In the Terai (lowlands), the indigenous Tharus call it ‘Pagalbuti” (pagal: madness, buti: medicinal herb) because it is supposed to cure disorders of the mind. In common parlance, it is known as ‘Sarpagandha’. Its English name is ‘Black Snakeroot’, and its biological nomenclature is Rauvolfia serpentina. The root of this intriguingly named plant is supposed to cure many diseases, including snake bite, and so has suffered due to over collection. The result of this is that it is now listed as ‘endangered’, and is thus a protected species. It should be noted that this plant contains powerful alkaloids like reserpine and serpentine, which can induce serious side effects.
More benign a species is the Elaeocarpus sphaericus, but it has vast significance in another way. It is commonly known as the Rudraksha, whose place of origin is the Himalaya, and which is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike. For the former, the dried herbal fruits of this tree are the ‘tears of Lord Shiva’. On a more earthly level, herbalists claim Rudraksha to be the king of herbal medicine, with both preventive and curative powers over many ailments.
Interesting stuff, huh? What’s more, you can easily see these fascinating plants in the National Botanical Garden in Godawari, just ten kilometers away from Satdobato near Lagankhel of Patan. Just to whet your botanical appetite a little more, you can also see the Cinnamomum tamala. Yes, the very same tree whose dried leaves (tejpatta) and powdered bark are used so frequently in our everyday cooking here, especially in meat curries, for the marvelous flavor they impart to the dish. Now, if you go visit this premier garden of Nepal, you’ll also get to know that the tejpatta tree was first described in 1802 by Dr. Francis Buchanan-Hamilton, a Scottish surgeon who also excelled as a naturalist, and is considered to be the father of Nepal botany.
The lovely garden of Godawari sprawls over 84 hectares, and has various sections devoted to the different regions of the country, demonstrating its great ecological diversity, ranging from alpine to sub-tropic, as well as different groups of plants. As you enter the gates, you immediately come across the educational section, which is sure to engross you if you have even a tiny bit of the nature-lover in you. Strolling on, you reach the Japanese garden, full of rocks and boulders of varying sizes, a burbling brook and a small waterfall (everyone, but everyone, who comes to the garden has their photo taken in front of it !), a few wooden bridges, including felled tree trunks in places, and of course many different kinds of plants. Adjoining this part of Japanese paradise is the section for endangered plants.
There are many dirt paths that meander all over the park; one goes up to the greenhouse that’s located on a hill. Similarly, on the opposite hill, separated by an asphalted road, is a neatly landscaped and flower-laden garden featuring a wonderful fountain and some greenhouses containing various kinds of plants, including many varieties of orchids. With so much to see, it is no wonder that the National Botanical Garden is a favorite haunt for photographers, both the would-be-photographers and the professional ones. The garden is also a haven for a large variety of birds; you can hear chirping all over the area throughout the day. All in all, it is a very nice place to visit on a weekend, keeping in mind its proximity to the capital and the serenity of its surroundings that is sure to calm your traffic-jams-agitated mind, soothe your city-hustle bustle-jangled nerves, and provide succor for your urban-living-polluted lungs.