Nestled between the majestic Himalayas and the Arabian Sea, Pakistan is a land of diverse landscapes and rich history. Among its natural wonders stands a silent guardian, the Deodar tree, hailed as the “Wood of the Gods.”
Revered and cherished, this towering giant offers not just shade and shelter but holds within its boughs tales of ancient reverence and colonial exploitation.
Ever wondered about the tree that has been considered sacred since ancient times and yet was almost exploited to oblivion? Read on to unveil the mysteries of Pakistan’s national tree.
Discover The Deodar, National Tree of Pakistan
The Deodar, scientifically named Cedrus deodara, belongs to the Pinaceae family.
The Deodar is a statuesque evergreen conifer that can reach an impressive height of up to 65m (over 200ft). Its impressive stature often spans around 40-50 meters in height with a trunk diameter that can be up to 3 meters. The tree’s drooping branches give it a graceful, elegant appearance.
Deodar leaves are needle-like, ranging from 2.5-5 cm in length. These soft needles, often a deep green hue, form in dense clusters along the branches, giving the tree its thick foliage.
The Deodar produces both male and female cones. Male cones are long, slender, and fall off after shedding their pollen, while female cones are ovoid, 7–13 cm long and 5–9 cm wide, maturing in two years.
The tree’s bark is rough and fissured, often grayish-brown, lending an ancient and rugged appearance to older trees. The Deodar’s conical shape, combined with its drooping branches, sets it apart in any forested landscape.
Where Does the Deodar Grow?
The Deodar is native to the western Himalayas, including parts of northern Pakistan, India, Tibet, and eastern Afghanistan. Thriving at altitudes of 1,500-3,200 meters, it enjoys the cool climate of these mountainous regions.
The tree often graces river valleys, slopes, and other well-drained terrains. In Pakistan, it’s prominently found in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, especially in areas like Murree, Abbottabad, and Swat.
While the Deodar has also been introduced in parts of Europe and the United States, its true essence and grandeur are best experienced in its native Himalayan habitat.
The Deodar in the Ecosystem
The Deodar, with its towering presence, plays a significant role in the Himalayan ecosystem. Here’s how:
Habitat Provider: The tree’s dense foliage and broad branches offer shelter to various bird species. It’s not uncommon to find nests tucked away amidst the Deodar’s green canopy. Birds such as the Himalayan Monal, Pakistan’s national bird, often seek refuge in these trees.
Food Source: While Deodar leaves aren’t a primary food source for most animals due to their resinous nature, the seeds from its cones provide nourishment for some bird species and small mammals.
Soil Conservation: The tree’s extensive root system helps prevent soil erosion, especially in hilly and sloping terrains. By holding onto the soil, the Deodar ensures that the mountainous landscapes remain stable, mitigating the risks of landslides.
Water Regulation: In the Himalayan ecosystem, trees like the Deodar play an essential role in the water cycle. They absorb rainwater, reducing the speed of runoff and allowing the water to percolate, replenishing underground water tables.
Why and When Did The Deodar Become The National Tree of Pakistan?
The Deodar’s ascension as the national tree of Pakistan isn’t merely because of its grandeur or native status. The tree holds profound cultural and historical significance for the region.
In Sanskrit, Deodar translates to “Wood of the Gods.” The tree’s name is a testament to its divine association. Locally and historically, it has been regarded as sacred. In ancient scriptures and practices, the tree’s wood was used for religious and meditative purposes, believed to bridge the gap between the mortal and the divine.
During the British colonial era, the East India Company extensively exploited the Deodar forests. The tree’s wood, known for its durability, scent, and resistance to rot, was heavily used in infrastructure projects, from building barracks and public buildings to bridges, canals, and even railway constructions.
This exploitation led to massive deforestation, with vast stretches of Deodar forests being cut down, often without utilizing the timber. The aftermath was alarming enough to be noted by the Imperial Forestry Service in 1874.
Recognizing its historical, cultural, and ecological significance, Pakistan designated the Deodar as its national tree. This status also served as a reminder of the importance of conservation and sustainable use of the country’s natural resources, especially after witnessing the tree’s exploitation in the past.
The tree’s designation as a national symbol also brings forth the narrative of its past exploitation. There remains a dialogue on conservation, the need for sustainable forest management, and the lessons from the past, ensuring that history doesn’t repeat itself. The Deodar stands tall, not just as a symbol of national pride but also as a beacon of environmental conservation and sustainable growth.
Where is the Deodar Featured in Pakistan?
The Deodar, being Pakistan’s national tree, holds symbolic value in the country. While not prominently featured on national emblems such as the flag or banknotes, its importance is emphasized in educational materials, environmental campaigns, and conservation programs.
Moreover, due to its historical and religious significance, depictions of Deodar trees can be found in various cultural and historical sites across Pakistan.
Names of the Deodar
Common Names: Apart from Deodar, the tree is also known as Himalayan Cedar.
Scientific Name: While Cedrus deodara is the most widely accepted scientific name, some older texts might refer to it by other synonyms.
Names in Different Languages:
- Sanskrit: देवदारु (devadāru) – meaning “Wood of the Gods”
- Urdu: دیودار (Deodar)
The name Deodar itself has been adapted into many local dialects in the regions where it grows, with slight variations but mostly retaining the essence of its Sanskrit origins.
Interesting Facts About The Deodar
- Sacred Wood: In various ancient scriptures, the Deodar is mentioned as a bridge between humans and deities. Its wood was often used to make temples and religious artifacts, believed to last for hundreds of years due to its rot-resistant properties.
- Scented Timber: Deodar wood emits a pleasant scent, especially when freshly cut. This fragrance has made it a favored choice for crafting furniture and other wooden artifacts in the region.
- Resin Secrets: The tree secretes a resin that has been used in traditional medicines, believed to have healing properties.
- Ecological Importance: The Deodar forests play a crucial role in the water cycle of the Himalayan region, absorbing rainwater and aiding in groundwater recharge.
- British Colonial Era Exploitation: The extensive use of Deodar wood during British rule for infrastructure projects is a testament to the wood’s durability and quality. This, however, came at the cost of deforestation and environmental degradation, a fact that remains a significant point of discussion in conservation circles today.
- Survivor of the Times: Deodar trees have a long lifespan, with some trees believed to be hundreds of years old. They stand as silent witnesses to the changing landscapes and histories of the regions they grow in.
Other Beautiful Trees Found in Pakistan
- Mulberry (Morus): Found across Pakistan, particularly in the Punjab region. Mulberry trees are known for their sweet fruit, which is a favorite among both people and animals.
- Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii): Predominant in the Murree region, these evergreens play a pivotal role in the local ecosystem, preventing soil erosion and providing habitat for various species.
- Sheesham (Dalbergia sissoo): Also known as the Indian Rosewood, the Sheesham tree’s strong and durable wood is used for making furniture and musical instruments.
- Banyan (Ficus benghalensis): Renowned for its aerial roots and vast canopy, the Banyan is an integral part of South Asian folklore and is often found near temples and communal spaces.
- Neem (Azadirachta indica): This tree is not only aesthetically pleasing but also has medicinal properties. Its leaves and seeds are used in traditional remedies, and it plays a vital role in the region’s ethnomedicine.
What Is The National Flower of Pakistan?
Pakistan’s national flower is the Jasmine (Jasminum officinale). Characterized by its delicate white petals and an intoxicating fragrance, Jasmine symbolizes purity, simplicity, and elegance.
This fragrant bloom has cultural and religious significance in Pakistan and is also used in perfumes and tea. The flower’s scent is most potent during the evening, which has earned it the name “queen of the night.”
Apart from its symbolism, Jasmine also has various medicinal properties and has been used in traditional remedies for centuries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why was the Deodar tree chosen as the national tree of Pakistan?
The Sacred Fig, especially the Bodhi Tree variant, is revered because it is believed to be the tree under which Siddhartha Gautama, later known as Buddha, attained enlightenment. This event holds profound significance in Buddhism, making the tree a symbol of enlightenment and spiritual awakening.
Does the Deodar tree have any religious significance?
Yes, the Deodar tree is revered in various religious scriptures and is believed to be a bridge between humans and deities. Its wood was often used in constructing temples and religious artifacts.
How long can a Deodar tree live?
Deodar trees can have an impressively long lifespan. Some trees are believed to be several hundred years old.
What are the conservation efforts in place for the Deodar in Pakistan?
Given the historical exploitation of Deodar forests, Pakistan has initiated reforestation efforts and has put regulations in place to prevent over-harvesting. Conservationists are also working on creating awareness about the tree’s significance.
Apart from Pakistan, where else can the Deodar tree be found?
The Deodar tree is native to the western Himalayas and can be found in parts of northern India, eastern Afghanistan, and western Nepal.