Sri Lanka felled what may be the world’s last wild specimen of a legume on Tuesday to continue construction of a four-lane highway. Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardana told reporters in Colombo that the government had approved the move.
The legume in question – Crudia zeylanica, a tree whose fruit is not eaten by humans – was first identified in 1868. In 2012 it had been declared extinct until the surprise discovery in 2019 of a lone tree near Colombo.
A 50 million dollar tree
The eight-meter-high tree was to be felled in February 2021 to allow the construction of a highway, which caused an outcry from environmentalists and the country’s influential Buddhist clergy, who had blessed it to give him sacred protection.
The minister said a study showed 40 other trees from the same family still exist, but he did not give details of their location. “It is a crime to have delayed construction by propagating a myth that it was the only tree of its kind,” Gunawardana said. He claimed that bypassing the tree would have added 15 billion Sri Lankan rupees ($50 million) to the construction of this highway.