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The tree that kills venomous snakes

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Posted by curious on May 13, 2003 at 10:52:12:

The tree that kills venomous snakes

By Ignatius Pereira

KOLLAM May 12. Deep within the jungles of the Konni range, coming under the Kollam circle of the Forest Department, something strange, but little known to the outside world, is reported to be happening at the foot of a particular tree.

Tribals, who regularly go to the forest, say that they and their ancestors have witnessed the strange phenomenon of venomous snakes lying dead under this tree. Heaps of snake skeletons could be found under the tree.

According to the tribals, any venomous snake coming into contact with the tree, even by sheer chance, finds itself getting paralysed and dies within minutes. And this is the mystery behind the heap of snake skeletons and carcass there. And the tribals have christened the tree `Analivega patta'.

They seem to believe that the tree is toxic to venomous snakes. There is no scientific explanation to the phenomenon for no one has taken the pains to delve into it. The reason is simple: beyond the jungle the phenomenon is hardly known.

But this is not the only special property of the tree. The tribals see the tree as a living storehouse of anti-snake venom. The tree has saved the lives of hundreds of persons bitten by venomous snakes. And the tribals venerate the tree and consider it Nature's gift to them. Even some forest officials have confirmed the eyewitness account of snakes lying dead under the `Analivega patta'. They have seen the tribals use the bark of the tree as anti-snake venom.

However, the tree is very rare within the jungle. The tribals say they know the location of 20 such trees within this forest area and these trees stand quite far away from one another. This again is a calculative handiwork of the Nature. If there had been too many `Analivega patta' trees in the forest it would result in the extinction of venomous snakes in the forest.

It is the bark of the tree which the tribals use as anti-venom. However, for the bark to acquire anti-venom properties, the tree would have to attain a certain age. The tribals are experts in calculating the age of the tree by gauging the size of its trunk and height.

The bark will have to be ripped out without any metal contact. It means knives cannot be used for the purpose. Once the bark comes into contact with any metal, it would lose in anti-venom properties. The tribals use sharp wooden splinters and stones to extract the bark. Almost all the houses in the tribal colony at Chempanaruvi in Kollam district have a small collection of the bark of the `Analivega patta'.

Achuthan, tribesman who lives there, has gone one step further. A couple of years ago he managed to find a sapling of the tree in the forest and had it planted in his yard. The sapling is slowly growing into a sturdy tree. He proudly exhibited it and gave a demonstration of how the bark has to be extracted. He himself was once saved from a snake bite by the bark of the tree.

Mr. Achuthan says that in the event of a snake bite, the bark has to be ground on a grinding stone. After obtaining the required quantity, it should be mixed with plain water and gulped down. Within minutes the venom would get neutralised. He also says that keeping a small slice of the bark at home would ensure keeping snakes at bay.

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