Matti (Terminalia elliptica) trees in Mollem, South Goa
Matti (Terminalia elliptica) trees in Mollem, South GoaGomantak Times

‘Matti’ isn’t the only 'Terminalia' tree in Goa

Matti (Terminalia elliptica) is the 'State Tree' of Goa. But, can you identify it?

Matti, or Indian Laurel, Terminalia elliptica, is the first of the two ‘State Trees’ of Goa as per the official gazette notification of December 2017. It was known as the State Tree of Goa even before the notification.

The other is the madd or coconut palm, Cocos nucifera. Everyone is familiar with the swaying coconut trees and the coconut palm-lined road, known as Maddanim, in Parra village, which is a hot favourite among tourists for selfies, photos and video clips.

Matti (Terminalia tomentosa) is unique because of its ability to store water in its trunk like a camel stores in its hump
Matti (Terminalia tomentosa) is unique because of its ability to store water in its trunk like a camel stores in its humpGomantak Times

The coconut tree shot into focus during the expansion of the four-lane NH-17 into the six-lane NH-66 in the Guirim to Porvorim section.

But the original ‘State Tree’ of maddat, or matti, is a rare sight, unrecognized by the majority of the people in Goa.

Matti, or asana, is also known as crocodile bark tree
Matti, or asana, is also known as crocodile bark treeGomantak Times

ABOUT THE TREE

Matti, or asana, is also known as crocodile bark tree because of the segmented surface of the bark, making it look like crocodile skin. It was earlier known as Terminalia tomentosa and is unique because of its ability to store water in its trunk like a camel stores in its hump.

Its fruit has five wings along its length like a moringa seed. Its wood is fire resistant and was used to make ribs to hold the roof tiles of traditional Goan homes.

Matti (Terminalia elliptica) trees in Mollem, South Goa
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However, it is prone to weevil attacks and tends to powder and the ribs need to be replaced due to breakage within a few years.

Its bark is used for medicinal purposes to control diarrhoea and also for tanning of leather and as a dye for fishnets.

Matti (Terminalia elliptica) trees in Mollem, South Goa
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MORE TREES

A familiar sight these days is the kindal, or Terminalia paniculata, which grabs one’s attention due to the bunches of woody maroon fruits, making the tree canopy look more red than green. The red fruits are especially attractive at sunrise and sunset in winter and early spring time.

These trees are very common along the NH-748 (earlier NH-4A), from Ponda to Mollem, and are otherwise common in the hinterland talukas of Sattari, Dharbandora, Sanguem and Canacona. Its trunk provides good quality timber.

Matti (Terminalia elliptica) trees in Mollem, South Goa
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Children love to eat the kernel of the ghoting, or Terminalia bellirica, that is common in the hinterland of Goa. However, one should not consume too much as it has mind-altering qualities like the Jangli Badam, Sterculia foetida.

The Lodha clan of North India consume the kernel expressly for this purpose. In Sanskrit, it is known as Bibhita or fearless tree, possibly due to this change in attitude after eating the kernels.

Matti (Terminalia elliptica) trees in Mollem, South Goa
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In his book Sacred Flora of Goa, Rajendra Kerkar lists the sacred grove Ghotingachi Rai, dedicated to the protection of this species.

 The False Almond, or Nakli Badam, Terminalia catappa, has become a popular tree in recent years due to its quick growth and broad leaves providing shade along avenues faster than any other tree.

Matti (Terminalia elliptica) trees in Mollem, South Goa
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A large number of these trees can be seen at the IHMCT & AN-Goa, at Porvorim; Garden Centre in Mapusa; and along Dr Jack Sequeira Road in Miramar-Caranzalem.

The red mesocarp is sweet in some varieties. In almost all fruits, the kernel is edible and relished by children, who break open the fallen fruits between two stones. One can easily go nuts over Terminalias!

The author is the former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan

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