28 March, 2010

Out of Al Mukalla: Flowers, Trees and Greenery

Can we, humans, survive without plants? No way. We can not. Indeed, most animals can not live without plants. Plants make life possible here on Earth. As simple and fragile as plants might seem to be, we completely depend on them: for oxygen which we cannot survive without and they form the core basis of our environment and food supply. Algae and other forms of marine photosynthetic forms are included as plants; though, some argue they are not. While, they plants, do not depend on us. That is the wonder of God and Nature. Imagine plants depending on us, humans? Selfish, destructive humans? If that had been the case, plants would have been in real big trouble now. Very fortunately, God and Nature let plants be dependent on light and water for their existence.

Even as totally dependent as we are on plants, we still are very destructive and merciless to these delicate creatures. We, every day, continuously destroy them. Each year, millions of hectares of trees and plants are cut and destroyed by humans; and they disappear. Each minute, we continue to pollute the environment and endanger not only animals and plants, but our own selves too.  Each minute, we consume so much, so unnecessarily that it is hard to believe it is we humans who are said to be the most intelligent here on Earth. We have just celebrated Earth Day. With that in mind, I remembered how, a few days ago, I went visiting a short distance out of Al Mukalla and found several 'green zones'.
A short distance out of Al Mukalla are several cultivated pieces of lands. With just a little water and care, grass grows. 
That most magical of fruits: pomegranate grows. Said to have originated from Iran and the Himalayas, it is rich in vitamin B, C and many antioxidants; and has many health benefits.
Hadhramaut, like most of Yemen, like most of Arabia is the least greenest of places. But, it can be green. It can be dotted with flowers. Plants can grow here.
Few plants are as used and celebrated as palms. Like Date palms. Dates are a good source of fiber, and naturally occurring sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose. Dates are also one of the best natural sources of potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral needed to maintain muscle contractions, including the vital heart muscle, and to maintain a healthy nervous system and to balance the body's metabolism.
Coconut palms. Coconut: the wonder fruit, is one of the most nutritious and most wholesome food On Earth; very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a very good source of Manganese. The coconut palm has been recognized as a top immune booster, anti-fungal, antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial remedy for thousands of years all over the world. Every part of a coconut tree, can be used for something: the fruit, the cover of fruit, the juice, the leaves, the branches and the tree - are all very useful. Coconut, is the best plant that provides all the necessities for living; it can be used: as a wholesome food, as juice, as medicine, as oil, as building material. Should you ever be marooned anywhere, the best and most useful plant you van ever have is the coconut.
Lemons which is low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Folate and Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin C.
It is incredible, that in such a hot, dry place - there is so much greenery so close around Al Mukalla.
With water and care, many plants can grow here.
Tamarinds, pithecellobium dulce, are abundant in Hadhramout. Like lemon, tamarinds are low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. They are also a good source of Folate and Potassium, and packed with Vitamin C.
Above: is one of the most common trees in Hadhramout - the sidr tree, Ziziphus spina-christi, which is used for many purposes; children love its fruits, honey got from bees using the sidr is said to be of the highest quality; and it is also used as medicine. It is locally called 'dom'. Below: rarely can you find any cultivated land here, without the henna being there.
Bananas. That most widespread crop of all. Who doesn't love bananas? Very few. Wonderfully sweet. High energy potassium powered. It is said, due to its high potassium content, a banana a day may help to keep blood pressure down; which means having a normal heart function and keeping heart stroke at bay.
Christopher Columbus called the papaya 'the fruits of angles'. They are excellent in aiding digestion and very few people are allergic to it. The papaya fruit is said too, to: be anti-inflammatory, protects against colon cancer, protects against lung inflammation especially for those non-smokers who inhale smoke from others; protects against: intestinal disorders, menstrual irregularities, skin diseases, spleen enlargement and throat disorders. Papayas are said to even help in preventing heart disease as they help in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol.
Ferns. Very Ancient plants predating hundreds of millions of years ago. Older than land animals and far older than dinosaurs. And ferns are unique and very interesting plants. In the way they reproduce. They do not have seeds or flowers, but reproduce through spores.

The papyrus. Another amazing plant. It can be eaten and from it, baskets, mats and boats can be built. Ancient Egyptians extensively used it. And, unbelievably, it can grow on the outskirts of Al Mukalla.
Figs grow too. Probably the first domesticated plant in the world. Can be used for relieving diarrhea and bleeding, and preventing gum disease. And remember Buddha and the fig tree?
Fig fruits have many benefits: prevents constipation, helps to reduce weight, helps in lowering cholesterol; helps in preventing: coronary disease, colon cancer, post menopausal breast cancer and controlling hypertension. It helps diabetic patients, it strengthens bones and relieves the throat.

Above, a common tree around Al Mukalla; probably a type of carissa - what locals call 'bitan'. No other color is so beautiful to look at and easy on the eyes as green. It always leaves one with a very relaxing, secure feeling.

Any botanist who comes to Yemen, would certainly have a field day. There is so much to see and so much still to study. Not only in Soqotra or Hadhramout, but in all parts of Yemen. I am certain, there are still some plants around here, that have yet to be discovered and be given proper names and be defined. But, Yemen's plants and most of its wildlife are rapidly disappearing

With one of the fastest growing populations in the world and continuing human encroachment, Yemen is losing its wild plants rapidly. At the same time, as can be seen just a few kilometers from Al Mukalla, it can be made green. Plants can grow and thrive. We need plants. For oxygen. For food. To control the weather and the environment. For building. And thousands of other species, too, need plants for oxygen, food and shelter. Life needs plants. If each of us can join the United Nations and plant trees, we, humans can be safer, more secure and much better off.

****For a list of plants found here, go to this site.

****Note: all plant benefits I have listed here are only what I have heard or read.