Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Aquatic Plants

The small pool in the forest had lots of white water lilies.
This is the Village pool near my house, managed by the Forest Department.It is full of the wild Floating Lace Plant Aponogeton natans , used as an ornamental aquatic plant by pond owners. The tubers of the Floating Lace plant are used by the villagers as a vegetable.

This is my pocket pond, where I grow reluctant pink waterlilies and Sweet Flag. Although this 'pond' is in the best position in my garden where the waterlilies get the maximum sun, they give me one flower in two years! I have added the Sweet Flag Acorus calamus to give it a point of interest. The rhizomes of the Sweet Flag is a valued by the practitioners of Ayurveda. A piece of the dried rhizome can be kept in the book shelf to repel insects.
The frog on the rock is made of stone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flowers for Autumn

Those of us who live in the tropics are lucky to have flowers blooming throughout the year. After the untimely heavy rains, new flowers have started blooming in my garden. The flowers shown above are the lime-green flowers of the Shrimp plant Beloperone gutata.
The Begonia 'Dancing Girl' has started putting out exquisite pale pink flowers, which dance in the slightest breeze.

These are the lilac flowers of the Mexican sage.

The Spider Flower, Cleome is blooming profusely now. the yellow flowers at the back are the tiny flowers of Galphimia glauca.
Many other plants are getting ready to display their blooms, while some, like my chrisanthemums have found the rains too much and seem to be dejected.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hornbills and Coracle Ride

The Dandeli Forest Reserve is most famous for its magnificent hornbills. We saw Grey Hornbills and the spectacular Malabar Pied Hornbill.The big bird has a horn-like appendage on its bill, hence the name. Its horn and bill are golden, the body is chocolate brown, and the feathers have white fringes. When we went, they were courting. Once the female lays eggs in her hole-in the tree-nest, the male hornbill seals up the nest with clay and dung , leaving a small hole from which to feed his partner. He works whole day to feed his prisoner, and the effort makes him quite thin, while the female relaxes for days till the eggs are hatched and becomes fat!
The hornbills are numerous along the banks of the Koneri river, a forest stream famous for its flash floods. White water lilies are blooming in the shallows.

The 'Evening Glory" had not yet opened for the night.

These are lightweight boats called coracles, made of bamboo and hide. They have been in use since thousands of years in these parts. The boatman had fixed tables in the centre for the tourists to sit. Four people can sit on it.The boatman sits with a staff.(oar) The coracle is ideal for fishing and bird watching as it makes no sound , nor creates ripples. In Kannada, it is called Harigolu, which means "God is the Staff"- self explanatory!

A Common Crow,Euploea core, landed on Sudha's hand, seeking warmth.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rare Tropical Wildflowers

This is a beautiful wild flower of the ginger family. You can see it has a hook at one end. Since our guide knew nothing about wild flowers, we called it Captain Hook ginger.
This wild flower grows only in that region of the Western Ghats. It is called Carnatic Curcuma, or Karnataka Turmeric. This flower was 'discovered' by the botanists only in 1990.It is white, with a yellow line down its lower lip.

This is a clerodendron,Clerodendrum paniculatum seen at the edge of the forest. The villagers in the periphery of the forest grow it as a hedge.

This pretty white flower, Great Fringed -flower Vine Trichosanthes tricuspidata, is an endangered species, belonging to the cucurbit family. It had oval shaped fruit. Grows on a vine.

We encountered the very rare wild begonia deep inside the forest.
Most of the wild flowers in the forest in this season were white or pale coloured.I think it is to reflect the maximum amount of light, because it is quite dark deep inside the forest. I have more pictures which I'll be posting soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Cavala Caves

The second day, we trekked to the Cavala Caves with its curious formations of stalactites and stalacmites.
The vegetation changed perceptibly as we went deeper into the jungle. I saw many rare and endangered wild flowers ,I will be posting the pictures soon. Many of us got bitten by leeches, but fortunately, they (the leeches ) left me alone.

The leeches seemed to have a great attraction for the shapely leg of my friend Pratibha! This fellow fell off after drinking its fill. Even after the leech falls off, the small wound will be bleeding for some time because the leeches use an anti coagulant so that the blood doesn't form a clot.

This is the forest in which we saw the fresh pug marks of the tiger. Our guide was more worried about the elephants which he could smell. At one point, he almost asked us to turn back, but then we saw this langur in a clearing. The langur's demeanor told our guide that the elephants were moving away. So we continued on our trek.

The Indian Langur, or the Hanuman Langur Semnopithecus entellus is an Old World primate. He has a long tail and long limbs. He jumps amazing distances on treetops. The langur has a special relationship with the deer. From the treetops he sees the predators and warns the grazing deer. The deer have a good sense of smell, so they warn the langur when he is on the ground.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sojourn in a Cloud Forest

Back after a wonderful holiday trekking in a cloud forest. The Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadri range, is one of the few environmental hotspots in the world, containing tremendous biodiversity. Since it was the end of the monsoon season, there were not many wild flowers, but we saw many birds and butterflies. The picture above shows the Southern Birdwing, the largest butterfly in India.
The Southern Birdwing is feasting on the lantana flowers.

Bracket fungus on a piece of fallen wood. There were leeches on the moist ground.

An Ipomea flower waiting to be pollinated.

A view of the Kali river valley.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blooming Friday

The dark butterfly was sleeping on the butterfly ginger .
The white Mussanda has been blooming since three months now.

Pink Justicia has another name-Jacobinia.

Dahlias flower in all seasons here.

I love the colour of this Canna.
I am off on my vacation to a camping trip in the forests of the Western Ghats! Hope it will not rain there.Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cheerful flower

The Yellow Bells, Techoma stans is a flower that brings cheer to the jaded soul. Its golden yellow bell shaped flowers, which bloom throughout the year, and its drought resistance ability has made it a popular flower to be planted in parks and public places.
I found this Techoma on top of a hill, where I had gone hunting for wild flowers. There were sheep grazing on the hill, but they did not touch the plant. Somebody had built a beautiful villa in that desolate place, with no roads, but dirt tracks. The shepherd directed me to a temple on the other side of the hill, where I rested for a while, before going further.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Bodhi Tree

Ficus religiosa, the Bodhi tree is the most venerated tree in the world. It is sacred to the Hindus, the Buddhists and the Jains. The tree is considered to be a symbol of the universe.The Sanskrit name for Ficus religiosa is Ashwattha, which means 'Not the same tomorrow', showing the impermanent nature of the Universe. Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree and became the Buddha.
The leaves of the Bodhi tree are heart shaped and pointed. The new leaves are a beautiful red, which turn a light green and then a dark green. Whenever there is a breeze, the leaves tremble , making a noise like the rain. The tree is a favourite of birds , insects and small animals. When the fruit are ripe, the tree will be full of birds, which disperse the seeds in the most inconvenient places. Gardeners have to pull out the seedlings from crevices in stonework, because later,when the seedling is bigger, no one will be willing to hurt a Bodhi tree.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Glory Lily

The Gory Lily, Gloriosa superba is a beautiful flower which appears during the rainy season. In my suburb, it is seen as a wild flower sometimes. I found the vine flowering profusely in a vacant plot two years ago, and brought the tubers and planted them in my garden. But it did not come up.The Gloriosa is a twining lily, with the leaves having tendrils. The flower is bi-colour, yellow below and orange-red at the tips, giving it the Sanskrit name Agnishikha, the flame.
These flowers are from the garden of my friend Gowri. The Gloriosa is poisonous, but its tubers are used for the treatment of gout and rheumatism. They are also used for snake bites. It is a case of using a venom to take out a venom.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to make compost

Compost is an essential ingredient in an organic garden. I make my own compost using all the garden waste, which is collected in a heap in a shady, far corner of my garden. My helper, Ningamma sprays a mixture of fresh cowdung and neem cakes mixed in water on the heap once in ten days.Neem cake is what you get after the oil has been extracted from neem seeds. It is a powerful organic insecticide, available in garden stores.
Ningamma gets the fresh cowdung from the neighbouring village where she lives. She manages the compost heaps in half a dozen gardens in the neighbourhood. Once the heap has grown big, she gives it a final coating of the cowdung mixture and lets it cook in its own heat.

After two months, we get a heap like this- dark and full of goodness. I don't turn the heap as some gardeners do. The worms and Ningamma do all the work. She is planning to buy a gold nose ring from the extra money she earns making compost.

Pink calliandra fed on compost.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blooming Friday

New flowers have started blooming with the change of the weather pattern. The Rose of Sharon above was perfectly white in the morning, but started blushing in the afternoon. In the evening the blush had suffuced its face to a deep rose red.
This dahlia is a lovely colour.

The red clerodendron is a creeper, which has climbed up the stairway to the roof. It is full of these scarlet flowers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Bouquet of Wild Flowers

Now that the rains have stopped and the sun is shining brightly, the red Salvias are besieged by the bees.
Purple Ruellias are encountered on walks. Earlier, the flowers would be blown away by the wind.Now they can stay home and make seeds.

Suddenly there are the yellow wild lupins everywhere. All these flowers are beloved of the bees, and make our walks happy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bixa and the Bees

The Lipstick tree, BIxa orellana is planted as a roadside tree in many parts of my suburb. Some of the trees have white flowers and greenish white seedpods. I love the pink flowered variety with its bright red seed pods. There is a lot of bee activity among these flowers.
Yesterday, I saw some Blue Banded Bees among the flowers. They were jostling the common Apis indica to get at the pollen.

The Blue banded bee is not very common here. I have read that it is a native of Australia. I wonder how it travelled all the way from Brisbane to Bangalore!Below is the picture of an Indian bee at the flower.

The Lipstick Tree itself is a native of South America. The seed pods are used to make an industrial dye.