Shanghili: A Pristine Nature Trail

Nature Friendly travellerSet deep inside the forest reserves of Arippa, near Thenmala in Kollam district, Shanghili is a serene spot not much explored. Leaving the Trivandrum-Tenmala road you can trek or use the local Jeep. More than the beauty of Shanghili, the drive through the pristine forest, rich with a variety of vegetation and animals, makes the trip a memorable one.

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Fallen trees had been chopped to clear a small track just enough for the jeep. Elephants bare the bark of acacia tree by feeding on it. The forest track has rich variety of flora on either side. Pullani creeper which stores water for summer is aplenty. A small cut can make water flow out as from a pipe. Plaachi which is used for making red dye, Kambakam a strong tree used to make sleepers for railway tracks, Vayana which is used as a spice for making traditional sweets, Kamala which reduces swelling in the body, Kattashokam which gives oil for the hair and patta for kashayam, the Ayurvedic medicine. Then there is Aadu thoda paala which animals won’t feed on, but an effective medicine for tooth ache. Among the trees there is the Maruthu, ageing more than hundred years and Banyan trees which grow on other trees, as seeds dispersed by birds will be growing from holes in the bark of the parent tree, finally the Banyan tree squeezes its parent tree and grows out. Poovanam, which is used to make oil for traditional lamps, Bamboo, used to make furniture. The list seems to be endless. Also seen are honey beehives hanging on Cheeni trees. Flying squirrels find their homes in these trees. Fungi seem to decorate some of the trees.

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Meristica swamp, a unique evergreen forest is found only in Western Ghats. It is rich with pine varieties, like Unda pine, Chora pine, Vella pine, Chitra pine or Ponnan pine whose seeds are used as spice, Nangu, Kundirikam, Cheeni etc, different pines have different uses.  The creeper seed, Parandakka or Kakkunga is crushed and applied to relieve body pain.

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When most of the earth was covered with trees, early humans explored the qualities of different varieties and identified their usefulness in their lives. They depended only on the resources available from Nature. There were no packing materials, containers, pet bottles, and wrappers serving the purpose of branding at those times, which would become a waste after the human consumption. Wastes produced by early humans were bio-degradable and they formed manure for the next generation. So Nature was not affected by their life style. Through civilization, consumerism increased, modern societies purchase more than they consume. The wastes produced are in abundance. This forms a major destructive force on the equilibrium maintained by Nature.