(Last Updated on : 20/12/2013)
The 'Indian Laburnum' is one of the most widespread trees of India and in almost everyIndian language it has a name. The tree is very popular all over the country. Named as 'Cassia Fistula' in science, the family of this beautiful tree is 'Leguminosae'. The sub family of the tree is 'Cceslapinieae'. It is popularly known as 'Amaltas' or 'Bandarlathi' in Hindi
. The Hindi name of this tree means, "Monkey-stick". The Bengali
people call it as 'Sonda'. In Tamil, it is named as 'Sarak-konn' or 'Konnai' or 'Tiru Kontai'. It is 'Rela' in Telug. In Malayalam
, the tree is known as 'Khtamalam' and 'Svamnakam'. Most of the tree's names suggest the meaning of something that is 'stick-like'. The reason behind such names is probably the pods of this tree that look like sticks.
The 'Indian Laburnum' tree is a cousin of the 'English Laburnum' tree and hence has a lot of similarity, but it is considered as much more beautiful than its cousin. It is calculated amongst the loveliest flowering trees of India. In each season when it flowers, it becomes "rich in streaming gold". The baggy flower clusters of the tree are very long. The pods of the tree appear in abundance in the months of March and May. Though there is a claim that the Indian Laburnum is indigenous to Greece and Egypt, but it is now generally agreed that the origin of this tree lies in India. It has a great ability to disseminate very easily from seed or suckers.
Being moderate in its size, the deciduous tree grows well at any height up to 1200 m. but not that much expansive in the districts where the monkeys stay in a great number. The main reason behind this is that, the insects eat most of the seeds before they leave the pod and the monkeys and other animals are very much biased to the sweet pulp in which the seeds lie. They break open the pods. As a result, the seeds get liberated and fall to the ground. This gives the seeds a great chance to germinate. The bark of the tree is greenish-grey in colour. They are smooth on the tender trees, but by the course of the time it becomes rough and turns into brown colour.
The leaves become deadly and ragged in between the months of February and May and many of them fall down as well. When the new leaves appear in the tree, the tree looks gorgeous. The leaves are attractive and tender green and sometimes shaded with pink or a rich copper colour. They remain pendulous and folded till they get the maturity. The leaves are large in size and compound in formation. There are three to eight pairs of oval-shaped and 12.5 cm long leaflets in the leaves. These large leaves along with the stiff and straight branches make the 'Laburnum Tree' distinct from all other trees that contain feathery leaves and long arched branches.
During Summer, the long, relaxed sprays of clear, yellow flowers make the tree dress in a mantle of gold. This indeed makes a magnificent sight. Each spray is above 30 cm. in length and bears long, slim stalks. There are a large number of big, delightfully fragrant flowers and rounded buds in the sprays as well. Each of them contains a slight green calyx, five separated and five spoon-shaped petals and ten yellow stamens. The petals are not equal in size. Three of the stamens are long and elegantly curvy towards the top. The next four stamens curve the opposite way and they are less than half the length of the previous ones. The remaining three stamens are short and straight. All the stamens are crowned with large, brown anthers. They have a long and green style and they are also curved amongst the chief stamens. There are two distinct varieties of the stamens. One bears large leaflets and bright flowers and the other have smaller leaflets and paler flowers.
The flowers have some variations in the shade of yellow and in their size as well amongst which, a brand new variety that consist nearly white flowers is exceptionally attractive. The 'Indian Laburnum' tree is never a very attractive sight at the beginning of the year as the long and cylinder like pods appear in a large amount and hang like pipes among the nearly leafless branches. Sometimes, the pods achieve the length of near about 90 cm and they also contain numerous shiny and brown seeds. In the beginning, the pods are green and soft, but with time they become brown and finally black. They also become hard this time.
In order to flavour the tobacco, the Indian People use the pulp of these pods. The pulp is a strong laxative as well if taken in large doses. Still the bears and monkeys eat it with apparent impunity. However, the cattle or goats do not touch the flowers and leaves of this tree. Very few people use the bark of the tree for tanning and dyeing. There are many medicinal uses for all parts of the plant. The tree can cure the ringworm; can relief the rheumatism and chilblains and also capable of cooling the blood and to be used as an emetic.
The wood of this tree has the ability to become an outstanding fuel and it also gives good charcoal. This timber is very hard and durable and people apply this to make fence posts and also agricultural implements. However, in spite of taking a very good finish, the timber is not so economical to export, as large cuts are not available.