Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mumbai : a time for blooming!

It was Spring just yesterday in Mumbai. And now it already feels like ... Summer?
So soon?!
This looks-like-Spring-feels-like-Summer is a bit confusing. But, hey! it's the Blooming Season!

It's a mad, exuberant whirligig of colour, activity, more colour, blooms, new leaves, even more colour, birds... ooffff! It's like being on a roller coaster that's on hyper-drive.
And, the trees! Have you ever seen so many trees in bloom at the same time?

The Red Silk Cotton tree is dotted all over with vivid splotches of impossibly red blooms. There's not a leaf in sight, just the big flowers strung along the bare thorny branches. It's almost as if the tree wants to make sure we don't miss seeing even one. The birds are going crazy over this one!

Imagine turning a curve on a road and seeing this sight!
I know that this African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata ) is blooming at certain places on my road home but no matter how many times I pass it, it still stops me in my tracks. Every single time.
There aren't too many of these trees around but anywhere that the outrageously flamboyant African Tulip Tree blooms, it manages to grab all the attention. Especially the ones blooming by the side of busy roads.

Can you see how the tree got its name? Incredible, isn't it?
These flowers were growing quite high up on the tree growing near my home. Still, they're so large that even my point-and-shoot was able to click them quite easily. The Tulip Tree is just a natural born star, I guess.
And guess what, the birds love these blooms too.

In contrast, the Pink Cassia is delicate and elegant. I can't think of a tree which looks more feminine.

For the last couple of weeks the tree had been shedding all its leaves and now masses of downy pink buds and a few fresh green leaves have made their appearance.
Then almost overnight, the buds have started blooming into billowing clouds of pink perfection. Heaven!

And just because I'm so much in love with it right now, I had to add this pic too. In about a week's time all those empty spaces you see will be a sea of pink.
In the meantime, the bees are going crazy. If you look closely you can see a couple of them buzzing around the tree ( see those black specks on the extreme right and left? they're bees ... carpenter bees, I think, they were buzzing so loud!)

How could I miss this bloom? They're one of the most overlooked flowers... simply because the fruit is so large and the nuts overtake almost everything else in flavour.

See what I mean? Once you see the Cashew-apple (yes, that's what the fruit is called) and the cashew-nut, the tiny little flowers are ignored.
Still, I must admit that on its own, it does look kind of sweet.

The paler blooms do make an appearance too. The Karonda (Carissa carandas) is a favourite among some of the local ladies who weave the white star-shaped blooms and the fruit into elaborate hair-dos.
One of the ladies who used to help me in my home used to take away big bunches of these from my garden. It was fascinating watching her hair-do the next day. Like a walking garden!

This is another of our most commonly seen, yet not closely observed tree-blossoms. Seen in a bunch the mango blossoms are a joyous herald of sweet days ahead. Yet I had rarely bothered to take a really close look at each individual bloom. Have you?
By now baby mangoes the size of a small lime have started growing on my trees but some of them are still blooming.

In the other parts of the city, mangoes are almost ready to ripen. My trees are one month behind if not more. If I always got excited about the cooler climate in my garden compared to the rest of the city, this could be the one drawback, I guess. Plus, all those tall trees all around really cut out the sunshine which the mango tree craves.

And mulberries! My little tree is filled with baby green mulberries. I can't wait for them to ripen juicy red!

If the other trees had either flowers or fruits going for them, this is one tree that has the most inconspicuous flowers. I saw it growing by the roadside the other day and on enquiring I was just told "woh jungli hai" ("it's a wild tree"). I think it could be a Belliric myrabolan but I'm not too sure about that. If it is, then all kinds of creatures are probably drawn to feast on its flowers.

I wish we had more of the native trees growing in our city. The imported ornamental ones are definitely beautiful, yes. But the native trees seem to offer food for a host of birds and butterflies and other creatures.
Still, I'm not complaining... too much.

And as the final flourish, I discovered this gorgeous bloom. I had probably walked past it hundreds of times in the last few years but this was the first time I had noticed this. How blind can I be? Isn't it gorgeous?!
Ladies and gentleman, may I present the incomparable, exotically beautiful flower of ...the common Pineapple!


If you'd like to feast on more Odes to Blooming Seasons Past in Mumbai, click on these links :
Springing into Summer
Summer Sherbet : Mumbai's flowering trees
Molten days of March

21 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing with these wonderful photographs. I'd never seen a pineapple flower before and never noticed a cashew flower either. Yeah, summer is here. At least Mumbai is cooler than Pune --- visited there last week.

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  2. I always love to see your beautiful photographs of bright tropical blossoms. Here we have a few hardy white, blue,yellow and even pink flowers, but it will be months before it warms up enough for red.

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  3. Do you know if the cashew-apple is edible? It seems so odd when you see it growing, that we choose to eat the little appendix.

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  4. Hi Lubna! The pineapple flower is so pretty, isn't it? I'll post another pic next time that shows how it looks on the fruit. The fruit is forming even as the flowers appear ... what an incredible fruit!
    I love the sea and its cooling blessings for our coastal city. Pune may have more trees and greenery (I'm very envious of that!) but I love the beautiful sea breeze that blows in every day here :)

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  5. Thank you, Becky! Feel free to visit this virtual garden any time you want a break from the pales and pastels ;D

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  6. Yes it is, Diana. But it does have an after-taste which is not very pleasant for most people (I don't like it but others in my family dont mind it). It is also used to make various alcoholic drinks too. In Goa they have the famous 'feni' which is brewed with the cashew-apple and I've heard of people in other places who brew cashew wine.

    It is weird, isn't it, that the nut found such a big fan-following. At one time it was considered the devil's fruit by some folk because it was the only fruit which has the nut/ seed growing outside the fruit!

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  7. Hi Sunita
    Good to see you back. I did not know that the pineapple would put out a bloom that was so "un-pineapply". The African Tulip tree is spectacular and heart stopping ( which is putting it mildly) and blooms almost as if with a vengeance. Beautiful !

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  8. Wow! We've got a lot of trees flowering about now but only the magnolias have really large flowers and _nothing_ is brilliant red. Thanks for sharing the show with us!

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  9. I was also going ask whether the cashew fruit was edible. It is rather strange that our mulberries (in Portugal)are at the same stage as your photograph.

    I know how you feel about "it is a wild tree" we had a similar experience in Australia on asking about a splendidly flowered tree - "it is a blossom tree" !!

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  10. Hi Usha, it's good to be blogging again. I really miss it when I'm not posting here.
    Are the same trees blooming near you too? There are so many I didn't post about because I didn't have photos which were good enough. Pity!

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  11. Hi Shady C! What's blooming in your city now?
    Magnolias ... I love them! I have a soft spot for anything fragrant.
    Would you believe that the photos of the Red Silk Cotton and the African Tulip Tree have not been colour-adjusted? Yes, it really is that vivid!

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  12. Finally we seem to be growing something in common, Old McDonald! Who would've thought it would be mulberries, though? You're right, it really is interesting that your trees are at the same stage. I doubt if you're sharing our 31*C temperatures,though :D

    I've been trying to learn to identify our local trees. There're some excellent resources on the internet which come in very handy.

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  13. Not quite where I live but close enough...the Red Silk Cotton is a common sight along Delhi's roadways and within residential colonies. I don't recall where I saw the African Tulip Tree, but I know I have seen it more than once.
    Correct me if I'm wrong but is there a baby pink wad of cotton in the base pod of the Red Silk Cotton flower? I seem to remember it from my boarding school days....

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  14. How incredibly beautiful! Great post! :)

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  15. For some reason the African Tulip Tree is not quite the rage I think it deserves to be, Usha. Quite possibly because it's not very good for firewood, I guess, but then as an avenue tree it deserves to be on par with the gulmohur.

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  16. Such a colourful post! I love the red silk cotton tree in bloom. Its feisty red is sure to energize anyone or maybe singe their eyes!!!! :)

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  17. Feisty is the perfect word for it, Aakanksha :)
    It's a real in-your-face kind of bloom, isn't it? And with our clear cloudless blue skies for a backdrop, it makes for a photographer's delight

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  18. Hi,

    Wonderful pictures..I have been noticing the african tulip around me in pune for some time now and wanted to know what it was called. Thanks to you , i know now. I want to plant this in my garden. Do you by any chance do you know the local name for this?

    Thanks,
    vishakha

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    1. Thank you, Vishakha.
      The African tulip tree has such gorgeous blooms, doesn't it? I'm told it is called Akash Shevaga in Marathi. It should be quite easy for you to get a sapling because it is a commonly grown avenue tree in India.

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  19. Flowers are definitely the best gift for every occasion.

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