Tree Talk| 3 min read

The Miracle Tree

Planting trees to reforest, conserve and make a difference in this old world is a commendable endeavour.

Planting trees to reforest, conserve and make a difference in this old world is a commendable endeavour. The kind of tree is important, but even more so, planting a community of compatible trees and plants that would be found occurring naturally is key. It makes sense to re-plant species that are native to the region that the planting occurs in but unless this region is planning to “log” the area for timber, a mixture of species is more appropriate. Think about it, when you look at a natural stand of trees are they all the same with no other plants growing near them? Unless you are standing in a reforestation project or commercial nursery this is highly unlikely. The point is that when you support a tree planting project just ask if this is a habitat replanting or a reforestation project. The kind (genus and species) of tree(s) to plant can be a chore given that there are so many to choose from. Do your research and learn what benefits to the community will these plantings afford and where in the world will my tree planting do the most good.

Of late there has been much chatter and indeed research about a “wonder tree”, a real “miracle tree”! Great marketing I suppose but the truth is Moringa oleifera has been known to global healers for eons. This rather scruffy tree is found in most tropical countries and in some, is considered a marginally invasive weed. Odd that for so many centuries the Siddha healers (pre- Ayurvedic) touted over 300 healing properties using all parts of this tree on the sub-continent of India. Actually, on a recent visit to Mumbai and Managalore, India, I saw tons of Moringa growing everywhere from the drainage ditches alongside of the roads to pruned street trees in the middle of the cities. The long, bean-like seed pods are found in the local markets as are the seeds for food and oil sources to this day. The oil, often referred to as Ben Oil, is or has been used as lubrication for delicate mechanisms such as watches. This oil is also used for human consumption, mimicking olive oil in many ways. So then now this tree has commercial value, it’s edible and also withstands poor soil conditions and drought. Does it get any better? Yes!

Australian research from almost a decade ago indicates that Moringa oleifera is capable of producing 1000 to 2000 L/hectare/ year of biofuel (O’Connell et al. 2007).

Given that this plant tolerates drought conditions rather well, it retains foliage unless conditions are extremely arid. What this means is that a forage crop for animals as fodder as well as humans exists. The leaves of Moringa oleifera, as well as the seed pods and seeds, are quite nutritious therefore offering communities in drought conditions a food source rich in vitamins. Whether or not this individual species of tree will solve the world’s hunger situation is questionable, but this tree is a good choice for planting as a single species plantation. It’s vigorous root system helps to prevent erosion and as a drought-tolerant plant, it most likely has few companions within its biome and it does tend to form thickets. This species then is more likely to be planted as a mono-generic stand, or simply no other plants along with it.

Remember, each step that we take towards making this a better world is important, no matter how small it may seem. Plant a tree or arrange to have one planted, there is no better gift.

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Anonymous

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