National Tree and National Flower: how they came to be selected

A few weeks back there was an inquiry in the print media –not The Island- as to how the National Tree and the National Flower had come to be selected. The following sequence of events are given here for the information of the public. The idea to have a National Tree and a National Flower, had come as a sub-project of the 100 Million Trees Programme, mooted by the then Prime Minister (Ranasinghe Premadasa), and for which the Cabinet had given its approval.

Thereafter, the Prime Minister’s Office had invited the public thro the print and electronic media to send in their suggestions for the selection of a National Tree and a National Flower. The suggestions sent were also to be accompanied by a short description showing why they had been suggested. To look into the nominations or suggestions made by the public, a Panel of judges had been appointed. The Panel consisted of a) K H J Wijayadasa, Secretary to the PM and Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority, who was also the Chairman of the Panel, b) Prof. Nandadasa Kodagoda, Prof.of Forensic Medicine, of the Colombo University, and Member, Communication sub-Committee of the 100 Million Trees Programme, c) Prof. I Balasooriya, Prof. of Botany, and VC University of Kelaniya, d) V R Nanayakkara, Conservator of Forests, e) G P S H de Silva, Director National Archives, and f) R A Wijewansa, Director (Environmental Management) Central Environmental Authority. This Panel was to consider the submissions by the public, based on the criteria of their habitat and whether they were indigenous/endemic, their utility value, their historical and cultural value, appearance and distribution, and as far as the flower was concerned, in addition, their colour and form and the reproducibility.

The Panel having considered the large number of suggestions in the light of the above mentioned criteria, selected the Na tree and the Manel flower, which two suggestions had also received the largest number of entries. Thereafter, the Prime Minister had submitted a note dated 25th February 1986 to the Cabinet recommending for approval, as the

National Tree: Mesua Nagasarium/ Sinhala Na/ English- Ironwood, and National Flower : Nymphaea Stellata – Bluish-purple variety/ Sinhala- Manel

(Nilmahanel) / English- Water Lily. The Cabinet had given its approval to the Note on that day itself, and the country was provided with a National Tree and a National Flower. Subsequently, the Philatelic Bureau had issued a stamp showing the National Tree i.e. the Na tree, on June 25th 1987, and a stamp showing the National Flower i.e. the Nil Manel on February 22nd 1995. The facts stated here above are based on information available at the National Archives, Colombo.

Haris de Silva

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