Ode to the Amaltas

Published May 6, 2018
A baby Amaltas takes four to five years to grow and flower.
A baby Amaltas takes four to five years to grow and flower.

KARACHI: There it stands, tall and proud, standing out among all other trees in the summer, its delicate yellow flowers swaying in the gentle breeze.

The Golden Shower Tree, or the Amaltas, as it is known in this part of the world, is a native of the subcontinent. And unlike what is said about the alien trees here such as the Corynocarpus causing allergies such as asthma during its flowering stage, Amaltas is known as a cure for allergies and conditions such as asthma.

The tree exfoliates in the winter and looks almost dead. Then it can be compared to a skeleton with only dry branches and no leaves. But as the weather grows warmer, it starts producing shiny green large and wide leaves.

It is not a spring tree, but a summer tree, and since Karachi starts warming up during spring, it is not long before the Amaltas starts to bloom. The summer months of May, June and July see it in its full glory. The cool feeling it gives off, with its large spectacular clusters of yellow flowers under the scorching sun makes one forget about the hot weather.

Standing proud in all its blooming glory.
Standing proud in all its blooming glory.

The tree can be grown from seeds, and these seeds grow on the tree, in the long brown seedpods swaying from its branches. Cracking the seedpods open, one can collect the seeds which can be sown in a pot for the saplings to be replanted later. Ghulam Shabbir of DHA Nursery on Korangi Road has grown many Amaltas saplings. He sells a pot of several for Rs500 and just one single separated sapling, which is slightly bigger, for Rs100. “It is not too much money to add to the beauty of Karachi,” he says. “Besides, Amaltas is not just beautiful, it also has medicinal powers,” he adds.

“In Kashmore District from where I hail, we call the Amaltas seedpod ‘chinkni’ because of the sound it makes when shaken,” says Hanif, another big fan of the Amaltas tree. “Three or four seeds of the tree can be soaked in water overnight with a few cumin seeds and aniseed to be strained later and given to newborn babies before they are fed mother’s milk. This helps control colic in babies,” he claims.

The tree stands out among other trees in the summer.
The tree stands out among other trees in the summer.

More medical benefits of Amaltas, according to herbalists, include benefits for the adult digestive system. In proper dosages it can control indigestion, heartburn, bloating and several blood disorders. Oil prepared from Amaltas can also cure skin problems such as eczema.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2018

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