His name is Mahbub Islam. The 30-year-old young man is a true tree lover. He has created a garden of various types of trees, including 45 varieties of rare ones, on a one-acre plot of land at his home in Bazarbhadroghat Sheikhpara village of Kamarkhand,Sirajganj.
He collects rare trees and plants. His garden has many trees that normally would not survive in the region. For instance, sundari trees from Sundarban only survive in mangrove forests, but he has grown this here.
Mahbub collects trees from mangrove forests or hilly areas and grows them in apparently contrasting soil and climate.
His avid interest in trees has let him to all sorts of interesting, and even dangerous, situations. He was even attacked by a wild elephant while collecting trees in Cox's Bazar. He was even struck by a thunderbolt while planting trees in the rain and was mute for sometime. Yet nothing could stop him.
How it began
People started planting a large number of eucalyptus trees in the area in 2003. Mahbub discovered that the foreign trees were completely incompatible with our environment and nature. The plant absorbs a lot of water and it does not produce any fruits. Birds do not sit in its branches. He planted a few local fruit trees around the house while others were planting eucalyptus. That is how it all began.
Mahbub was motivated by the forest officer Abul Kashem who gave him 700 saplings of teak trees (segun) at government prices. Later, the officer wrote letters to different forest officials in the southern region to help with Mahbub acquire various plants.
“Mahbub is more interested in coastal trees. I have not seen such garden in any other place in the country,” Abul Kashem, now the range officer of south zone in Cox’s Bazar, told Prothom Alo.
Mahbub then met a Khulna University student who he requested for sundari saplings. The student brought him three saplings but these did not survive. Then again, he brought sundari seeds started experimenting with these in different types of soils and methods. Finlally, he successfully grew seven saplings.
Hia garden has 123 varieties of trees. Some of trees were hard to grow in the region.
He faced much difficulties in growing sundari. He used different types of soil at first. Later, he realised that the trees in the Sundarbans grow in the ebb and flow of the tide. He put water in a clay pot with a little hole in the bottom. He covered the seedbed with straw. Drops of water fell on the seedbed every few minutes in this method. He grew saplings from nine seeds this way. These trees are two and a half years now and they are three to seven feet tall.
The Prothom Alo correspondent saw a number of unique trees in Mahbub’s garden. He has a vermillion tree in the garden. There is a tree called panmasala, a tree with aromatic leaves. There are tea, cocoa plants, three types garjan (dipterocarpus) and more.
Mahbub said he wanted to grow the mother trees of the rare varieties. He wants to make a nursery where people can find seeds or sapling of the rare trees.
Saiful Islam is the seed collector of Sholashahar Forest Research Institute in Chattogram. He gave some rare plants to Mahbub and visited the garden twice.
“Sundari grows only in the Sundarbans. Other than that, I only saw this tree in Mahbub’s garden,” he said.
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat