Mystified? These tiny white flowers grow in great clusters at the top of gigantic teak trees (Tectona grandis). These huge trees are prized for their excellent timber but as for me, I get a thrill out of watching them grow in my garden, tall and strong!
Oh yes, and their rough bark makes it ideal to tie orchids on to. And that's a huge plus point in my books.
I had planted some teak trees in my garden many years ago. No one expected them to grow in Mumbai and sure enough, every other year saw one of them succumb to the strong monsoon wind and rain. All that rock underground doesn't help either. It's so heartbreaking to see big, healthy trees toppling over.
There isn't much I can do about it because a great part of our garden is a big sheet of rock with most of it disguised with a thin veil of soil a couple of inches deep in most places and a few feet in others.
A few trees still survive,however, having grown tall and wide of girth. I'm told that my trees are thicker around the middle than the forest-grown teak trees of the same age. That's possibly because they don't have to compete with so many other trees , I suppose.
A couple of days ago, a heavy downpour made me run indoors and just as I had closed the door, I heard a loud crack and a crash.
It was only a branch that hit the ground this time. Bad enough, but I would've hated to lose that big tree. But what kept me frozen was that I had been standing in that very spot just a few seconds before the rain made me run indoors. Yikes!
My next thought was, serves me right! I should've got those branches pruned off when they were forming so that only the main trunk remained tall and straight. But it's not easy getting someone to climb such tall trees ( I read somewhere that they can reach up to 150 feet high) so my teak trees are a bit unkempt.
It looks like Nature took care of this problem and decided to do a bit of pruning herself.
The big leaves are thick and leathery and really look their best during the monsoon season. Some of them are really big ... as big as dinner plates, and have often been used as such in the olden days. Not surprising, don't you think? Nowadays, machines press these leaves into eco-friendly disposable plates. A perfect cottage industry for those in rural areas.
I wonder ... if I invest in one, maybe I could cut down on dish-washing time. And chipped crockery!
Incidentally, a red dye from these leaves was traditionally used on cotton and silk. I really must try that out some time.
By the way, did you see that cluster of buds? One rarely gets to see them because they're carried right on top of the tree.
This what I see more often... the green fruit of the teak tree . Don't they remind you of a drawstring bag?
The green cover which turns brown when mature, feels very papery to the touch but there is a hard stone inside which contains the seeds.
In many places the seeds of mature fruit are sown but the person who gave me these trees as saplings told me that in commercial teak nurseries, they are grown from root stumps.
If there is one advantage of this forest giant, it has to be that birds feel right at home in it. Every year flocks of parrots take advantage of its height to use it as a lookout point. These three are scouting out the next fruit tree to raid, I'm sure!
The Coppersmith Barbets love it too. The green crown gives plenty of cover for this green bird to hide from human sight. These two were either dining out (plenty of bugs on teak leaves) or looking around for a new home to move into.
They really have the right idea. After all, teak should make the strongest, most secure home of all, don't you think? Even for teeny little Barbets ... if kings built their palaces with teak, so can they !