Branching out

Yes, there are a few special qualities needed to survive in this city — patience, diligence and a competitive attitude. And many have thrived here, as a result of which the term ‘Mumbai spirit’ remains as infamous as ever.

mumbai Updated: Jan 22, 2012 13:59 IST
Sneha Mahale
Sneha Mahale
Hindustan Times

Yes, there are a few special qualities needed to survive in this city — patience, diligence and a competitive attitude. And many have thrived here, as a result of which the term ‘Mumbai spirit’ remains as infamous as ever. But there are a few green giants, some even 400 years old, whose survival stories can put even our best to shame. Throw in the curveball of factors like global warming, pollution and nature’s elements, and one can safely call this contest one-sided. The city’s trees win hands down.

Mumbai’s towering trunks have a fighting spirit that is unrivalled, and despite the ‘development’ syndrome that plagues this megapolis, they beat the odds each time.

Take for instance, the tall baobabs that are located at the Jijamata Udyan in Byculla. Easily over 100 years old, these trees can hold over 100 litres of water in their hollow trunks. Incidentally, the Udyan is also home to some of the oldest and rarest trees in the city, some of which were specifically moved here to ensure that they were never lost. “And hopefully, now they will survive,” says Ashok Kothari, who wrote the book, A Celebration Of Indian trees, and organises walks to get people acquainted with the city’s heritage trees.

But the baobabs aren’t the only ones with elephantine memories. Some ‘younger’ ones dotting the landscape from Santa Cruz to Fort have seen India’s fight for freedom, while their elder cousins have been around ever since the seven small islands came into existence. And just like many migrants who arrive in this city everyday to fulfill their dreams and eventually making it their home, several trees of varied species, that continue to survive in Mumbai till date, were, in fact, brought to our shores by the British.

And though the Englishmen left years ago, the green giants remain as a constant reminder of our long history. “I guess that answers the eternal question of whom this city belongs to. Seems like there was never any contest in the first place,” says Jagdish Shah, a nature enthusiast and avid trekker. So, wait not. Branch out.

Star Apple

Where: Near Khyber Restaurant, Kala Ghoda

Want to know what a parched man feels like when he sees a mirage in the dessert? Just see the star apple tree from a distance on a sunny day and you will empathise. Its green and yellow leaves glitter in the sun, making you feel like you’ve spotted gold. The British brought these trees to India more than a 100 years ago.


Where: Waterfield Road, opposite Bhabha Hospital

Bandra is home to the granddaddy of all trees. The baobab found here is reportedly over 450 years old, and could possibly be the oldest in the city. Its stock occupies the entire pavement and puts the local food stalls around it, to shame. This tree will probably outlive us too, as baobabs are known to live up to 3,000 years.


Where: Horniman Circle Garden, opposite Asiatic steps

A lot has been written about the 100-year-old banyan tree that guards the garden’s entrance. Apparently, the very foundation, of what is today known as the Bombay Stock Exchange, was laid below it. The banyan tree situated inside the garden too is huge. And the best part is: no one knows who planted them!


Where: Opposite

Hornbill House, Kala Ghoda

Explorer David Livingstone planted this tree in 1865. How do we know this, you ask? Well, simply because the tree finds a mention in a book written by author James Douglas titled Bombay And Western India. The 147-year-old tree could possibly be the oldest mahagony in the city.

Wild Almond

Where: Around Oval Maidan

Cricket isn’t the only import at Oval Maidan. Giving budding batsmen and bowlers company every day, are the wild almond trees that dot the perimeter. Called jungli badam (wild almond) in Hindi, these trees trace their roots, literally, to Java in Indonesia, and were brought to India by the British. Some are easily over 90 years old.

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First Published: Jan 22, 2012 13:51 IST