Tipu’s botanical legacy

The famed botanical gardens of Bangalore, Lalbagh, which lost one of its historic spots in recent years, the mango trees believed to have been planted by Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan, now has a genetic replica growing in the same area.

Today there are two age-old trees said to be planted by Tipu and one genetically planted by horticultural experts on the Zanana Sadak near the administrative headquarters of the Horticultural Department in Lalbagh. These trees continue to bear fruits except for the genetic replica which is yet to mature into a fruit-bearing tree.

The Lalbagh authorities tried to save the original tree, but could not avert its eventual death. Having given up hope of saving it, S V Hittalmani, Addiitional Director of Horticulture (fruits) took a graft from one of the healthy branches from the dead tree and nurtured it nearby. “Although one of the original trees is dead, its genes continue to flourish close by,” says Hittalmani. He believes that it will last for another two centuries to come.

Thimmegowda, a retired horticultural assistant, remembers seeing the original tree at Lalbagh from 1977 till his retirement in 1984. “I still recall how the tree remained on artificial support system with its hollow trunk being reinfored with bricks and cement at the floor level,” notes Thimmegowda. As the tree was dying, several horticultural experts made one last attempt at saving it. But none of their efforts worked. Under extensive borer attack, the tree lost its resistance. The stem was treated with insecticides and fungicides, but nothing worked. However, the garden still hosts two more trees planted by Tipu. These are still bearing fruit. Hittalmani predicts that these will live for another 25 to 30 years.