Friday, January 9, 2009

Flame of the Forest.
This flower is of “Flame of the Forest” (Butea monosperma - frondosa) or “Palas” in Marathi. Normally this tree blooms early in summer months like March / April. But this year it bloomed very early in winter, in the month of December / January only. This Flame of the Forest tree is common in dry deciduous forests and easily found in Thane Mumbai region. Even a railway station near Karjat bears he name “Palasdari”, a tribute to this spectacular tree which is still grows there in abundance.
This tree is small to medium deciduous tree with a crooked trunk and branches. The leaves are trifoliate, all the leaflets are leathery and stiff, and the young leaflets are finely silky. The leaves fall off in winter, the flowers appears on the tree at the beginning of the hot season, that is, from February to March, when the tree is completely leafless. Flowers are bright, flaming scarlet-orange, velvety with black calyces, each some what shaped like the beak of a parrot, and borne in closely packed bunches. The flowers form a gorgeous canopy on the upper portion of the tree, which looks like a flame in the beginning of the hot weather. And right now all the “Palas” trees are in full bloom in Yeoor and nearby jungles. When the tree is in bloom, variety of birds and insects visit the tree for it’s flower nectar. Sunbirds, white eye, flowerpeckers, bulbuls, orioles, mynas, parakeets, drongos are some of them.
The fruit is a flat pod or legume, one seeded, pendulous and strongly nerved. When young, the pods are velvety with dense hair. When they grow they become more or less hairy. These young green pods look very elegant. The leaves are used to prepare plates and bowls; it is also used by “Panwalas” and by the garland makers to wrap the “pan” and garlands. The root fibers are used for ropes and whitewash brushes. The red gum of tree is used in the tanning industries. This ruby red gum, commercially known as “Bengal Kino” also used as a powerful astringent and is medicinally used in the treatment of many forms of chronic diarrhea. The seeds have long been used in India against roundworms and tapeworms.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

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