By Robert Leo
Name of tree: Syzygium cumini
Tamil - Naval/Naga
Kurumba - Neree mara
Irula - Nera mara
Kannada - Nerale mara
Floral features: It is a densely foliaceous evergreen tree. It grows in a variety of habitats - riverbanks, scrub jungles or planted around temples or as avenue trees. New foliage appears in February and March. It grows up to 15 metres and spreads widely.
1. Stem/Trunk: The bark is smooth in young trees. Dead bark flakes off. Branchlets appear when the tree gains a height of about 10 feet. The diameter of the trunk can be up to 1 m. The inner portion becomes hollow in old trees. The wood is dark brown. When the trunk is cut open, the colour can range from brown to reddish. The branchlets are often pendulous. Generally, galls are found on branch lets and leaves.
2. Leaves: Decussate, elliptic or ovate-lanceolate 5.5 to 6.5 cm length, coriaceous, glabruos, glossy
4. Flower: Flower appears in panicle as bunches, pale or dull white in colour. It is a major source of nectar and pollen. It blooms in July to August in the plains and April to May in the hilly regions of southern India. The tree starts flowering from the fifth year onwards.
Foraging by bees: It is visited by all four bee spp. of Indian sub continent, ie. Apis dorsata, Apis cerana, Apis fIorea and the Trigona spp. (dammar bees).
Pollen: Pollen grains are very small - if it gets mixed with honey it is impossible to separate. The pollen grains accumulate to the surface of the honey, in storage, even after two years.
Medicinal property: The tree is considered as possessing medicinal properties and hence the honey from this nectar source is seen similarly. The local tribal community uses the bark to cure stomach aches & disorders and toothache. It is used as an ingredient for liquor distillation in tribal villages. Ayurveda preparations prefer this honey.
[Bees for Development Journal #52]