Friday, July 17, 2009

Monsoon gifts

It's been raining in Mumbai, and look...! Caladiums! Popping up all over the place and letting the raindrops roll off it in big, fat, silvery blobs. These were growing wild and I got a few of them for my garden. It really livens up the shaded spots under my big cashew trees where nothing else seems ready to grow.

Something else the rains brought up ... mushrooms. The locals seem to love this and the lady who comes to clean my house always takes these home to cook. I was worried whether they would be poisonous but she doesn't seem to be any the worse for it!

I love this ruffled fungus which has sprouted in the most unexpected places. For a change, this is one fungus which doesn't throw me into a panic and reach for the neem oil.

The wind and rains were not too kind on this honeycomb though. I found it lying under one of the coconut trees, soaking wet and totally unappetising - looking. But the texture and pattern is so interesting, dont you think?
I keep wondering about the different variations in pattern though. While some of it has the standard hexagon-shaped thin walls, the rest has round thicker walls. Maybe some bees decided to innovate? Do you think the queen bee threw it out because she didn't like the changes?

This is one of my favourite rainy season plants, the Dendrobium crumenatum. It's the weather fluctuation from summer-hot to monsoon-cool that triggers the blooming. The flowers are very fragrant but short-lived which is very unusual for an orchid ... and a dendrobium at that ! They normally last and last for weeks on end.

This is a closer look at the Dendrobium crumenatum, also called 'Pigeon Orchid'. What an odd name, right?

Now do you see why?
Those buds look exactly like pigeons, don't they? Upside ones, maybe, but still isn't it such an apt name?

I was surprised to see these Karondas (Carissa carundas) still in fruit. Have you seen these before? They start off as pink and white but ripen to a dark reddish purple. They taste almost acidic but kids love it. When ripe, the juice is a thick, blood-red liquid and the source of many pranks with children smearing it everywhere and pretending to be bleeding (and giving their moms mini-heart attacks!)
Birds love it too and I saw a Bulbul fighting with another to get first pick of these fruits.

Something else that I didn't expect to see ... this wild creeper is invasive but I don't mind it so much because the Common Pierrot butterfly loves it . These flowers are tiny and almost hidden under the leaves but the Common Pierrot manages to find them.

These maidenhair ferns are another monsoon favourite. They show up at the slightest hint of rains and take over all the walls, rocks and cracks. I love their delicate laciness and wish they would stay around the whole year. I've tried potting them up but it looks like pots are the only place where they refuse to grow ... at least for me !

No, this isn't some mountain landscape but the bark on one of my cashew trees with moss slowly taking over. I think it is beautiful! My cashew trees are old but the moss makes them look like the grandfather of all cashew trees!

These little wildflowers crop up every year with the onset of the monsoon. They are a bit rain-worn now after the heavy rains we've been getting but it looks like this little bee still likes them just the way they are!
By the way, does anybody have any idea what they're called? Please let me know if you do.

Finally... this has to be the ultimate sign that summer is long over. Gul mohur petals lie scattered all over my lawn and road, under the trees and over the rocks ... like a red carpet for the Monsoon and all the gifts it showers us with.