Typically, when we consider a city’s heritage, we include historical monuments, notable person statues, or valuable architectural structures. However, there is a different kind of heritage—the living heritage represented by the trees in our cities and towns. These historic trees can be found in a range of urban areas, including parks, roadways, waterways, woodland groves, religious settings, and even private property. Of course, these heritage trees have biological importance, but they also have cultural significance. Heritage trees are historical artefacts that give urban people a feeling of history and a sense of place in otherwise stressful metropolitan environments.
A tree can be designated as a heritage tree based on a variety of factors. The tree stands out because of these characteristics, both tangible and intangible. The age or size of the tree are examples of the material qualities. It might also be the outcome of the tree’s shape or form. Additionally, the tree can belong to a rare species or be in danger of extinction. Cultural and aesthetic considerations are included in the non-material criteria. It’s possible that the tree is linked historically or culturally to a specific person, location, or event. Another possibility is that the tree is one from myth or folklore. The tree can receive the designation of a heritage tree even if only some of the criteria are met.
In India, cities are littered with enormous, old, significant, or historically significant trees. Some of these have been identified, but for many others, we hardly even know they exist. A 150-foot-tall New Caledonian Pine or Cook Pine—also referred to as the Christmas tree in Asia—can be found in Benglauru City. In the Lal Bagh Garden in the city’s centre, the tree that was brought to the area from New Caledonia in the late eighteenth century grows tall and is clearly visible. Also in Bengaluru is the Dodda Aalada Mara or Big Banyan (Ficus benghalensis), whose canopy is supported by aerial roots and is thought to be over 400 years old. Other notable banyans may be found all throughout the nation, like as the 550-year-old one in the Bal Samand Palace in the Rajasthani desert city of Jodhpur. Other examples are the 450-year-old banyan in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and the banyan in the Kolkata Botanical Garden.
Urban trees serve a variety of purposes. They offer shade, aid in maintaining a cool atmosphere, remove the dust from the roads and take up hazardous gases produced by industrial and vehicular pollution, etc. At the same time, they serve as a source of raw materials, food, medicine, and cultural and religious importance for humans. But in addition to all of the aforementioned advantages, heritage trees also offer other added advantages.
For starters, heritage trees are living cultural artefacts that link the city’s history and present, in addition to being valuable from an ecological standpoint. Heritage trees that are a part of the history of the city itself are the best way to feel civic pride in our communities. A valuable resource in tourism are heritage trees. While tourists may unintentionally visit a heritage tree in a park and take memories of the tree home with them, many nature lovers visit heritage trees in cities frequently by participating in tree walks. Along with aesthetic or ecological qualities like shade, local populations who live next to historic trees also place cultural importance on trees. Heritage trees can play an important role in creating awareness about the importance of both heritage trees, as well as other trees in an urban landscape. Thus, we must work to preserve and maintain these historical beauties.