I went tree-watching 2 sundays ago on April 1. Drove around on my scooter armed with my trusted HS10 camera (which I still barely know how to use), though the streets of Cox Town and Frazer Town. Driving to work during the week, I had made mental notes of trees I wanted to observe more carefully- some like the silver oak and the banyan, I knew the tree names; others I had no clue. (The banyan though I was not 100% sure- just knew it was something from the same family).
I went around for barely an hour, trying my best to get clear shots of these trees. Once I was back, I selected the best photos I had, did some post processing and the ones I didn’t know the names of- uploaded on the efloraindia googlegroup- and over the next few days, friendly experts helped me with identifying the trees and shrubs.
Here are the trees and shrubs I ‘met’- I also met a bird I suspect to be a ‘red vented bulbul’ but he was too flitty for me me to capture. Flitty is not a word I think, but I guess you get my drift…
This tree was completely bare mid March. I think I had seen small white flowers on the bare tree (now I am quite sure I was mistaken after the comments from all the experts). On April 1, it was full of tender new leaves; I have also shared a close up of how it looked on April 14. I now need to see if I can convince the watchman to get into the apartment area to get a closer look…. have to also watch for fruits and flowers as they happen.. One of the experts on efloraindia shared pictures of a peepal tree bare in March and completely full of leaves in April- this was an education for my blind eyes- I had never realized that peepal trees shed their leaves completely in some part of the year. I understand from experts that this happens if they are not near a water body.
Next- the Silver Oak
It never struck me that these fuzzy yellow patches high up in this tree are actually flowers- I thought these might be leaves with a different coloration or something. Doing some google image searches, I realized that these were indeed beautiful flowers, and many birds loved their nectar etc. I struggled to take some photographs- given the distance, the low contrast setting, and my limited photography skills… still was thrilled to see these beautiful flowers through the zoom lens; also saw some birds partaking of the nectar they offered.
My only exposure to ‘oak’ trees over much of my life has been to read about these in books and novels- I never imagined that there were oak trees in India. I had clubbed ‘oak’ along with other exotic unavailable goodies from the west like ‘ginger ale’ and ‘lemonade’- which I had read about in books, and never really knew what these were (back in the 70s- no middle class person in India knew that lemonade was nimboo pani :-)). In any case, this led me to google, and I found this website- http://arboretum.arizona.edu/taxa/Grevillea_robusta.html saying that the silver oak is not a true oak.. What does that mean?
My next stop was at this delightful fig tree (banyan). As expected there was a small temple at the base of the tree. As I stood under the shade of this tree, full of fruits at this time of the year, it seemed as though I was transported into a magical world- a cool shaded food court for what sounded like 100s of mynahs and 10s of squirrels. I struggled to get decent photographs- the shade and the bright sunlight and the restless mynahs were too much for me…
|Banyan fig full of fruits||Mynah eating fig on banyan|
Curious about these fruits, I tried to learn more about them through some google searches- The website http://www.auroville.org/journals%26media/books%26cds/banyan.htm gave some fascinating information. What my ancestors must have known through growing up and talking to each other, I must now learn through the internet 🙂 And is it really learning, if I have not tasted the fruit, or seen the wasp inside the fruit (by the way, I believe this is not a good fruit for humans, so please don’t try eating it..)-
<We know that all fruit must have a blossom – or do they?
Sometimes the Banyan fig is called a fruit without a flower. This is nonsense of course. But- where are the blossoms?You will need better eyes than even our Shikra hawk to find a Banyan flower. That’s because they are hidden inside the fig. The blossoms are very small and hundreds of them spend their entire lives inside the fig. The flowers have a unique friend called a fig wasp. Each kind of Ficus (fig tree) has its own special species of wasp attached to it. The wasp’s job is to pollinate the fig flowers. The wasp enters the fig through a natural hole in the top and lays its eggs. When the insects hatch and leave their home they become covered with pollen. Then they make their way into another fig and fertilize its blossoms, making sure it will produce seeds.>
My next stop was at this tree which is quite common and I have been seeing since childhood, but had never seen flowering…You will never believe how beautiful the flowers of pongamia pinnata are when you get up close!
|Pongamia Pinnata||Pongamia Pinnata- pods|
|Pongamia Pinnata- closeup of flower|
I clicked the tree below and sent it to efloraindia for identification- as I spotted some dried fruits which looked very similar to a tree I had spotted at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in February- that tree had dried leaves and looked nothing like this one to my amateur eye… Experts identified this quickly as lagerstroemia speciosa (jarul is its common name in India). Just a week later as I drove past the tree, it was full of the beautiful purple blossoms I am familiar with! How blind one is! Observing only certain ‘gross’ features, and never carefully looking at other features- leave alone the essence..
|NGMA tree- Feb 12- dried fruits||NGMA tree- Feb 12|
|Cox Town tree- April 1||Cox Town tree- April 1|
|Cox Town tree- April 16- dark frond in the centre are the dried fruits||Cox Town tree- April 16|
I would love to go and see how the tree at NGMA looks now!
Finally, there were 3 more-
1. Ashoka tree flowering- one rarely gets to see these flowers which get hidden behind the heavy foliage of leaves
2. the Umbrella tree (origin- Australia)
3. A shrub identified as the cape honeysuckle
|Umbrella Tree||Ashoka flowers|
|Cape Honeysuckle shrub||Cape Honeysuckle flower- closeup|
Read more about the cape honeysuckle (tecoma capensis) at the wonderful flowersofindia websiste-