Flame of the Forest
Flame of the forest, dhak or palaash, is a forest tree that bears bright and large reddish-orange flowers. When in full bloom, the tree has no leaves, and this accentuates its red crown that appears to be on fire.
Many blooming palaash trees together make the forest look ablaze; hence the name—flame of the forest.
A Hindi idiom dhak ke teen paat which means ‘a person or situation forever in straits’ comes from the tree’s distinct tri-foliate leaf arrangement.
Flame of the forest normally flowers in the early months of the year. Have you seen it around?
Photo: Gurpreet Singh Ranchi/Wikimedia Commons
Red Silk Cotton
Have you noticed this majestic tree with large, bright red flowers? The silk cotton is a native Indian tree that flowers from January to March. The showy flowers attract several birds—drongos, mynas, parakeets, and sunbirds all come by to visit. It’s no surprise then that birdwatchers too flock to these trees during flowering time! When flowering, these trees add colour to a landscape. The fruits when ripe, contain several tiny seeds that have white cottony fibres attached to them. On a good windy day, the fruits burst open to let out seeds that disperse using these fibres giving an appearance that the tree is showering the ground with snow!
Photo: Raju Kasambe/Wikimedia Commons
The Indian laburnum bears hanging bunches of bright yellow flowers. These lovely flowers are used during the celebration of Vishu, the new year festival of Kerala. This festival falls in April each year and because of the cultural importance of the flowering in this tree, people associate the event with the beginning of another year.
Photo: Dinesh Valke/Wikimedia Commons
The peepal is native to India. You must have seen it growing naturally on top of old buildings, and even on other trees—having established itself there from the seeds that traveled through bird droppings!
Peepal trees, unlike banyan trees (the other common fig tree in India) do not have aerial roots.
This tree is considered holy by Buddhists and Hindus in parts of south and south-east Asia, and is often planted near religious sites. The tree has distinctly heart-shaped leaves that have a long petiole and end in a long tip.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Peepal, like other figs trees, produces several minute flowers arranged inside a fleshy urn or syconium that develops into a fig (fruit) upon pollination. The pollination is carried out by a specialized wasp that develops inside its syconium. The pollen carrying female wasp enters the syconium, pollinates the flowers and lays her eggs. The eggs hatch to produce wasp larvae that develop into male and female wasps. Wingless males die upon mating and may never leave the syconium. Winged females, on the other hand, gather pollen and leave the developing fig to find another syconium to pollinate and lay eggs. Imagine an insect spending most of her life inside a tiny fig!
Photo: Eric Guinther/Wikimedia Commons
The neem, or veppa maram as its known as in Tamil, needs no introduction. It is found in most of the Indian countryside because of its many household uses. The tender branches of the tree are used as a toothbrush, the dry leaves are burned to get rid of mosquitoes, and the white, star-shaped flowers are used in preparing a delicious rasam (called Veppampoo rasam in Tamil)—to count only a few uses. The tender leaves and the oil extracted from the seeds are also used in several medicinal purposes.
Photo: Anuj Phalswal/Wikimedia Commons
Each of our SeasonWatch newsletters features a commonly-seen tree. And there’s plenty of other fun stuff as well—yup, you guessed it—all about trees! If you’d like to get these updates delivered straight to your inbox, do subscribe to the SeasonWatch newsletter here!