Friday, January 6, 2023

A New Tree

It must have been quite a bold decision to go with this design for a Christmas Tree. One is accustomed to thinking of lush dark green pines, spruce, firs or cypress at Christmas time. Evergreen conifers, whose branches form helixes or whorls around the central trunk, their leaves having evolved into thin green needles. From what I can recall, the options for such trees in India, especially in south India are limited. The country's north has a few species of pine, or cypress, which can be a very nice Christmas tree. Far too often, an artificial tree substitutes for a real one. 

Tamil Nadu's state tree, the palmyra (Borassus flabellifer), on the other hand, can't pass of as any kind of a conifer. The tree has no branches and its leaves grow directly from the trunk, falling off as they get old, leaving their marks behind on the trunk. A fully grown tree, holding its crown of leaves right at the top is distinctly different from the conifers' foliage, which envelopes almost the entire trunk. The leaves of the palmyra too, have 'needles' - sharp black teeth on the petioles (the stalk that attaches the leaf to the trunk / branch of a tree), but the leaf itself is large, fan like, and as far different different from the needles as possible.

So, to see a Christmas tree made of palmyra leaves was a pleasant surprise. It is an artificial tree, not the traditional dark, or striking green, the leaves are fan-like, rather than needle-like, but with all of that, this tree in the lobby of the ITC Grand Chola was created to demonstrate the 'sustainability' theme. The gift boxes under the tree were kottans and koodais made by weaving together tender fronds of the palmyra are again very different from the traditional boxes wrapped in bright gift-wrap paper. Quite apart from all that, let us hope the palmyra goes back to being as plentiful as it used to be at one time!

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