Rudrakash Elaeocarpus blascoi: Last Tear of Siva???
Rudraksha tree and its seed are held in great esteem for religious purposes. The nuts are very strong and has faces (mukhas) formed by engraved lines from its head to the bottom across the outer surface. Most common nuts have 5 faces and are called “Panchmukhi” meaning with five faces. Most precious is the one with 21 faces and only two go them are said to exist. There price may range anything between 10 to 15 lakhs INR.
The nuts have the potential of medicinal values. Most of the members of the family Elaeocarpaceae have indolizidine alkaloid compounds, which have attracted a great deal of interest on account of their ability to inhibit the enzymatic activity of glucosidases. Hence, there is some potential to explore it further in the treatment of cancer, HIV and blood pressure.
In indian mythology tree are connected with Lord Siva who is said to have shed tears of grief and the tear drops became trees when they fell on the soil. These trees in India are confined mostly to North Eastern and Southern India.
The trees do not proliferate in numbers in wild. This is because of the extreme hard shell of the nut and low permeability to Moisture. This results in poor and erratic germination. Not only that the tree takes more than15 years to start flowering. So many species are in the process of becoming endangered.
One such tree: Elaeocarpus blascoi belongs to family which is confined to only to the Palani Hills in Tamil Nadu, is facing threat of extinction as just one tree of the group survives. It was discovered in Bear Shola of Palni Hills, Tamil Nadu in 1970 and was later found to be extinct during the exploration of the flora of Palni Hills. Fortunately, it was rediscovered in another region of the Kodaikanal forests in 2000 with only one living individual. It is a strict endemic species to Palni Hills of Western Ghats found on the fringes of the moist evergreen forest above 2,150 meters and included under Endangered category (World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1998) and Red list of IUCN. Elaeocarpus blascoi is a canopy tree growing up to 20 meter tall in moist evergreen forests with short new branches.
Various propagation techniques like tissue culture are required to raise saplings keeping in view the extremely poor results of germination from nuts. At present, there are two saplings of the tree with an conservation NGO.