Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Huge Green “Mushroom” Near Adhi

Around few kilometres south of Pakistan Petroleum Ltd’s Adhi Field, stands an enticing, small forest, where a centuries-old huge Barh or Banyan tree serves as a landmark.

From a distance, this tree appears like a beautiful, huge mushroom, dominating all the other trees around it. People living in the nearby villages of Adhi, Thaakra, Kayaal and Phariyal associate a number of stories and myths with this old banyan tree, which has a 40-foot circumfrence trunk.

One of the folklores says that once bandits used to hide their loot and weapons on its branches. The tree, according to locals, also served as the hideout of bandits,
who tied their charpoys on its branches. Some locals also believe that the tree remains a place for ghosts and spirits.

But tales aside, in our times, this tree serves as a thing of beauty, giving joy to all the lovers of nature. During the sweltering summers of Punjab, villagers rest and
even sleep under its vast cool shade.

In the evenings, swarms of birds fly in to its branches, which serve as their home. The mystifying crescendo of chirping and twittering of these birds against
the backdrop of the setting sun gives a unique experience.

The banyan is one of the most remarkable trees of South Asia, belonging to the Moraceae family that grows in a peculiar way. Birds carry banyan seed into the top
branches of other trees where it begins life as an epiphyte, developing its own branches. Eventually, the lateral branches send roots down to the ground, which enlarge into trunks and develop new branches.

In time, the banyan kills its host tree and lives for an incredible length of time.
A mature banyan canopy is usually more than 1,000 feet in circumfrence. Its original trunk may decay, but the younger ones continue to support the tree, which is considered holy in Hindu religion.


(The writer,BABER AKRAM KHOKHER is an Engineer at Design & Construction
Department, PPL)




A shrub or small deciduous tree, Acacia Senegal grows generally to a height of 2 -6m (occasionally to 15m). It is a small sized tree species of Tropical arid region of Southern West Pakistan. It is well-known for producing gum arabic. The tree has many branches and twigs. The bark is typically yellow-brown and smooth on younger trees, changing to dark grey and cracked on older trees. It has double-pinnate, greyish green coloured leaves. The white or cream coloured fragrant flowers grow in bunches during the rainy season. Fruits from dry streams with loamy sand soil type were of bigger size whereas seed output per pod and seed weight were higher in hilly regions.
Pods are yellowish to brown, papery and oblong, and mature between January and March.The seeds possess external dormancy (seed coat), which can be broken by mechanical and chemical scarification, water (cold and boiling) and dark treatments. Seeds collected from different localities showed considerable variation in germination capacity. Percentage and rate of germination increased with the lapse of time.

Distribution, Habitat and Ecology

Acacia Senegal is widespread in different parts of Africa. In Pakistan, it can be found in lower Sindh and Balochistan.

It is a drought resistant tree that grows at a number of sites with severe conditions, in elevations generally ranging from 100-1700m. It tolerates high daily temperatures (mean maximum temperatures of up to 45 degrees centigrade or more), dry wind, and sandstorms. It grows on sites with annual rainfall between 100-950mm and can endure 5-11 months of dry period. Generally it is not known to withstand frost.

Acacia Senegal prefers coarse-textured soils with approximately 800mm annual precipitation.

Benefits or Uses

Acacia Senegal tree is one of the main sources for obtaining commercial Gum Arabic. Gum Arabic has been used for at least 4,000 years by local people for preparation in food, in human and veterinary medicine, in crafts, and as a cosmetic. Today it is an important element in various industries like beverages, pharmaceutical and vitamins, chemical and cosmetic, high fibre formulation, and printing, colours and textile

The wood of this tree is valued for fuel wood and charcoal. It is used in local construction for poles and fence posts, tool handles etc. Strong ropes are made from the bark of the tree's long surface roots. Dried and preserved seeds of the tree are eaten as vegetables.

Friday, November 9, 2007




Acacia Nilotica is an evergreen, medium sized tree approximately 14m tall. The flowers are bright yellow and grow in clusters. Pods are indehiscent and range from 8 to 22cm in length. The maturity of pods varies from one geographical location to another. The tree has a thin, deep reddish-brown coloured bark.

Distribution, Habitat and Ecology

The tree is native to India, all four provinces of Pakistan, Arabia and different parts of Africa.

Babul is a drought resistant tree that thrives in dry areas, but can also withstand floods. It prefers areas where the temperature range is between 20 to 40 degrees centigrade, though it may grow in regions that fall below the minimum estimated temperature. It can adjust to different levels of rainfall, from less than 350 mm to more than 1500 mm annually.

Benefits or Uses

The wood of this tree is utilized as firewood, to make furniture and charcoal. Its bark contains tannin, which is an important chemical for dyeing and tanning leather. The tree also produces gum that is used mainly in the printing industry. It is widely used for fire work and timber. It is introduced and cultivated for erosion and fuel wood. Flowers are used for ornamental purposes, leaves serves as fodder for goats, also used in fencing and hedges. It is honey bee species. Its wood is used for the paper production. Its is also sometimes used as the gum.

Amber Reveals Ecology Of 30 Million Year Old Spiders

The study of fossilised spiders from the Baltic (Poland) and the Dominican (Caribbean) regions has revealed new insights into the ecologies of spiders dating back to the Cenozoic period.

It is the first time ancient spiders from different parts of the world have been compared on such a large scale. 671 species of spiders were compared in the study which is published in the March issue of the Royal Society's Journal Biology Letters.

Palaeoarachnologist Dr David Penney, of The University of Manchester's School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences who led the research, said: "Amber provides a unique window into past forest ecosystems. It retains an incredible amount of information, not just about the spiders themselves, but also about the environment in which they lived.

"We have not only been able to compare the size distributions of over 600 spiders but we have also been able to gain unique insights into the forest in which they lived."

By analysing the size distributions of the spiders and comparing the distinct hunting traits of each species, Dr Penney found that web-spinning spiders were bigger in Baltic amber than in Dominican amber, but that there was no difference between hunting spiders in either region. It was also found the fauna of the amber producing trees in each region accounted for this difference in size.

"Several lines of evidence show that greater structural complexity of Baltic compared to Dominican amber trees explains the presence of larger web-spinners. The Dominican trees are long, thin and smooth whereas the Baltic trees are wide and bushy, providing a much better environment for web-spinners to prosper," says Dr Penney.

The study demonstrates for the first time that spiders trapped in amber can be scientifically compared across deep time (30 million years). This is due to the fact that until now it was unknown whether the amber resins were trapping organisms uniformly. This study proves they were.


ScienceDaily (Mar. 1, 2006)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Life is ever-changing

"Life cannot follow a book,

fixed, stagnant, unchanging.

Life is a river,

unique and ever-changing."


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