Sundari (Heritiera fomes)
Sundari (Heritiera fomes) is a species of mangrove tree belonging to the Malvaceae family, which is native to the mangrove forests of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is commonly found in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest that spans across Bangladesh and India. In fact, the name “Sundarbans” is derived from the Sundari tree, meaning “beautiful forest” in the Bengali language.
- Family: Malvaceae
- Genus: Heritiera
- Species: H. fomes
The Sundari tree can grow up to 15-25 meters in height and has a distinctive buttressed trunk, which provides stability in the soft, muddy soil of the mangroves. The tree has broad, elliptical leaves that are dark green and glossy on the top and covered with silvery scales on the bottom. Its flowers are small and pale yellow, appearing between March and July.
Leaves: The leaves of the Sundari tree are simple, alternate, and oblong-elliptical in shape. They are dark green and glossy on the upper surface, with a dense covering of silvery or brown scales on the underside.
Flowers: The flowers of H. fomes are small, greenish-yellow, and inconspicuous. They are arranged in axillary panicles and typically bloom from March to May.
Fruit: The fruit of the Sundari tree is a woody, brown, and boat-shaped structure called a keel. It contains many seeds and can float, which aids in the dispersal of the seeds through water.
The morphology of Sundari trees (Heritiera fomes) refers to the physical form and structure of the plant. Here are the key morphological features of Sundari trees:
- Size: Sundari trees are medium-sized evergreen mangroves, typically growing to heights of 15-25 meters (49-82 feet).
- Trunk: The tree has a straight, cylindrical trunk with smooth, grayish-brown bark. The trunk may exhibit buttresses (flared, ridge-like structures) near the base, which provide additional support in the waterlogged, soft soil of the mangrove ecosystem.
- Roots: One of the most distinctive features of Sundari trees is their aerial roots, called pneumatophores. These specialized roots emerge vertically from the ground and can reach up to 30 cm (12 inches) in height. Pneumatophores have small pores called lenticels, which facilitate gas exchange and allow the tree to obtain oxygen in the oxygen-poor, waterlogged soil.
- Leaves: The leaves of Sundari trees are simple, alternate, and oblong-elliptical in shape, measuring about 10-20 cm (4-8 inches) long and 4-7 cm (1.6-2.8 inches) wide. The upper surface of the leaves is dark green and glossy, while the underside is covered with dense silvery or brown scales.
- Flowers: Sundari tree flowers are small, greenish-yellow, and inconspicuous. They are arranged in axillary panicles, with each panicle consisting of numerous tiny flowers. The blooming period typically occurs from March to May.
- Fruit: The fruit of the Sundari tree is a woody, brown, and boat-shaped structure called a keel, measuring about 5-8 cm (2-3 inches) long. It contains numerous seeds and can float on water, enabling seed dispersal through the waterlogged mangrove environment.
The morphology of Sundari trees is well-adapted to the challenging conditions of the mangrove ecosystem, such as waterlogged soil, fluctuating water levels, and high salinity. These adaptations make Heritiera fomes a vital component of the Sundarbans mangrove forest.
One of the unique features of Sundari trees is their pneumatophores, which are specialized aerial roots that protrude from the ground and help the tree to breathe in the oxygen-deficient soil of the mangroves. These roots also support the tree during tidal fluctuations and flooding.
Sundari trees play a crucial role in the mangrove ecosystem, providing habitat for various species of birds, mammals, and marine life. The dense root system of the tree helps to prevent soil erosion and maintain water quality by filtering pollutants. Additionally, Sundari wood is known for its durability, resistance to termites and water, making it highly valuable for construction, boat building, and furniture production.
Explore the Sundari trees by a Sundarban tour, arranged by Sonakshi Travels
Unfortunately, the Sundari tree is facing threats due to deforestation, climate change, and rising sea levels. The loss of these trees not only impacts the biodiversity of the region but also affects the livelihoods of local communities that depend on the mangrove ecosystem for their sustenance. Conservation efforts are crucial for preserving these vital ecosystems and the unique species that call them home, like the Sundari tree.
Sundarban tour, Sundari trees, সুন্দরী গাছ, সুন্দরবন টূর