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 Post subject: Na - our national tree
 Post Posted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 1:27 am 
Na is our national tree

by Derrick Schokman
CDN


Image
The flowers and leaves of Na, Sri Lanka’s national tree

I wonder how many know that Na or ironwood, (Mesua ferrea) is the national tree of Sri Lanka?

It is one of the finest trees in our dry zone forests, providing the hard heartwood that justifies its name.

The wood was once used in the construction of bridges. A good example is the unique roofed wooden bridge at Bogoda near Hali-Ella.

It is a rare survival of timber architectural engineering from the Kandyan period. The base is made up of three gigantic tree trunks of Na and Milla, buttressed in the middle by strong uprights of the same wood.

Another example would be the very fine Na pillars in the Anglican Church at Baddegama, near Hikkaduwa, the first to be constructed in 1818.

The choice of Na however as the national tree of this country is not because of its hardwood quality, but rather for its connection with Buddhism.

Na is considered sacred to the memory of four previous Buddha's who were enlightened while meditating beneath it.

It is also thought to be the tree under which the future Maithreya Buddha will find enlightenment.

Because of this religious significance, Na has been planted in vihara and temple premises, where it grows to a moderate height with a well groomed canopy that drapes to the ground cloaking the trunk.

The radiant white flowers with their golden centres are popular temple offerings along with lotus and frangapani.

At the 6th century hermitage at Arankele, once a famous retreat for hermits and arahats associated with the name of Maliyadeva, one can still walk along the ancient stone paved meditation path flanked by tall Na trees. The path goes around an ancient roundabout of well chiselled oblong blocks of stone still perfectly preserved.

There is an avenue of Na trees also leading up to the Dewala at Dodanwela, where King Rajasinghe II is said to have gifted his sword and crown after a victory over the Portuguese army.

Dodanwela is on a branch road off the Colombo-Kandy highway near the 64th milepost. A recent discovery has been a large grove of Na trees in the pink quartz mountain area off Madatugama a few miles north to Dambulla.

This Namal-Uyana, covering around 250 acres, is thought to have been planted by King Dhapulla IV in the 10th century. In it are the ruins of ancient religious buildings.

In Dambulla itself there is the International Fundamental Studies - Ruk Rakagama Arboretum, which contains a fine stand of Na trees, among other hardwoods like ebony, satinwood, tamarind, Palu and Helamba.

Visitors to historic sites in Dambulla, Sigiriya and Aukana, could very well fit in a worthwhile visit to Namal-Uyana or the Dambulla Arboretum. The best time to visit would be in November when the crimson young foliage gives the Na trees a particularly handsome and conspicuous appearance, or in April-May, when the trees blossom profusely emanating a delicate scent.


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