Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha)

Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha)

Excoecaria agallocha, commonly known as Gewa or Blinding Tree, is a mangrove species found in coastal regions of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and northern Australia. It is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, which includes a wide variety of plant species. The Gewa are well-adapted to the harsh conditions of the mangrove ecosystems, such as high salinity, tidal fluctuations, and waterlogged soils.

Taxonomy of Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha)

Kingdom: Plantae

Phylum: Tracheophyta

Class: Magnoliopsida

Order: Malpighiales

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Genus: Excoecaria

Species: E. agallocha

Morphology of Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha):

  1. Roots: Gewa plants possess a shallow root system that spreads horizontally, allowing them to anchor firmly in the soft and unstable soils of the mangrove ecosystem. They also have small pneumatophores, which are specialized aerial roots that help in gas exchange and oxygen absorption in waterlogged conditions.
  2. Trunk: Excoecaria agallocha has a slender and erect trunk with smooth or slightly fissured bark, which is grey to brown in color. The trunk can reach a height of 15-20 meters (49-65 feet) under optimal conditions.
  3. Leaves: The leaves of Gewa are simple, alternate, and oblong-lanceolate in shape, measuring around 5-12 cm (2-4.7 inches) in length and 2-5 cm (0.8-2 inches) in width. They have a glossy, dark green upper surface and a lighter green underside. The leaf margins are entire and slightly wavy, and the midrib is prominent.
  4. Flowers: Excoecaria agallocha is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The flowers are small, greenish-yellow, and arranged in axillary racemes or spikes. Male flowers have numerous stamens, while female flowers have a single pistil with a superior ovary.
  5. Fruits and seeds: The fruit of Gewa is a small, three-lobed capsule that turns brown or black when mature. Each lobe contains one seed, which is released upon the fruit’s dehiscence. The seeds are small, ovoid, and slightly flattened.

The taxonomy and morphology of Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha) enable it to thrive in the challenging environment of mangrove ecosystems. However, it is essential to note that the milky latex produced by this plant is highly toxic and can cause severe skin irritation and temporary blindness if it comes into contact with the eyes. As a result, caution must be exercised when handling Gewa plants.

Explore the natural beauty of Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha) through a Sundarban Luxury Tour Package

Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha), also known as Blinding Tree, Milky Mangrove, or River Poison Tree, is a species of mangrove tree belonging to the Euphorbiaceae family. It is native to the mangrove forests of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Gewa trees can be found in coastal areas, particularly in estuaries, tidal creeks, and along riverbanks, where they thrive in saline or brackish water environments.

Gewa trees typically grow up to 10-15 meters in height, though some specimens can reach up to 20 meters. The tree has a straight, slender trunk with grayish bark and is often supported by prop roots. The leaves of the Gewa tree are simple, alternate, and oval-shaped with a glossy, dark green upper surface and a paler green underside.

The tree produces small, greenish-white flowers in clusters, which are unisexual and wind-pollinated. Female flowers give way to small, oval-shaped fruits that turn brown when mature. Each fruit contains a single seed that is dispersed by water.

One notable feature of the Gewa tree is the milky latex present in its bark, leaves, and fruit. This latex is highly toxic and can cause skin irritation and temporary blindness if it comes into contact with the eyes. Despite its toxicity, the latex has been used in traditional medicine for treating various ailments, such as skin diseases and rheumatism.

Gewa trees play an essential role in the mangrove ecosystem, providing habitat and food for various species of birds, fish, and other wildlife. The extensive root system of the tree helps to prevent soil erosion, stabilize shorelines, and maintain water quality by trapping sediments and filtering pollutants.

The wood of the Gewa tree is lightweight, soft, and easily workable, making it suitable for various purposes such as construction, boat building, and the production of paper pulp. However, the increasing demand for its wood and habitat loss due to deforestation, aquaculture expansion, and climate change has led to a decline in Gewa tree populations. Conservation efforts are needed to protect these unique trees and the vital ecosystems they support.

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