Wednesday, September 30, 2009

GNP nature walk 11: Clausena dentata (Kaatu karuveppalai)

The park was full of kaatu karuveppalia - clausena dentata. The leaves were bigger than its namesake the karuveppalia (curry leaves) that is used so often in south indian cooking. I tore off a small portion of one leaf and smelt it - very citrus like.

The kaatu elimbchai (jungle lemon) and kaatu narthangai (jungle citron) were also aplenty. I did not get pictures though.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

GNP nature walk 10: Banyan

I see many banyans all over the city, but i never tire of them. Seeing the hundreth banyan tree is just as fascinating as the first. I only wish i had more time during the walk to spend at each tree. But we were told to 'stay together' so i had to take a quick picture and hurry up to join the group.

Monday, September 28, 2009

GNP nature walk 9: Sickle bush tree

Midway through the walk we bumped into the bottlebrush like flowers of the sickle bush tree. Half pink and half yellow, the flowers hung between the double pinnate leaves, which were extremely tiny.
The biological name for the sickle bush tree is Dichrostachys cinerea (dichrostachys meaning two colored) and it is also called the chinese lantern tree. i wonder why though - arent chinese lanterns always red?!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

GNP nature walk 8: Cissus quandrangularis

Have you eaten south indian applams? (papads in hindi) - then chances are that you have had some cissus quandrangularis. Called 'pirandai' in tamil, it is used in applam making.

Do you know of any other uses ? If so, do comment!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

GNP nature walk 7: Tinospora cordifolia

Can you see the thin long roots hanging from these branches? At first i thought they were the roots of the banyan, but was told they were that of a climber/parasite - the tinospora cordifolia. (called "seenthil" in tamil). The ENVIS website says that it has a host of medicinal properties. Ghostly isnt it?

Friday, September 25, 2009

GNP nature walk 6: Indian date palm

The phoenix silvestris stood tall, its trunk crocodile like from the marks made by the leaves. Look at the top of the tree-  do you see the two white shoots coming out?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The enchanting family of peas

Meet the butterfly pea - clitoria ternatia

This little creeper (that can climb all over your fence quite fast) reminds me of the land of fairies, pixies and the like... something about its little oval leaves and its thin stems wtih their curly ends is quite celestial. The flower, like all those of the pea family is beautiful - an indigo blue with a little bit of yellow in the center.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

GNP nature walk 3: Acacia leucophloea

Right in front of the parking lot was a pretty tree in full bloom.
Closer inspection revealed it to be the Acacia leucophloea. (white bark acacia)

We came across it again while walking within the protected area.

All i know about this one is that it isnt indigenous.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

GNP nature walk 2: Palmyra palm

No tree walk in chennai is complete without the Palmyra Palm (nongu in tamil) - this omnipresent palm is the state tree of tamilnadu. The latin name is Borassus flabellifer. The fruit is edible, is similar to the flesh of the lychee and is very cooling. Very refreshing in these incredibly hot and humid summers!
The sugary sap from this tree is used to make an alcoholic beverage (toddy) and a concentrated sugar, used in indian cooking (jaggery).

MNS nature walk - Guindy National Park

This month's nature walk organized by the Madras Naturalists Society was at the Guindy National Park. The Guindy children's zoo and snake park are open to the public, but the national park is a protected area that requires special permission and the presence of a forest ranger at all times. The small park - it is only 2.82 km² (1 sq mi) - is an extention of the Governor's residence and that unfortunately kept us off one of the trails as the Governor was supposedly walking down it at the same time. Oh well, the rest of the park was beautiful though and we wandered around looking at the trees, plants and varied fauna of the tropical dry evergreen forest, accompanied by the very knowledgeable guides from the forest department.

Our first peep into the fauna of the area was provided by the Spotted deer (Chital/ Axis deer) which roamed around freely even in the parking lot outside the protected area. Though the parking lot was very well maintained, the little area behind the canteen next to the parking lot was full of plastic. The deer did not seem to mind though.

This one inside the protected area had found a much cleaner spot to spend its sunday morning.

More on the GNP walk in the days to come...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday flowers : Hibiscus

Can you name each species?

Yes that is a butterfly on the red hibiscus..


These are the miniature red ones...

Thank you UK, RN and LJ for these lovely pictures!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Festival Of The Trees - #39

"What made you first wander among the trees? For me it was the promise of secrets hidden around their roots, in their trunk and amid their leaves. To walk in a forest and lose yourself among the many hidden treasures in and around the trees, what greater joy could there be? "
Jade at arboreality explores the theme 'Hidden among the trees' in this month's edition of the Festival of the Trees. Join her and explore the links and pictures. Don't miss the hidden dinosaurs (and the not so hidden tree poem)!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Friday flowers - Portulaca

Look at this - cross pollination has resulted in this white portulaca flower having one half of a petal pink! This is my second mixed color portulaca -- earlier this year i had a pink and orange one.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


A walk through Nageshwarao Park led to this sight. A lot of bamboos in a cluster together. I wondered how old (or rather, young) they were -- bamboos are among the fastest growing plants.
Another interesting thing about bamboos is that they have an internal 'alarm system' that tells them when to flower, depending on their age and species, regardless of the climactic conditions around them. And they do so only once in several years.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Neem flowers

A while back i blogged about the neem tree or the azhadirachta indicahi; yesterday for the first time, i saw its flowers! Each flower is no more than the size of your fingernail, is white and really pretty!

Traditionally, people in tamilnadu (one of the southern most states of india, where i currently live) make a neem flower dish on new year's day. The recipe is as follows:

Prepare the neem flowers: choose on ly the petals, fry the neem flowers to a dark red color.

In a little oil, fry about a teaspoon of mustard seeds, a red chilli, asafoetida and curry leaves.
Make a juice of tamarind by mixing a lemon size lump of tamarind with water and pour it into the oil.
Add salt and a lemon size lump of  jaggery. Let the mixture boil.
Add 2 teaspoons of rice flour to give the mixture consistency.
Once everything mixes up, remove from the flame and then add fried neem flowers.

I am determined to try this out! I have no clue what a flower will taste like!