Thursday, April 30, 2009


Another flower native to India.. in particular to south india. Ixora flourishes in tropical climates and has become popular in southern florida and south east asia (thailand in particular) as well.
Here are the different colors that we have in our garden:

Dwarf ixoras.

"Baby" ixora's have come up (with no human help) at the base of the white ixora tree:

Plumeria (Frangipani)

The plumeria is also called the temple tree or champa in India. Though it is most associated with Hawaii, it is native to Southern India, Mexico, central America and Venezuela. The genus, originally spelled Plumiera, is named in honor of the seventeenth-century French botanist Charles Plumier, who traveled to the New World documenting many plant and animal species.
Plumeria is related to the Oleander and is just as poisonous. Stay away from the sap!
The flowers are most fragrant in hte night to attract the moths that pollinate them. The tree can also be propogated (as my mother did last year) by cutting off a portion of the leafless stem, letting the base dry and then replanting it.
The white with yellow coloring - plumeria alba- is most ubiquitous in Chennai, though other colors are also seen in quite a few gardens.
Here is ours:

And here is the neighbours that clearly has many more years of growth than does ours.

Another one from the neighbourhood:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mexican Oleander

The mexican oleander that we have in our garden is a really old tree, as you can tell from the bark. The ones i see in other gardens have oleander like barks. The leaves are similar, though much narrower.

Yellow is the most common color observed, but i have seen trees with flowers that are white or a white-yellow mix in the gardens of friends. According to my internet research, orange also exists. Mexican oleander is native to tropical America and is now commonly found in Chennai. The fruit is in small pods and can cause pain in the mouth, vomiting, cramping, abdominal pain, nausea and a host of other symptoms. (What else do you expect, it IS related to the oleander)


The oleander is called 'aralli' in india. It is commonly found in Chennai. Pink is the most common color, though white, yellow and red exist.
The oleander is one of the most poisonous plants known and contains toxins that are deadly to people, especially to children. They are present in all parts of the plant, but are most concentrated in the sap, which can block out receptors in the skin causing numbness. Crushed oleander seeds have for long been used by the rural poor in India to commit suicide.
So now i FINALLY know why the movie 'white oleander' was named thus.

It is native to a broad area from southern europe, the Mediterranean region, southern Asia and the southern parts of China.

Here is our pink oleander in full bloom:

My mother claims we have several other colors, but they are yet to bloom. The leaves are indistinguishable from those of the pink oleander so we will have to wait for them to flower before we can tell them apart. Here is one though, that has a different coloring on its leaves. My mother thinks it is the white oleander.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Pictures from LJ of the resplendent irises from her garden in North Carolina.

The shape of an iris has always fascinated me. There is much to be said and learnt about the structure of the flower but that is not for the botanically challenged population of which i am a part of. What i can say is that the structure of the flower ensures that an insect that picks up pollen from it does not brush off the pollen onto the same flower, but carries it to another flower.

Common Emigrant (Pieridae: Whites & Yellows)

Caught a common emigrant sitting on the ash gourd creeper outside my window. This one is a male - surprisingly the males have this beautiful lime green color on the underside of the wings, unlike the females that are a dirty mud brown.

Monday, April 6, 2009

LJ's tulips (& other spring bloomers)

A dear aunt of mine has taken to tulips and the pictures she shared with me were just so pretty that they warranted a post on my blog! Of course, i had to do a little bit of googling to add a little to my knowledge on tulips before i could publish this.
So here goes:
The species is perennial, from bulbs and typically there is one flower to each stem, though there are some varieties with up to four flowers per stem... never seen these! The flowers usually have three petals and three sepals. The flowers have six distinct stamens and the stigmas are distinctly three lobed. Now, aunt dearest, since you have the opportunity of taking a closer look at the ones in your garden, tell me if all of this is indeed true?

If i had to hazard a guess as to where the tulip is native to i would go with northern europe, thanks to all the touristy images of Holland that sweep through my mind. However, the tulip is native to southern europe, northern africa and asia from anatolia/iran in the west to china in the east. The centre of diversity of the genus is in the Pamir and Hindu Kush mountains and the steppes of Kazakhstan. Both the flower and its name originated in persian empire. The tulip or lale as it is called in Farsi? is indigenous to Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.It was probably introduced to northwestern europe during the time of the Ottaman Empire (sixteenth century). The flower has always held a special place in Persian literature and a glass of wine is often likened to a Laleh. The word tulip, which earlier in English appeared in such forms as tulipa or tulipant, entered the language by way of French tulipe and its obsolete form tulipan or by way of Modern Latin tulīpa, from Ottoman Turkish tülbend, "muslin, gauze".

In north america tulip festivals are held every may, the most popular being the one in skagit valley WA, woodburn OR (yes, i have been there and have a million pictures) and in Ottawa Canada.

So with all that said, here are the mesemerizing ones from my aunt's garden in North Carolina:
Included at the very end are the geraniums and the grape hyacinths.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Chennai's prolific bloomers - Copperpod & Bougainvilla

Last evening i set off to see an old friend of mine and her new born baby. Along with me came my grandmother, who happened to be an acquaintance of her grandmom (yes the ties go way back!) Did a million detours before reaching home so we could admire the summer foliage (my grandmother is a great one for stopping on the road to see the trees, which helps with my nature photography). I got some really nice shots of the bougainvilla in the neighbourhood and a good one of the copperpod (a.k.a rusty shield bearer) near the R A Puram temple.

The copperpod is also called the Yellow Flamboyant. It's scientific name is Peltophorum pterocarpum.