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