The Mangrove Apple

The Godrej Mangrove Interpretation Centre
Trees Your Best Antiques

Enhancing awareness about mangrove ecosystems and natural resources in general is one of the prime objectives of the Godrej Mangrove Project. Every year around 5,000 visitors learn about biodiversity in mangroves its importance and the threats to its survival through nature trails, slide shows, awareness campaigns, visits to the Mangrove Interpretation Centre and articles in newsletters. We try to find innovative ways to make people aware of this natural heritage.
ADITTYA V. DHARAP, a Mechanical Engineer with Godrej Efacec Automation and Robotics Ltd., recently visited the Mangrove Project and expressed his desire to work as a volunteer. As Adittya is fond of sketching, it was decided that he would draw a series of posters on the mangrove species found in Pirojshanagar with technical support provided by the Mangrove Project.
This scheme involved a lot of activity behind the scenes, such as compiling a list of the various mangrove species, collecting information about individual species, drafting and making layouts of each poster, monitoring each species in the mangrove area to tap every life stage of the plant, preparing mock-ups of each poster, getting approval from experts related to the mangrove ecosystem, and, finally, designing the poster. Appropriately enough, the series was launched on World Wetland Day, which falls on 2 February. Smita Godrej Crishna, along with husband Vijay Crishna, released the series at a simple function conducted in the mangrove area, at which students of Udayachal High School and other invitees were present.
Each poster depicts twigs, fruits and flowers, the arrangement of leaves, the root system, special features of the plant, the flower structure, type of species, economic importance, and its status in the International Union Conservation Network (IUCN). A special monogram was designed to make the poster aesthetically appealing, and simple language
was used to make it accessible for laypersons.
Let us start the series with a unique and interesting species, Sonneratia apetala.


The Mangrove Apple

onneratia apetala is commonly known as mangrove apple. The plant has been named Sonneratia in honour of Pierre Sonnerat (1749-1814), who travelled to New Guinea, the East Indies and China, and introduced many new plants to the botanists of Europe. The flowers of this plant are quite unique since they blossom at dusk and drop off by morning. Being nocturnal, they are mainly pollinated by bats and nocturnal insects such as fireflies. It is also called mangrove apple because its fruit is shaped like an apple, except that it also has a long, pointed outgrowth.

The mangrove apple can be identified by its elliptical leaves, hairy, white flowers, round lime-sized fruits, and its thick, conical and long pneumatophores (breathing roots. In Latin, pneumatophore means "air carrier"). The bark of a young Sonneratia is covered with a layer of wax, probably to protect it against water loss and attacks by creatures great and small.

This species, like other mangrove plants, is not suited to be used as fuel because of the high amount of ash it produces. But its wood is used in the construction of ships, houses and bridges since it is resistant to wood borers and shipworms. The fruits, when ripe, are eaten in South-East Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Since this plant regenerates easily from its branches, it is favoured for forestation projects.

Laxmikant T. Deshpande
Mangrove Section
 

 

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