Spotting Kerala’s oldest rubber tree is a walk in the park

Spotting Kerala’s oldest rubber tree is a walk in the park
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Thiruvananthapuram: He has outlived kings and colonialists. He has seen Kerala emerge into a state and being colonized by his ilk. The pioneer is aged over 150 years. He is one of the first rubber trees to be planted in Kerala.

The gigantic tree that towers over the museum garden in the Kerala capital has aged without much celebration. He is the only survivor among the seven trees imported from Sri Lanka in the latter part of the 19th century.

The Uthram Thirunal Maharaja, the then king of Travancore, had no plans to turn the princely state into a latex country when he ordered the Brazil native to be planted in the museum garden. John Joseph Murphy was yet to come up with a plan to cover large swathes of Kerala with the commercially important trees. 

There are no clear records of the first tree’s advent though. It is at least 158 years old, considering that Uthram Thirunal’s reign lasted until 1860. The king opened the Museum of Travancore in 1857. The garden and the zoo were added later. 

Representatives of the British dispensation presented the king with what was then an exotic specimen. The king wanted the rare tree to be in his garden.

The tree had an unsung existence until about a few decades ago, when authorities hung a board proclaiming its historical significance. The tree has turned a definite attraction in the museum since then.

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