son and make him learn in a village school sitting beside sons of servants and fishermen? He’ll hear tales of birds and animals that make him curious about Nature. And that will make him one of India’s great scientists.” – That’s what Jagdish Chandra Bose said and his words came out to be so true as I and a group of nature enthusiasts took a walk down the sprawling gardens of Victoria Memorial on a windy Spring afternoon. The first time I saw in the newspapers that Victoria Memorial authorities are arranging for Tree Walks every Monday, I was elated. The large marble building built between 1906 and 1921 by the British Raj and dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria has a 56-acre garden where I often go for morning walks. What I missed was the knowledge about the huge biodiversity that the gardens of Victoria Memorial provided, keeping aside the rich historical documentation of the monument. I often wondered what it would be like to go on a guided tour of the gardens, knowing when and where each tree was planted, their names, habits, etc. And my wish finally came true on a Monday afternoon and though the heat has set in Kolkata, the summer’s scorching sun raising a brow at times, I was elated to register my name for the walk.

Fish Tail Tree

It was indeed rewarding as a research scholar in Environmental Science led the walk introducing us to the huge biodiversity that the gardens display. Jayanta Sengupta, curator of Victoria Memorial Hall said, ‘Initially we are going to conduct this tour once in a week, every Monday at 3 pm. But we may change the time if needed.’ There are 1,123 trees of at least 63 species in the garden. Trees like the National tree of Costa Rica or the oldest tree in the garden were all showcased in this nature walk. I was joined by plant enthusiasts and what was best was some of them were elderly people whose retired life is spent in gardening. The enthusiasm even among them, despite their physical problem in walking the stretch, was really inspiring. Other than the walk, the authorities have a plan to publish a book documenting the flora and fauna in the garden as well, which I believe will be a treasure trove.


As our nature guide walked through the garden with us, the first tree that caught our attention was Pterocarpus Indicus, the National tree of the Philippines that was planted way back in 1934. This tree is used to make musical instruments. Another exotic tree brought from a different continent is Enterolobium cyclocarpum, the National tree of  Costa Rica, also called the ‘Shade Tree,’ for its huge canopy. And from Africa was planted the BIOBAB TREE which in the dry continent is also known as ‘Tree of Life’ for its water retention bark. There is also the Crescentia cujete, the National tree of St Lucia.

Victoria Memorial grounds has some trees of very important medicinal value. They were planted over generations and have thrived well in the tropical climate. During our walk, we were particularly shown the MULBERRY tree of which morin is used as an antioxidant, the BUDDHA COCONUT or Pterygota Alata, the skin of its fruit is said to have been the begging bowl for Buddhist monks once upon a time and the Arjun Tree, mainly used to treat heart diseases.

Congea tomentosa/Orchid Shower Tree

The garden has some priceless trees, whose wood runs into crores in the international market. Protecting such species from the hands of log poachers has been a big challenge these days in India. Thankfully Victoria grounds preserves such trees like the Dalbergia sisoo (North Indian rosewood) and small-leaved Mahogany Tree, many of which are sprawling and have stood for decades. These trees are indeed a treasure of the garden. But some interesting trees that caught our attention were the Fish Tail Palm, a tree from which the popular food item Sagoo or Sabudana is made. The fruits of Lotkon Tree are used to make natural food colours, while tribals of India feed on fruits of the Badminton Cork Tree. Another tree worth mention is the Ficus elastica or Rubber Fig Tree which has been used to make the famous ‘Living Root Bridge’ in Meghalaya.

What I loved on this tree walk was the passion of the group, many asking if they can plant the saplings in their gardens and how to get them, and the knowledge of the guide. As we bid adieu as our time was up, I could not miss the chance of clicking a sunset in the backdrop of the beauty of flowering trees of Victoria like the Golden shower trees, named Amaltaas by none other than Rabindranath Tagore and the African Tulip or Rudrapalash trees. 

I will strongly urge all tree lovers to take this nature trail and wish the walks are organized on other days too. The walk is free of cost.

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