The tree in the photo above holds a special place in the jungle lore of Bangladesh. It’s known locally in Lawachara National Park as the “senseless tree.” Rumor has it, that a single sniff of the bark is enough to render a grown adult unconscious and the giant tree has been featured on Bangladeshi news-stations and attracted local conspiracy theorists. Sound intriguing? Well, the true story is somewhat less dramatic but remarkable nonetheless.
The origins of the tree are actually an authentic mystery. It is not native to Bangladesh; in fact, it’s not even native to Asia. The only place on earth where this glorious chunk of foliage is found naturally is in Africa. No one knows who planted it, why it was planted or how a seed of a gargantuan African tree found its way to the Indian sub-continent. What is known for certain is that this tree is the only example of its species in Eurasia, it’s been growing for well over a hundred years and it doesn’t render anyone unconscious at the sniff of its bark.
The legend of the faint-inducing-bark arrived with the stroke of an elderly Bangladeshi woman at the foot of this tree a few years back. At the start of the stroke, she leaned on the tree in a sudden moment of panic prior to collapsing unconscious at the roots. Numerous casual observers witnessed the woman “sniff” the tree before fainting and, upon noticing that the weathered plaque affixed on the trunk read: chlorophora excelsa, the rumour quickly spread that the bark possessed dangerous chloroform powers that could knock a person “senseless”. The legend of the “senseless tree” was born!
I sniffed and inhaled as much of the bark as I could and, to date, have not experienced any obvious side effects. I guess the chloroform didn't work on me.