Sunday, June 27, 2010

A purple surpise - Garlic Vine

We were away from home a couple of weekends back and when we got back monday morning the climber over the tree by the gate had burst into blooms.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bombax scopulorum - the white silk cotton tree

There is a HUGE silk cotton tree in the lalbagh gardens. I wonder how old it is ... the trunk is wide and the area around is covered with patches of its silky cotton.  It was a hypnotising sight.. I sat below for a while, taking in the shade and observing the antics of the insects around the cinderalla weed.

The white silk cotton trees i've seen earlier, younger ones, had a greenish tint to their barks. This one was all brown and prickly.

Yellow cassia

Monday, June 21, 2010

Touch me not (mimosa pudica)

It was Sunita's post on Urban Gardener that introduced me to the beautiful pink flowers of the 'touch me not' plant. Imagine my delight when a few weeks later i found them peeping out to me from amidst the grass in the neighbourhood park!

Wanna take a shot at identifying this tree?--The Fried Egg Tree---

Sunday, June 20, 2010

From the Times of India - Rebirth of the Adyar creek

Rebirth of the Adyar creek Julie Mariappan & Devparna Acharya, TNN, Apr 22, 2010, 04.35am IST

CHENNAI: Pied kingfishers, yellow wagtails, egrets, white bellied sea eagles, chestnut-winged cuckoos, black-winged stilts...

A waterbody, once a dumping site laden with tonnes of debris and gallons of sewage, has begun attracting migratory birds, thanks to the state's ambitious restoration of the ecologically sensitive Adyar creek. The Adyar Poonga Trust (rechristened as Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT) recently) is racing against time to complete the first phase of restoration of the 58-acre stretch, one of Chennai's most eco-sensitive spots, before November this year.

"It was a filthy place, with debris strewn around. Cattle was being reared by neighbouring slum dwellers and anti-socials made merry in the area that was full of thickets. Initial assessment of the creek area was, in fact, done from the nearby high-rise structures because no one could enter the poonga (creek)," says an official associated with the project.

CRRT had to excavate 150,000 tonnes of construction debris and garbage from the site to create a water body embellished with earthern pathways, wooden bridges, signage and bamboo pavilions. About 91,280 plants of various species are being planted inside at locations such as the entrance plaza, swale area near Town Planning Scheme Road, on the rear side of Ambedkar Manimandapam and along Santhome entrance plaza. About 37,600 reeds are being planted along the water margins.

"Adyar poonga is a fulcrum for environmental education," says K Phanindra Reddy, member secretary, Chennai Rivers Restoration Project. As part of the educational reach programme, eco-clubs are being set up in neighbouring schools and colleges by the Trust. "Adyar creek will eventually become a model for restoration of water bodies, including Cooum and Adyar," Reddy claimed.

As part of the restoration, the CRRT also plans to have a green centre in the erstwhile fisheries building near Ramakrishna Mutt Road. "An audio visual room, environmental education centre, library to document creek activities, laboratory to check water quality, a souvenir shop, coffee corner, all form part of the centre," Reddy said. Restoration work will soon extend into the estuary spreading over an area of 300 acres.
Initially spearheaded by Chennai Corporation and supported by Tamil Nadu Road Development Company Ltd, this project was conceived primarily as an effort to restore the fragile eco-system of the Adyar estuary and creek and raise awareness among the public about the environment.
The estuary has been a topic of furious discussion among ecologists and environmentalists for a long time now. Adyar river, one of the three major waterways in Chennai apart from Cooum and Buckingham Canal, is where migratory birds flock the most. According to Madras Naturalists Society secretary K V Sudhakar, "the area where the river and the sea meet is a major feeding ground for birds as it is rich in many organisms. A few years ago, our society recorded the presence of over 200 different species of birds in the creek," he added.
But the restoration project is seen by critics as excessive development work around a natural ecosystem which needs to be left alone. "Restoration of the creek would mean bringing the creek back to its natural condition. I would like to call this a transformation project where an existing natural ecosystem is being engineered into a tourist spot," said Nityanand Jayaraman, a freelance journalist and an environmentalist. According to Nityanand, the marshlands of Adyar creek is being turned into an artificial freshwater ecosystem in the process.

On the other hand, Sudhakar, says the project is a step in the right direction. "All the trees being planted are native, and the people who have undertaken the work know what they are doing," he said. Referring to the massive real estate development that Chennai is witnessing, he said the ongoing measures would evoke interest in saving the creek. "With this project, you are bringing in the public, who will see what they are losing and take an interest in saving it . Awareness is very important."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Peltophorum laevi

I knew this tree had to be related to the copperpod (peltophorum pterocarpum) the minute i saw its little yellow flowers. These were much smaller, yet the resemble was striking!

The bark was very interesting to look at. 

Another one.. or rather, three!

doesn't seem red enough to be the red cotton stainer does it?

The little creature

As it hurried out of sight, i noticed that its body had an interesting pattern.

Can you tell what the silvery white substance on the ground in the first picture is?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Its been two months since the first flowers appeared in the gulmohar tree that our balcony overlooks, and the flowers are still standing strong. A little ruffled by the heavy rains and strong winds maybe...

I've been enjoying taking pictures of these flowers from all angles!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rusty shield bearer

Yellow and full of pretty little flowers just a month or so back, the rusty shield bearer is now full of its copper brown pods.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Identify this tiny little plant

June 11th update:
A reader, Radha, has helped identify this as the "small flowered justicia", Justicia micrantha. Thank you!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wrightia tinctoria

It was at a walk by Nizhal that i first encountered the wrightia tinctoria (palai maram in tamil). It's distinguishing feature was the long cylindrical pods that appeared in pairs, joined (or seemingly so) at the ends.

This time i was lucky enough to see it in bloom, its pretty little white flowers all over the branches, truely resembling snow flakes from a distance.

The tree has many medicinal uses. Go check it out at Flowers of India.

Oh and turns out this one belongs to the same family as the oleander and the plumeria - Apocynaceae.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Plumeria hybrida rinbow

Apocynaceae - yesterday I wrote about one member of this toxic family - the sea mango (cerbera manghas), and mentioned another that I've covered extensively at the start of this blog - the oleander. There is another common tree that falls in this very same family as well - the plumeria (frangipani).
And as i wandered through lalbagh i came across a plumeria that was a little different from the one we commonly encounter in Indian cities. Though the resemblance was striking, this one had flowers whose petals did not overlap, a characteristic of the common plumeria.

Sea Mango (Cerbera manghas)

As a collegue rightly pointed out, this tree seemed perfectly suited for an afternoon nap. Thanks due of course, to the staff of Lalbagh Gardens, who have maintained the area around so well.
We seem to have come across the tree at the peak of its blooming season (Apr-Aug according to Flowers of India). Bunches of little white flowers and buds were all over, making a very pretty sight.

I wasn't surprised to learn that it was of the same family as the oleander (tamil: aralli) - Apocynaceae. The flowers are not very alike, but there is a similarity, especially in the flower bunch with the pink tipped buds. The leaves are much bigger than that of the oleander and resemble the plumeria quite a bit. Called 'kaate arralli' (jungle arralli) in Tamil, it is just as poisonous as the oleander. The leaves and fruits contain cerberin, a toxic substance. And with that we segue to its botanical name - Cerbera manghas. For those of you who know tamil, perhaps like me, you wonder if manghas comes from the tamil word for mango (manga), especially as you realize that the common name of this tree is 'sea mango'. And if you know something of Greek mythology, then remember cerberus? the three headed dog that guarded the gates of the underworld? it is indeed this dog that lends its name to the toxic Cerbera manghas.

The sea mango is native to the Pacific islands, south east Asia and Madagascar.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Umbrella tree / Octopus tree

Of the many spectacular sights at Lalbagh Gardens, was this beautiful octopus tree in full bloom. I am told that the tree is native to northern Australia and New Guinea. The next time around i must get a closer shot of the racemes - of both the red flowers and the darker red berries.
I find the racemes just as magical now as i did a year back when i saw them for the first time, shooting out like antennae off the top of the octopus tree in the chennai horticultural gardens.
Happy World Environment Day!

Circus of the Spineless

Another edition of the COS, over at deep sea news; this one also drawing our attention to all the creatures struggling amidst the oil in the gulf.