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Goa’s State Tree vs State Heritage Tree – know the difference

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  • Goa has nine different state symbols that cover everything from animals, birds, and fish, to trees, fruits, flowers, musical instruments, and sports. In celebration of Goa Statehood Day on May 30, ItsGoa is highlighting a different state symbol every day for the next few days.

The topic of Goa’s state tree is a bit of a complicated one. On the one hand, we have the magnificent Indian Laurel, better known as the matti, while on the other hand, we have the versatile and popular Coconut Palm. Both these trees enjoy the status of State Tree in Goa, but for different reasons. The fact of the matter is that although the Coconut Palm is extremely popular in many aspects of Goan life, it did not achieve ‘state treeship’ (yeah I know that’s not a real word) until 2017. The Indian Laurel, however, has been Goa’s State Tree for close to 30 years now. So how did Goa come to have two state trees? And what is this talk of a State Tree and a State Heritage Tree? Well, hopefully in this article we’ll get to the root of it.

State Tree of Goa The Matti Tree or Indian Laurel
Close up of the bark of the Matti Tree

The State Tree – Indian Laurel

The Indian Laurel, or matti tree, has been the State Tree of Goa for over a quarter of a century. This indigenous forest tree may not be seen or heard of on the regular, but as far as trees go, this particular one has a lot going for it. One of the main reasons why it was chosen as the State Tree was because the government wanted to focus attention on the ecological role played by the matti tree that has the capacity to store water during the summers. In an earlier article, we talked about how this water is thought to have medicinal properties and is a cure for stomach pain. It is interesting to note that forest folk used to cut the barks of the matti tree and extract one to two litres of water. It is for this reason that the matti tree is sometimes known as the ‘Water Making Matti Tree.’ Another unique quality of the State Tree of Goa is that the bark of the matti tree is fire retardant, which makes it perfect for minor construction.

Coconut Palm is the State Heritage Tree of Goa
Coconut Palms line he Parra Road from the Panchayat to St. Anne’s Church

The State Heritage Tree – Coconut Palm

If anyone asks what the State Tree of Goa is and you said the Coconut Palm, it’s quite understandable. It’s everywhere! Even as a symbol of Goa, it’s on t-shirts and mugs, it’s in logos – it’s just the perfect representation of Goa, right? In January of 2017, the coconut palm was declassified as a tree and declared grass. The state government passed an amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984, which defined the dimensions of a tree and dropped section 1-A that included the coconut palm as a tree for preservation under the Act. After months of campaigning and protesting, the status of ‘tree’ was finally restored to the coconut palm, and to cement its place in society, it was awarded the status of State Tree. Now, this started to cause confusion, since there could only be one state tree. Would this mean that the beloved matti tree would no longer be the State Tree? So to differentiate the two, the coconut palm came to be known colloquially as the State Heritage Tree because of its place in the vast history of Goa.

The title honours the versatility of the coconut palm in that every part of the tree is used. The coconut itself is used in cooking, while the outer husk is used for coir in ropes, potting compost, mattress stuffing etc. The coconut shell is also used in handicrafts, as charcoal, and even as musical instruments like in the Portuguese Fugadi. The trunk of the palm is used in the building of boats, houses, furniture, and even drums and canoes. The leaves are used to thatch roofs or to make brooms, fences, and many other things. Even the coconut palm roots can be used, especially in medicinal practices.

As you can see, both the matti tree and the coconut palm are integral to the life and culture of Goa; equally deserving of the title of State Tree. What are your opinions though? Do you think one State Tree of Goa is enough? If so, which one? Let us know in the comments below.

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