JAIPUR: The ber tree is a hardy tree that survives extremes of temperature. In fact, it needs hot summer and adequate water to bear abundant fruit. There is a sapling of this tree growing right outside the editorial offices of the Times of India at Raja Park.
Most of the ber trees in India grow from seedlings, and the fruit is not very large. These trees are found widely across north India. What is unique about this species is that it is used extensively in traditional medicine across Asia. In Korea and Japan, the fruit is recommended as a balm for those dealing with symptoms of stress. The leaves are used for hair- and skin-related ailments, and the seeds, some Ayurvedic doctors claim, can slow the spread of cancer.
The fruit of this tree finds mention even in the Ramayana – Shabari, the daughter of a hunter, is a big worshipper of the Lord. So punctilious is she that Ram eats only sweet fruit that she tastes and every single one of the ber she later offers him!
Given how hardy the tree is, it is ideal for use by horticulture departments of cities like Jaipur. One popular website says, “It is a shade-giving tree, that also bears fruit.”
Attempts to reach the horticulture department of the Jaipur Development Authority to check if the tree was being planted in city limits proved futile. The forest official who previously was posted in the JDA horticulture department has now been posted out, and the new official, also from the forest department, pleads that he is not very knowledgeable about urban trees.