BY EKWY P. UZOANYA
A look around some gardens and major cities in the country will show that the Ashoka tree has found some space on the landscape. In the Lagos metropolis for example, Ashoka is the major streetscape tree being planted as part of the greening project of the state government. Major roads already have this tree lined along them.
Interestingly, some organisations across the world have adopted it as their means to freshness, coolness, and for its constancy, unwavering and, of course, majestic tallness.
Ashoka is native to India and Sri Lanka but it has been introduced in gardens in many tropical countries around the world. Its botanical name is Polyalthia longifolia and it is of the family of Annonaceae (sugar apple family).
This tall and elegant evergreen is also known as Indian Mast Tree. It grows to over 30 feet tall in a narrow columnar shape. Its glossy green, long, narrow leaves have attractive wavy edges that look very graceful with its downward-sweeping branches.
However, sometimes wide-spreading slender branches issue from the straight trunk and form a compact symmetrical crown. In fact, one might mistake it as a tree without branches, but in fact an Ashoka when allowed to grow naturally (without trimming the branches out for decorative reasons) grows into a normal large tree with plenty of shade.
There are some benefits of planting Ashoka tree. It is commonly planted due to its effectiveness in alleviating noise pollution.
It has a single taproot that goes down till it hits water. This means it can be planted in a small garden where there is not much space and one still wants to plant a tree; or in large compound. Also, it has no surface feeder roots and so will not constitute a barrier to free movement for pedestrians and can be grown near buildings or compound walls without it causing distress to buildings and other adjoining structures.
It can be grown as a hedge tree with spacing of four to six feet to make a virtual wall of greenery. Though it reaches a height of over 30 feet, it can be trimmed to a lower height, thus making it very versatile for privacy screening.