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The gigantic tales of mother nature

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi, 2nd April, 2015

By Dharmendra Khandal 

Tags: Leisure Writing


In Namdapha tiger reserve, Arunachal Pradesh, our guide was looking for a camping site. He avoided camping under large trees whose dry branches, he informed us, could potentially hurt us. He was even using binoculars to scan the trees, looking for dry branches that the wind could knock down. My prior experience was of scrub forests so I was amazed to see the towering trees. To identify them we had to use binoculars as well: we had to study the leaves, flowers and fruits, apart from the tree’s trunk and its bark to make them out. The trees stood tall at not less than 100 feet and that is a rough estimate. One thing became clear to us: massive size always make us wonder and force us to respect nature. When we search more in the plant world some examples seems very unrealistic but then they exist.

The world’s record for the tallest tree goes to a cone-bearing tree native to California, the coast redwood (sequoia sempervirens). It is taller than the Statue of Liberty and stands at 379 feet. Height is one aspect, but the girth of the trunk is another thing and this record goes to Montezuma bald cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) tree which has a circumference of 140 feet, an enormous specimen of this tree grows in the churchyard of Santa Maria de Tule near Oaxaca, Mexico.

If we are looking for the largest flower in the world, stinking corpse lily (rafflesia arnoldii) takes the credit for it: this rare and endangered species found only in the rain forests of Sumatra and Borneo, is the world’s largest individual flower. It blossoms up to three feet in diameter and could weigh up to 11 kg.

The largest fruit of the world is apparently a pumpkin and, specifically, the one in Topsfield, Massachusetts, USA, that set a new world record with 913 kg in 2012. Jackfruit (artocarpus heterophyllus) that grows on branches can reach up to 35 kg. The record for the largest seed embryo goes to coco de mer (lodoicea maldivica) a large tree that grows in Seychelles Archipelago, found in the Indian Ocean. Seeds of coco de mer may grow up to 12 inches long.

The largest leaf records are from tropical Africa — the largest is raffia palm (raphia regalis), which has huge pinnate leaves growing up to 80 feet long. The circular floating leaves of the giant Amazonian water lily (victoria amazonica) has a maximum documented diameter of eight feet.

When nature is left to its own, it seems it is capable of producing gigantic results that could amaze us and put us in awe of mother nature.

(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch,Ranthambore)