Bangladesh is a nation of vibrant culture, rich traditions, and a land flowing with rivers. While many marvel at its landscapes and history, few might know that the Mango Tree, or Mangifera indica, stands tall as its national tree.
Ever wondered how a fruit-bearing tree earned this prestigious title amidst numerous contenders? Let’s journey together to discover the tales and trails of this magnificent tree.
Discover The Mango Tree, the National Tree of Bangladesh
The Mango Tree, scientifically known as Mangifera indica, is an evergreen that can grow up to 115–131 feet (35–40 meters) tall, with a crown radius of 33 feet (10 meters). The tree has a straight and sturdy trunk that opens up into a luxuriant, wide canopy.
The leaves are lanceolate, meaning they’re shaped like a lance tip, typically starting a reddish or purplish hue when young and becoming a deep green as they mature. The vibrant color transformation is a captivating spectacle in itself.
Come spring, the tree blooms with small, white, fragrant flowers, setting the stage for the summer’s bounty. The bark is a rough, greyish-brown, exuding a gum that’s used in various traditional medicines.
But of course, the most notable characteristic of the tree is its fruit. The mango, often called the ‘King of Fruits’, varies in size and color but is usually a combination of red, yellow, and green with sweet, juicy, and aromatic flesh inside.
Where Does the Mango Tree Grow?
Native to South Asia, the Mango Tree thrives in tropical and subtropical climates. Bangladesh, with its warm and humid climate, offers an ideal environment for these trees. Mangoes prefer a slightly acidic, well-draining soil, and once established, they’re remarkably drought-resistant.
While Bangladesh is its native home, the Mango Tree’s adaptability has led to its cultivation in various parts of the world, from Southeast Asia, East and West Africa, to parts of the Americas. Yet, it’s in the Indian subcontinent that the mango has its deepest historical and cultural roots.
The Mango in the Ecosystem
The Mango Tree isn’t just a bearer of delectable fruits; it plays a pivotal role in the ecosystem. Its dense canopy provides shelter for various bird species, from parrots to sunbirds. The tree’s flowers are a source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, ensuring their survival and promoting biodiversity.
Furthermore, the fruit itself is a feast for an array of animals. Monkeys, fruit bats, and even larger animals like deer often indulge in the ripe mangoes. As these animals travel, they disperse the seeds, aiding in the proliferation of the mango tree in the wild.
The tree’s extensive root system helps prevent soil erosion, particularly in the riverine landscapes of Bangladesh. Its leaves, which fall periodically, decompose to enrich the soil, acting as a natural fertilizer.
Why and When Did The Mango Tree Become The National Tree of Bangladesh?
The Mango Tree’s declaration as the national tree of Bangladesh is rooted deeply in the country’s culture, history, and economy. Mangoes have been cultivated in the Indian subcontinent for over 4,000 years. Their sweet taste and aromatic allure have been celebrated in numerous ancient scriptures and folk songs.
Beyond its taste, the mango holds profound cultural significance in Bangladesh. It’s often associated with love, fertility, and abundance. Numerous festivals, especially during the summer harvest season, revolve around this fruit. The gifting of mangoes is considered a gesture of goodwill and friendship.
Historically, the region’s literature and art are sprinkled with references to mangoes, symbolizing prosperity and life. Given this deep-seated reverence, it’s no surprise that the Mango Tree was chosen as the nation’s symbol.
However, the mango tree’s prominence isn’t without its controversies. With the increasing demand for mangoes globally, there have been debates and concerns regarding the use of chemicals in cultivation, the clearing of land for mango orchards at the expense of other native forests, and the socio-economic disparities in its trade.
Nevertheless, efforts are ongoing to address these challenges, ensuring that the legacy of the Mango Tree remains untarnished.
Where is the Mango Tree Featured in Bangladesh?
In Bangladesh, the Mango Tree is much more than just a producer of the beloved fruit. It has woven its roots deep into the fabric of the country’s culture, history, and daily life. While the Mango Tree doesn’t directly feature on the flag or bank notes of Bangladesh, its significance is represented in various other ways:
Literature and Music: Bangladeshi literature, both ancient and contemporary, is replete with poems, stories, and songs glorifying the mango tree and its luscious fruit. The tree often serves as a symbol of love, nostalgia, and the bittersweet nature of life.
Art and Craft: Many traditional paintings and handicrafts feature the mango motif, showcasing the tree in its full splendor or emphasizing its fruit.
Festivals: During the mango season, local communities in various parts of Bangladesh celebrate mango harvesting festivals. These joyous occasions involve picking the best mangoes, hosting mango-eating competitions, and cultural performances centered around the tree and its fruit.
Names of the Mango Tree
The Mango Tree, scientifically known as Mangifera indica, is fondly called by various names across different regions and languages. In Bangladesh, it’s predominantly referred to as ‘Aam Gach’ (Mango Tree in Bengali). However, it’s also known by other local names and dialects:
- Folk Names: In some parts, especially rural areas, it’s known as ‘Rajah’s fruit’ because of the belief that mangoes were initially grown only for royalty.
- Synonyms: Other scientific names include Mangifera austro-yunnanensis and Mangifera sylvatica, although these refer to different species within the mango family.
- International Names: In neighboring India, it’s called ‘Aam ka Ped’ in Hindi. The tree is known as ‘Manguier’ in French, ‘Mangobaum’ in German, and ‘Albero del Mango’ in Italian.
Interesting Facts About The Mango Tree
- Ancient Traveler: Mangoes were believed to have traveled with humans from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa, and South America over 4,000 years ago.
- Symbol of Love: In many cultures, including Bangladesh, the mango tree is considered a symbol of love, and some even believe that mango trees can grant wishes.
- Bark Uses: The bark of the mango tree has been traditionally used to treat various ailments. Its extract is believed to have antiseptic and astringent properties.
- A Home to Others: The dense foliage of mango trees provides the perfect environment for orchids to grow. Hence, it’s not uncommon to find wild orchids thriving on mango trees in Bangladesh.
- Nature’s Marvel: Certain varieties of mangoes can grow as large as a watermelon!
Other Beautiful Trees Found in Bangladesh
- Bangladesh, with its tropical climate, is home to a plethora of lush trees and plants that not only beautify the landscape but also hold significant cultural or ecological importance. Here are five other notable trees native to the country:
- Sundari Tree (Heritiera fomes): The Sundari tree, from which the Sundarbans—the largest mangrove forest in the world—derives its name, thrives in the country’s coastal region. Its timber is highly valued.
- Banyan Tree (Ficus benghalensis): Commonly referred to as the ‘Bot’ tree in Bengali, it is recognized for its extensive root system and is often associated with various cultural and religious practices.
- Jackfruit Tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus): Bangladesh’s national fruit grows on this tree. The Jackfruit tree, locally known as ‘Kathal Gach,’ plays a pivotal role in the country’s cuisine and culture.
- Rain Tree (Samanea saman): Known locally as ‘Brishti Konna,’ this tree is celebrated for its wide canopy which provides shade and its fern-like leaves that fold during the rainy season.
- Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni): A tree renowned for its hard, reddish-brown wood, it’s widely used for making furniture and various handicrafts in Bangladesh.
What Is The National Flower of Bangladesh?
The national flower of Bangladesh is the White Water Lily (Nymphaea alba), locally known as ‘Shapla.’ Floating gracefully on ponds and lakes across Bangladesh, the Shapla holds a special place in the country’s heart and symbolizes purity, beauty, and birth. Its petals, often compared to the rays of the sun, are white with a golden core.
Not just limited to its aesthetic appeal, the flower is also used in traditional dishes, and its stalk is a popular vegetable in Bangladeshi cuisine. The Shapla is prominently featured in Bangladeshi currency and national emblems, signifying its importance to the nation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why was the mango tree chosen as the national tree of Bangladesh?
The mango tree, with its deep-rooted cultural, economic, and historical significance to the country, was a natural choice as Bangladesh’s national tree. It symbolizes prosperity, growth, and the tropical essence of the country.
How many varieties of mangoes are there in Bangladesh?
Bangladesh boasts over 100 varieties of mangoes, each with its unique taste, texture, and aroma. Popular varieties include Himsagar, Langra, and Amropali.
Is it true that Bangladesh has a mango festival?
Yes, during the mango harvesting season, various regions in Bangladesh celebrate mango festivals, showcasing different varieties and hosting various mango-related activities.
Apart from being the national tree, how else is the mango celebrated in Bangladesh?
Mangoes hold a significant place in Bangladeshi cuisine, literature, art, and music. The fruit is not only consumed in its natural form but also used to prepare various delicacies, from pickles to desserts.
What is the lifespan of a mango tree?
A mango tree can live and produce fruit for up to 300 years, although its productive years are typically between 7 to 40 years.