Sugar has become a dreaded word in the modern world. The term is used for the diabetes disease which is acquiring the epidemic proportions in the world. Although sugar alone cannot be blamed for this disease. Sugar is the major energy source along with fats on which our body runs. Even the carbohydrates which we take in the form of bread and rice are ultimately broken down to simpler sucrose and then glucose compounds and are assimilated by our bodies. It is a matter of living style like stressful life, overeating and sedentary habits. So let us not blame sugar and know about it.


Sugar cane is a grass and the source of 70% of the world’s sugar which is extracted from the sweet, juicy stems. In many South Asian countries like India and Pakistan, when the stalks of sugarcane mature, they are chewed for their sugary syrup. The stalk is divided into pieces like the bamboo stalk and sweetness of the stalks decreases from bottom towards upper stalks. Of course, green portion at the top is only grassy. It is eaten as small pieces by the children. This was the original use of sugar cane. Afterwards the sugar extraction processes began and it became the most important source of sugar followed by the beetroots and palms. The juice is extracted by pressing the sugarcane in a press consisting of rollers of steel and operated by bullocks or nowadays with engines. Area of West Maharashtra near Nashik are famous for the sugarcane production. Uttar Pradesh also produced lots of sugarcane. There are many mills for large scale production of sugar and molasses.

English: Sugarcane juice vendors, Dhaka.

Sugar cane originated in New Guinea where it has been known since about 6000 BC. From about 1000 BC its cultivation gradually spread along human migration routes to Southeast Asia and India and east into the Pacific. It is thought to have hybridised with wild sugar canes of India and China, to produce the ‘thin’ canes. It spread westwards to the Mediterranean between 600-1400 AD.

Arabs were responsible for much of its spread as they took it to Egypt around 640 AD, during their conquests. They carried it with them as they advanced around the Mediterranean. Sugar cane spread by this means to Syria, Cyprus, and Crete, eventually reaching Spain around 715 AD.

Around 1420 the Portuguese introduced sugar cane into Madeira, from where it soon reached the Canary Islands, the Azores, and West Africa. Columbus transported sugar cane from the Canary Islands to what is now the Dominican Republic in 1493. The crop was taken to Central and South America from the 1520s onwards, and later to the British and French West Indies.

Indian Subcontinent

Sugar cane has a very long history of cultivation in the Indian sub-continent. The earliest reference to it is in the Atharva Veda (c. 1500-800 BC) where it is called ikshu and mentioned as an offering in sacrificial rites. The Atharva Veda uses it as a symbol of sweet attractiveness.

The word ‘sugar’ is thought to derive from the ancient Sanskrit sharkara. By the 6th century BC sharkara was frequently referred to in Sanskrit texts which even distinguished superior and inferior varieties of sugarcane. The Susrutha Samhita listed 12 varieties; the best types were supposed to be the vamshika with thin reeds and the paundraka of Bengal. It was also being called guda, a term which is still used in India to denote jaggery. A Persian account from the 6th century BC gives the first account of solid sugar and describes it as coming from the Indus Valley. This early sugar would have resembled what is known as ‘raw’ sugar: Indian dark brown sugar or gur.

At this time honey was the only sweetener in the countries beyond Asia and all visitors to India were much taken with the ‘reed which produced honey without bees’. The Greek historian Herodotus knew of the sugarcane in the 5th century BC and Alexander is said to have sent some home when he came to the Punjab region in 326 BC. Practically every traveler to India over the centuries mentions sugarcane; the Moroccan Ibn Battuta wrote of the sugarcanes of Kerala which excelled every other in the 14th century; Francois Bernier, in India from 1658-59, wrote of the extensive fields of sugarcane in Bengal.

Raw and refined sugars in simple terms are produced by heating, removing impurities and crystallizing sugar cane juice. Sucrose is the main constituent in this juice. Raw and refined sugars are exported all over the world for use in pretty much everything from sweet and savoury dishes to processed foods and drinks and preserving fruits and meat. These sugars are also compressed into sugar cubes or made into syrup. White sugar can be further processed into icing sugar to be used in desserts, baking and confectionery. It is a dark, syrupy product and is used for the preparation of edible syrups and for numerous industrial products. In Brazil alcohol is prepared from the sugarcane juice and is used as a fuel for the automobiles. Its end products after burning are carbondioxide and water which are completely pollution free.

As the sugar cane juice contains energy giving sugar as well many minerals, it is used in the treatment of certain illnesses. Both the roots and stems of sugar cane are used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat skin and urinary tract infections, as well as for bronchitis, heart conditions, loss of milk production, cough, anaemia, constipation as well as general debility. Some texts advise its use for jaundice and low blood pressure.

A very surprising use of sugar is for removing body hair. A warm paste of sugar, water and lemon juice is applied to the skin. Strips of cloth are then pressed over the paste and are then quickly torn off, taking the hair with them. Enthusiasts claim that this procedure becomes less painful with time. The practice of sugaring may date to ancient times in South Asia.

Sugar is also used to exfoliate skin and in soap-making. It has been claimed that application of sugar cane extracts can benefit the skin, but there is no evidence for this.

In Indian Literature

Indian literature abounds in references to the sugarcane: early Tamil literature describes sugarcane along the banks of the River Kaveri, and indeed sugarcane was usually cultivated in river valleys. Early Indian kings set aside land for pleasure gardens, groves and public parks, and gardens were attached to palaces and grand mansions. The Kamasutra, an early erotic treatise written by Vatsyayana (c. 2nd century AD – c.4th century AD), recommended that a cultivated and wealthy man should surround his house with a garden.

The garden would be under the care of his wife who would dictate the layout of the garden and its planting, while the physical labour was left to professional gardeners. The Kamasutra spoke of pleasure gardens and practical gardens and was specific about what should be planted in the gardens. The practical garden had to include beds of green vegetables, sugarcane, fig trees, mustard, parsley and fennel. The great goddess Kamakshi of Tamil Nadu is portrayed in art holding in her four hands lotus blossom, sugar cane stalks, elephant goad and noose.

Cannonball tree

Whenever I saw these trees in my neighborhood, I was surprised by their odd features. These are very upright and very tall trees. There are four or five trees in our area at Panvel near Mumbai. There are big ball like fruits of khaki color hanging just below the main canopy, very near to the beginning of the trunk. Some of them are as big as musk melons. I am sure that if it hit someone who happens to be under the tree, it may cause a grievous injury. Ants gather on these fruits. Big shoots come out which are bend downward and have many buds of creamy color. Very beautiful pink color flowers come out of the buds.The flowers have six petals which are thick and waxy in nature. I did not know the name of the tree then.

Today, as I was passing underneath one of these trees on the roadside, I noticed that tree is in full bloom. There is strong fragrance all around. Bees are hovering on the flowers and enter the flower and fly over to another one. They are helping in the process of cross pollination.

After some search on the internet, I came to know that the tree is commonly called Cannon Ball tree because of those big and heavy ball like fruits. Its scientific name is Couroupita guianensis and it is said to the native of Brazil, a claim which may not be very true because in India these trees are growing for thousands of years.

The trees in India have various names according to the states of their habitat. It is called Shiva Kamal or Kailashpati. In Tamil it is called Nagalingam. All these names suggests a relation to Shiva. Due to this, these trees are revered and are found near the Shiva temples. The flower shape resembles the hood of Naga, a sacred snake. In Kannada it is called Nagalinga Pushpa and Mallikarjuna flowers in Telugu.  Even here, I saw many people gathering these flowers in the morning and upon asking told that these are offered to the God Shiva.

Buddhists also plant this tree at Buddhist temples. The fruits fall down with a great force when the stem is unable to bear its weight. It cracks on falling and emits a foul odor. The ants however like these fruits and gather within no time after the fruit has cracked and split apart.

Here are some pictures, I took with my htc mobile camera. I think you will like these.

Identification of Plants & Trees in My Locality

Innumerable plants grow on the earth. The very diversity is mind boggling. We did not even know the names of plants growing around us. In fact, most of us never bother to even look around. These become just the backdrop of landscape we dwell in. I don’t think that even God, the creator, has given them names. It is us mortals, who in order to make our life easier document the things. We give nomenclature to everything living in the nature. We have classified them into different kingdoms for our convenience and harmony in the views of different individuals.

I always has the curiosity to know the names of plants around us, the plants which give us hope, clean the atmosphere and provide oxygen for us humans to breathe, give beauty to the surroundings. I admit I don’t know the names of most of them.

In this effort, while searching and searching for days, I chanced upon a website about the flowering trees of India. This site is treasure trove of information about the plants and trees. Thanks to this website, I have been identify some of the plants and trees growing in my colony. Here is a start.

1.Agave, Century plant

Century Plant

This is a native of Mexico. In Indian languages, it has names like Hindi: Kamal cactus कमल कैक्टस , Gwarpatha ग्वारपाठा • Manipuri: Kewa • Telugu: Kalabanda • Kannada: Kantala • Sanskrit: Kantala.
Botanical name: Agave americana Family: Agavaceae (agave family)


2.Snake Plant, Mother-in-law’s tongue

Snake Plant

Its botanical name is Sansevieria trifasciata belonging to Agavaceae (agave family). It originally belongs to Africa and is best suited for potting. It is sturdy plant.



Cashew nut is a nut every Indian is aware of. It is amongst the famo


us dry fruits like almonds and other nuts. Following are two pictures of this tree.

The tree is known by many names like Hindi: काजू Kaju • Manipuri: Kaju • Marathi:

Kaju • Tamil: முந்திரி Mundiri, Andima • Malayalam: Kasu mavu • Telugu: Munthamamidi • Kannada: Godambi, Geru • Bengali: Hijli Badam • Konkani: Kazu • Sanskrit: Agnikrita

It grows mostly in Karnataka and Kerala.

Cashew-1The Cashew is a flowering tree, native to northeastern Brazil, where it is called by its Portuguese name Caju (the fruit) or Cajueiro (the tree). It is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew “nuts”.


4.Fishtail Palm

This tree stands in the ground behind hospital in our colony. It looks very majestic. Those beaded threads hanging in a huge bunch like the beard of an saint.

Fishtail Palm

Common names around India are Fishtail Palm, Jaggery Palm, Toddy Palm, Wine Palm • Hindi: Mari • Tamil: கொண்டல் பனை Kontalpanai • Malayalam: Anappana
Botanical name: Caryota urens Family: Arecaceae (Palm family)

When these palms grow to reach a height of about 20 feet, they start producing flowers at the top of the trunk with subsequent flowers produced lower and lower on the trunk. When the lowest flower blooms, the tree dies. Flowers are long plait like bunches hanging down. Toddy palm is an Asian species that grows from India to Burma and on the island country of Sri Lanka.



Common name: Barringtonia, Freshwater Mangrove, Indian Oak, Indian Putat • Assamese: Hendol, Hinyol, Pani amra • Bengali: Hijal • Hindi: Hijagal, Hijjal, समुन्द्र फल, Samundarphal • Kannada: Mavinkubia, Niruganigily,


Barringtonia is an evergreen tree of moderate size, called by Sanskrit writers Hijja or Hijjala. The fruit is spoken of as Samudra-phala and Dhātriphala or ”nurse’s fruit,” and is one of the best known domestic remedies. Also called Stream Barringtonia or Itchy Tree (after a catepillar with irritant hairs that sometimes colonises the undersides of the leaves) Barringtonia is a tree 5-8 m tall with rough fissured dark grey bark. Leaves are obovate. Red flowers are produced on pendulous racemes about 20cm long. Four sided fruits are produced periodically throughout the year. Partly deciduous in extended dry periods. This species grows on the banks of freshwater rivers, the edges of freshwater swamps and lagoons and on seasonally flooded lowland plains, commonly on heavy soils. Found in Madagascar and tropical Asia, amongst other places. Propagation is by seed. Tolerant of heavy clay soils with poor drainage, it can grow in a range of soils.

These are the trees which bear very beautiful flowers. These flowers hang on the tree branches like garlands. The flowers has a very short life: only one night. By the morning, the branches which were laden with flowers begin to shed the flowers which plop like rain on the surface. Whole ground beneath the trees become a carpet of red color, which nature seems to have rolled out to welcome the passersby.

6.Traveler’s Palm

This plant is growing in the lawn in front of IEOT. Its botanical name is Ravenala madagascariensis Family: Strelitziaceae (Bird of Paradise family)

Traveler's Palm

Endemic to the island of Madagascar, Traveler’s Palm is one of the most interesting tree-like plants. Traveler’s palm is not a true palm. In part it looks like banana plant and in part a palm tree. Its long leaf stalks and deep green leaves resemble those of the banana and extend out symmetrically from the trunk like a giant Chinese fan. The leaves are up to 10 ft long and 12-20 inches wide. Young traveler’s palms have no visible trunk which, is underground. In adult plants, the trunk emerges above the ground, raising the symmetrical leaf-fan to heights ranging from 30-60 ft. The green palmlike trunk grows up to 1 ft in diameter and displays distinctive trunk leaf scar rings. The small white flowers, in a foot long inflorescence, are held in bracts. In these bracts and leaf folds, rainwater is collected. It is this rainwater collecting property of this tree, which can be consumed by thirsty travelers, what gives it the name traveler’s palm. The fruits are brown while the seeds are blue.


The tree has names in Indian languages asHindi: कदम्ब Kadamb • Tamil: வெள்ளை கதம்பு Vellaikkatampu • Malayalam: Katampu • Kannada: Kaduavalatige • Telugu: Rudrakskamba
Botanical name: Neolamarckia cadamba Family: Rubiaceae (Coffee family)
Synonyms: Anthocephalus cadamba, Anthocephalus indicus


In Hindu mythology, Kadam was the favourite tree of Krishna. Tree up to 45 m tall, without branches for more than 25 m. Diameter up to 100 (-160) cm but normally less; sometimes with buttresses. The crown is umbrella shaped and the branches are characteristically arranged in tiers. Leaves simple, 13-32 cm long. Flowers orange, small, in dense, globose heads. They appear like solid, hairy orange balls. The fruits are small capsules, packed closely together to form a fleshy, yellow or orange coloured infructescence containing approx. 8,000 seeds. The small capsules split into four parts releasing the seed at maturity. There are approximately 20,000 seeds per gram. It is believed to have medicinal value in curing astringent, ulcer, digestive, diarrhoea, expectorant, fever, vomiting. A postal stamp was issued by the Indian Postal Department to commemorate this tree.

Human Crops

On the platforms of Victoria Terminus station in Mumbai, in the evening time, human crops sprout, grow and are harvested within minutes. Harvest after harvest is taken away in the trains every 3 minutes. The human crops having assorted type of plants germinate and mature within a wink. The platform field is empty barely for a moment and it seems that it has got some preternatural power of fertilizing and is sending forth bumper harvests and harvests of humans. The platforms become so much fertilized that thick crowd of human plants jostled with each other. The harvests are unloaded at different places away from the station. Then these scatter. The journey for some has not ended yet. Again they have to catch some bus or auto to reach their home. By the time, they arrive home, they are so exhausted and tired that after taking the food they hit the bed and rise again in the morning and become like seeds and packed into the trains and transported to VT station and reach their offices beyond VT station. Again they are sown at platforms, become crop and harvested and loaded to trains and come back.