Saturday, May 30, 2009

More oleanders

i found these growing wild in mahabalipuram - a little town about an hours drive from chennai with stunning 7th century rock architecture.
i have not seen this color combination in oleanders before - a pale pink with hints of orange/yellow.

Friday, May 29, 2009


A climbing plant with attractive flowers of many colors, the clematis was used by Native Americans in the treatment of nervous disorders and skin ailments. Dont be beguiled by the appearance of its pretty little flowers though, this plant is
essentially quite toxic. Here are purple and pink clematis flowers photographed in charlotte, NC. The flowers look so perfect, i am tempted to think they are made of paper, painted over!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Little Ms Sunshine - Jasmine

Pictures of the jasmine flower from a friend's garden. Really pretty, aren't they? Jasmine has a special place in South Indian culture - it is THE flower of garlands and temple rituals and was (and to a large extent still is) worn by women to decorate their hair and as a fragrant. Essential oils from jasmine are used in Ayurveda, aromatherapy and other alternative herbal treatments to treat breast cancer, post natal depression and skin ailments. It is supposed to have a calming effect on the nerves, stimulate the uterus and act as an aphrodisiac for women. These probably explain its ubiquitous presence in south indian tradition!
Jasmine in Persian (Yasmin) means 'the gift of gods'. It is the national flower of Pakistan, Indonesia and the Phillipines.

Tree Days

Did you know that the Indian Government initiated soemthing called the Vanmahotsava (Festival of Trees!) in the '50s to encourage the planting of trees? Well it did. And this is observed the first week of July. Since i am here this year, i will keep my eyes open for what is said and more importantly, done on this day.

The United States for its part has the Arbor Day. Different states observe the arbor day on different days of the year, but for the most part it is in the months of April and May.

Fiery reds of the Delonix Regia

I can never get enough of this tree, dear readers; it's fiery red flowers and elegant green leaves always make for a striking picture.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

White silk cotton tree

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know how obssessed i have been lately about identifying the 'cotton pad' tree. I finally have - it is the White Silk Cotton Tree. For a while i thought it the same as the sausage tree - but then realised they were different - the sausages of the sausage tree are bigger, green and stay that way. The 'sausages' of the white silk cotton tree are smaller, become brown after a while and burst into little pads of cotton like substance. Take a look at the tree trunk in the picture on the right - it is an interesting green color.

I love to see the transformation - the cotton bursting out of the brown pods is such a wonderful sight to see.

Terrace Garden

A terrace garden in the midst of the city.. I hope we get to see many more of these in the months to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The pseudo golden chain tree

The common name for the laburnum is the golden chain tree, but i think the name would have be equally apt for these wispy trees. All of a sudden the city is full of them, standing breezily with their light yellow chains hanging all over. Go ahead and click on the picture ot get a closer look.
Do you know what this tree is called? Do let me know!!

Update: this is the indian ash/ lannea coromandelica, bereft of leaves.

Chennai's prolific bloomers - Delonix Regia

And another one that has to contend with the buildings for sunlight and space. The flamboyant Delonix Regia. It is ironic - the delonix regia is probably the most common and most admired tree in the city, yet is the one most likely to be a victim of mistaken identity - it is thought of to be the 'flame of the forest' by almost everyone. It is hard to get to know neighbours in a city, isnt it? Especially when they aren't from around here -- yes, the ubiquitous Gulmohar, as its common name goes, is from Madagascar!

Do you have an interesting story or picture to share about a city tree? Do let me know!


And this poor old banyan stands on tiptoes, sandwiched between the house and paved street that forged their place next to it. The woes of being an urban banyan...

Do you have an interesting story or picture to share about a city tree? Do let me know!

Chennai's prolific bloomers - Perfect in Purple (Lagerstroemia speciosa)

I turned around a corner and was greeted by this profusion of purple bursting out of someone's garden. City trees have to deal with so much - apart from the usual fight for space and sunlight the boughs of this one had to contend with the wires/cables passing through!!
The flowers of this tree, called the Queen's crepe myrtle/Pride of India have always filled me with awe with their perfectly symmetrical six petals. They have a crinkled appearance and bloom in racemes, forming a really pretty picture.

I picked one up from the ground and put it in a bowl of water - take a look at the little beauty below. The sun made the color look so much lighter in my pictures.

Chennai's prolific bloomers - Indian Laburnum

I simply love these trees. Aptly called 'the golden chain trees', they look so ornamental when in bloom. But dont be fooled by their fairy like appearance - these flowers (and possibly leaves) are very poisonous! I tried to get a full tree but in vain - all the trees i saw were either within gardens - in which case only the top half was visible, or by the roadside - in which case the traffic hid most of the bottom.

Chennai's prolific bloomers - Candlebush

I've been seeing so many of these - around street corners, in traffic islands and parks, that i simply had to pull over today and click a few pictures!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Little Ms Sunshine

Tree tuesday - more coconuts

from around the city.

I realise that i have seldom seen a straight coconut tree. They all have trunks that are a little curved - even the ones in places with little other competition for the overhead sun. Is it the weight of all those nuts and huge leaves that makes the tree bent? I wonder..
The neigbour's coconut tree

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Palm Sunday - Coconut palm

Chennai is FULL of palms. I see them everywhere - coconut palms in the backyards of old houses laden with fruit, king palms along the walls of the newer houses providing privacy from the oh-so-close next door neighbour. Little palms in pots in office rooms, huge palms forming terrace gardens on the roof. A picture of the Fish Tail Palm a.k.a Caryota Urens/ Jaggery Palm that I took at the horticultural gardens a while back prompted my interest in these tropical trees - so here goes.

So i start of with the 'king' of the palms - well, atleast in this part of the world - the Coconut tree. The coconut is used in south indian cooking quite a bit and is found towering over everything else in almost every garden. Coconuts are used in temples for just about every occassion - hence also their high demand. They are well suited to the region, requiring sandy soils, high temperatures and high humidity. India is the third largest producer of coconuts, after the Philippines and Indonesia.

Every part of the coconut tree is used for something. There are ropes, mats, roofs, hair oils, cooking oils, cosmetics, potting soils and a million other things that are made of parts of the coconut tree. The nut, when broken, reveals a white hard edible flesh that is used in cooking in various forms (it isn't very good for your cholestrol though). If broken when it is young the flesh inside is soft and the nut is full of coconut water - a refreshing drink that is much sought after in the scorching heat. The beaches of the south all have a vendor or two with a cart full of tender coconuts - a hole is made after you've paid up and a straw inserted and your drink is ready. Done with the drink? Return to the cart and the guy will cut open the nut for you and hand you a plastic spoon - the tender flesh inside makes for a quick snack.

Here is what wiki has to say: The name for the coconut palm in Sanskrit is kalpa vriksha, which translates as "the tree which provides all the necessities of life". In Malay, the coconut is known as pokok seribu guna, "the tree of a thousand uses". In the Philippines, the coconut is commonly given the title "Tree of Life". That probably explains why the coconut found its way into every home in southern india in older times.

The common indian crow

i wonder what happened to this poor butterfly's right tail and how the lack of a tail affects its flight?

It sure is a lot more beautiful than its namesake - the common indian crow. I noticed just today that it's head is also covered with little white dots.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tis the season again..Common Mormon (Papilionidae:Swallowtail)

A HUGE pair of common mormon butterflies mating on the leaves of the papaya tree. The wind was quite strong today and the leaves kept swaying back and forth but the butterfly pair clung on, undeterred..
I was amazed at the size of this pair..each wing of the colorful female on top was almost as big as my palm!

Tree Tuesday - Necklaces galore

another tree that i would love to know and write more about... i marvel at this beauty every time i go to the horticultural gardens.. it brings odd childhood memories to mind... gypsy jewellery vendors with string upon string of beads precariously balanced on each outstretched hand...
Click on the pictures and you will see that there are two types of "necklaces" to chose from! Lovely, isnt it?!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Opening of the Heliconia Rostrata

The lobster claw opens slowly.. it takes a day or two for each of the bracts *thats what the pointy things are called, apparently* to open up. And meanwhile a million ants crawl all over the rest of the flowers.

Poodle tree? Antennae flower?

I've seen this tree many a time before, but for the first time today i saw a red antennae like growth off the top of one of branches. Look at the pictures -- isnt it strange? and beautiful!


As always, if you know what it is called, do let me know. 


Pretty little flowers at the horticultural gardens

Tiny white flowers wiht long red "tongues" used as hedging:

October 2009 Update: This is the Clerodendrum inerme or the sorceror's bush/glory bower.

Dwarf pink ixora:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Organic produce

A newspaper article informed us of the sale of organic vegetables and fruits by individual farmers from aroudn the city and beyond every sunday at the Elliots beach. We had to go take a look, sadly though we reached too late to see much other than the greens. Eveyrone else had arrived, arranged their goods in their car trunks, sold them and left! Ah well, next weekend perhaps..

The Sausage Tree in Chennai

is none other than the Kigelie Pinnata - the african sausage tree. But this is not the same as the one i see all over the city that has smaller sausage like fruits hanging that look like cotton pads once the pods burst.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pretty in purple - part 2

so in continuation with the purple theme, here is another plant that i absolutely LOVE. It has a wonderful purple color and the prettiest of pale pink little flowers. Growing it could not be easier - break off a piece of the stem and stick it the ground, give it some water and you have yourself a new plant!

August update: The purple beauty has a name! - Tradescantia pallida or the Purple wandering jew / Purple heart. It is used in colder climates as a frost cover as it trails along the ground as it grows.

October update: Our wandering jew has indeed wandered and multiplied... The many pink flowers it bears every day are such a delight!