The Palmyrah Tree that characterizes Jaffna

Seldom is a tree more useful or more necessary than the Palmyrah tree, which grows in abundance in Sri Lanka’s beautiful North. It is a tree that is native to tropical regions and its many properties come in handy to many of the local population that draws sustenance from it.

While the tree grows wild, it is also cultivated and so, human labor is required in the planting process and also to protect it from animals. The tree can grow up to a height of 30 meters, although it is a slow growth process that takes about 15 to 30 years to actually start bearing fruit.

The Palmyrah tree has quite a large, black-colored trunk, and its leaves are large, fan-shaped, and grey-green in color. Here’s something you may have not known about the tree though- they can be categorized as male or female, and only the female variety bears fruit, usually from September to October. Still, both varieties of tree are used for toddy [1]tapping, which is very common in Sri Lanka, and the North.

The Palmyrah tree is very much like the palm tree in its uses, and every part from its root to the fruit is used for economic purposes ranging from food, to fibre, beverage, medicinal and timber purposes. It is a tree that requires minimum care and if protected from wild animals, can easily bear fruit at the age of 10 or 12.

The germinated seeds of the tree can be boiled and provides a nutritious meal, while the kernel within, tastes like the sweeter version of water chestnut.

The tree also prevents the erosion of soil, by stabilizing it, and so, is grown in coastal areas, on the banks of reservoirs, and so on. It also acts as a wind-break in sandy areas. It is no wonder then, that this tree has been called ‘the celestial tree’ as it gives so much to humankind during its lifetime, and it seems like a gift from the heavens.

Travelling to Jaffna in Sri Lanka’s North, will allow you to see many Palmyrah trees, and even observe its uses, first-hand. Try out some of the tangy Palmyrah toddy and taste the boiled seeds and kernel. It’s guaranteed that you’ll never come across the tree in all its glory, as you do in Jaffna.

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