Friday, October 30, 2009

Blooming Friday- a Pleasant Surprise

The Mysore Clock Vine, Thunbergia mysorensis was planted more than a year ago. Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to notice the blooms of the Thunbergia hanging from the Amla tree ,which the vine has taken as a support.
Named after the beautiful city of Mysore, this Thunbergia is considered to be the most beautiful creeper by gardeners all over the world. I am waiting to see more blooms during the season.
For more flower posts, please visit Katarina at Roses and Stuff.

Sacred Basil, Representative of the Plant Kingdom

Tulsi, the Sacred Basil Ocimum sanctum is one of the most venerated herbs in the world. The Hindus regard it as the representative of the Plant kingdom, and treat it with respect.Since all life on the planet is dependant on plants, they believe that the plants should be honoured. On the twelfth day of the lunar month of Kartika, they perform a symbolic ritual , decorating the plant holder of the Tulsi, and keeping lamps near the plant. Today being the day, this evening the Tulsi plants in Hindu gardens will be worshipped.
Tulsi is one of the basic ingredients in Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine. All parts of the plant are medicinal. A tea made from the leaves of the Basil plant is good for cough and cold. Eating four leaves of the Tulsi daily is supposed to enhance your resistance to diseases. When I was stung by a bee a few days ago, I applied the juice of the Tulsi for quick relief. Weight watchers can lose weight by chewing the leaves of the Tulsi every day.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vanilla, the Expensive Spice

My Vanilla vine, which is growing over the guava tree , is flowering now. It flowers every year, but the flowers are not fertilized because its special pollinators, the hummingbirds are not here. Farmers who grow vanilla hand- pollinate them, but I have not been successful in that.
The vanilla is an orchid. The light green flowers open in the morning for a short time. Unlike some orchids, these flowers are not long lasting. The name Vanilla came from the Spanish "Vainilla" meaning sheath. Next to Saffron, vanilla is the most expensive spice.It was known to the Aztecs.The leaves of the Vanilla vine are thick and leathery.

I love Vanilla ice cream, and hope to make it some day with my home grown vanilla pods.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Owl, Friend of the Farmer

Yesterday, the children of Class IV in my school were very excited, because an Indian Barn Owl was resting on their class windowsill. The children were careful not to disturb the owl, and took turns to peep at him. The owl had come here before the children arrived, and there were conjectures as to why he had selected that resting place. We hoped he was not sick.When I opened the window stealthily to capture him in my camera, he heard the slight noise and posed for me obligingly.
Tyto alba, the Indian Barn Owl is a pale nocturnal bird which lives and hunts near human settlements. It is a lonely bird, and usually lives in holes in trees. It is farsighted, and cannot see something which is very near. Its heart shaped face gives it the ability to hear the smallest sounds clearly, so that it can hunt in total darkness with only the help of its hearing. It makes eerie sounds like shrieks, hisses and snores.
The Barn Owl is a friend of the farmer and the gardener, because it eats astonishing quantities of rodents. A baby own can eat 5 mice at one go, and an adult can eat 10 rats in one night!The threat to the owl comes from humans, some of whom think that it brings bad luck. The owl can become sick by eating a poisoned rat, or by pesticides.
Since it is a non migratory bird, the owl can act as an early warning system for toxic contamination in the environment.
For more information, see .

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Fountain Tree

The African Tulip Tree or the Fountain Tree Spathodia campanulata is flowering profusely all over the city, its flame coloured flowers giving it the name 'Flame of the Forest'.
The spent flowers fall on the sidewalk, making the unwary walker slip. Sometimes, even the buds fall on the sidewalk, and if you step on it, the 'fountain' will squirt all over your leg. Children play with the buds , which are filled with water, squirting each other gleefully.

The Spathodia is a native of tropical Africa, and is now planted extensively as a roadside tree all over the tropics. The tree flowers many times a year. The cup shaped flowers hold rainwater , and many birds are attracted to the tree. The seeds are edible. The wood is soft, and used to make paper. In its native West Africa, the wood is used to make drums.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yesterday- Today- Flowers

Some of the flowers change colour in the course of the day, like this Rose of Sharon, which turns pink in the evening from its original white.The picture below shows its colour when it opened in the morning.
The Blue Boy, Thunbergia battiscombe in my garden has suddenly started sporting blue striped white flowers from one branch. Probably a throwback to its ancestor.

The Potato Tree, Solanum macranthum is planted as a roadside tree in many parts of the city. It is fascinating to see different coloured flowers on the same branch.

The Golden Chalice Vine, Solandra maxima which was full of flowers all these months, has decided to pack up for the year. These, I think are the last flowers of the season which lasts more than 8 months. The white flower is the new one, which turns yellow the next day.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Blooming Friday

This lily was blooming in my friend Anjali's garden. She had brought it to show it to her class.
The roses do well in autumn and winter here. There are roses in all gardens now.

THe ground orchid has started flowering. The purple variety is also pretty.

The Barlerias have come into their own now. They are seen in all colours from violet to white. The yellow ones are the wild ones.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Curious Flowers

These flowers of the Dutchman's Pipe, Aristolochia ringens look more like a bird than a pipe. They are called 'Parrot Flower' by our local nurserymen.The vine has spread all over my back fence and is sending out its curious brown flowers. The flowers smell faintly of rotting meat, and so attract the special pollinators- the bluebottles.

The Cannon Ball Tree, Couroupita guianensis is, as its name suggests, a native of Guiana. This tree is in our local nursery. The strongly scented flowers have a curious formation of stamens in the centre, which gives the the local name of Snake Lingam Flower. You can see the cannon ball fruit if you click on the picture.

This is the flower of the Bird's Nest Anthurium. The red berries look like drops of blood. An intimidating flower!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Little Butterflies

The tiny butterflies we see every day in the garden are no less beautiful than their large cousins. This Metallic Cerulean although tiny, is ver pretty.
THe Common Jungle Glory Thaumantis diores was resting on a wild vine in a vacant plot.

This is another little beauty whom I had to chase to get it pose for me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flowers in Vacant Plots

The yellow cosmos occupies any vacant land it finds and blooms profusely.
The tiny flowers of the Scarlet Morning Glory, Ipomea hederifolia make a bold statement in a vacant site.

The dainty pink flowers of the Salvia attract bees.

I have been seeing these almost black wild flowers since ten years at a particular spot in my suburb. All my efforts at getting a seed to germinate in my garden have failed. I can't find the name of these pea- like wild flowers. Yesterday I saw people taking measurements of the vacant site. Soon, this flower will be lost .

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jasmine of the Sky- Millingtonia

Millingtonia hortensis, or the Jasmine of the Sky as it is called locally is also known as the Indian Cork tree. It is planted as road side tree and also as a garden tree. The trees are in full bloom now,adding a delightful, mild fragrance to the surroundings. The tree is handsome, tall and straight, with a grey bark. It flowers twice a year, once in March- April, and once in September-October. The flowers are white and star- shaped, with four petals. The flowers open in the night and fall down in the morning, carpetting the ground beneath with fragrant stars. Children weave garlands from the fallen flowers, without using thread. The tree gives a kind of cork.
The tree is said to live upto 80 years. There are a couple of old and handsome trees in my ancestral home in Mysore, which are, I am sure, more than 80 year old. The Indian hornbills have made their homes in those trees.
Millingtonia has an ancient story attached to it. There was beautiful princess named Prajakta, who fell in love with the Sun. She was disconsolate when the Sun left her in the evening , and she committed suicide She was reborn as the Jasmine of the Sky tree. She still sheds tears when she sees her lover.The tree flowers during the night and sheds her flower- tears as soon as the sun comes up.
The leaves of the Millingtonia are a good insecticide. The roots and bark are used in the Indian medicine system, Ayurveda, for the treatment of Asthma.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chrysanthemum beginnings

The much awaited 'mums have started blooming in my garden. This year , because of the untimely and heavy rains, the buds are not as many.
The nurseryman called this 'Happy Diwali' and also 'Starlight'. He probably gave it the name himself.

These little ones look like daisies and attract most butterflies.

These blooms seem to be the favourite food of the leaf hopper.
A Happy Diwali to all my Indian friends!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lemon, the Old Favourite

No other fruit of India is as well known as the lemon, Citrus limon. Even the mango pales before it in the praises it has received. In the 5th century B.C., the Greek philosopher Theophrastus declared that the lemon was an antidote to poinoning. If you cut a lemon , the whole room smells delightful for hours. No wonder the peel of the lemon is used in making perfumes. The lemon was used to prevent scurvy among sailors in the 16th century, as the fruit is rich in vitamin C. The lemon and its leaves are used in Ayurveda, the Indian medicine system.
My lemon tree which used to give me hundreds of fruit is now attacked by stem- borers. Being an organic gardener, I tried plugging the holes with garlic , but to no avail.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Tribute to Darwin, the Genius of Evolution

2009 is the year that marks the bicentennary of Charles Darwin's birth. It is also the 150th anniversary of Darwin's path- breaking work, 'On the Origin of Species'. Darwin changed the thinking pattern of the 19th century scientists by his theory of Evolution through Natural Selection. My post today is a tribute to this great man.
Evolution through camouflage is seen very often by the gardener. The mynah bird has come to my pocket pond in search of water and food. But the food escaped its notice.
The tiny frogs are the colour of the rocks around to escape from their predators. Survival!

The Danaid Eggfly is a slow flying butterfly. It also takes rest for long spells on its favourite flowers. But it has nothing to fear, because its spots mislead the frogs and birds into thinking it is an animal.The spots look like the eyes and markings on a kitten.

This beetle on the croton escapes its natural predators as well as the most intelligent animal on the planet, namely human being, by taking on the colours of the leaves it lives on.

Creatures resort to camouflage not only to escape predators, but also to hunt for food. This waiting spider on the dahlia has become almost transparent . It catches the unwary butterfly which lands on the dahlia. I do have a picture where the spider is enjoying his dinner of a butterfly, but I feel squeemish to look at it. But that is Evolution!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Singing Tree

This Bootlebrush Tree which is planted as a roadside treein my area, is in full bloom now. It is full of birds at all times of the day so that the people call it the singing tree.
Callistemon is a native of Australia. In India it blooms profusely in spring and in autumn. The name Callistemon comes from the Greek kalos, "beautiful", and stemon meaning "stamens".The inflorescence have such long stamens , which give it the appearance of a bottlebrush.
Callistemon is a very useful plant for a dry , sunny area, as it requires hardly any care.
It can be propagated by cuttings during the rainy season.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Flame Coloured Wild Flowers

Now that the cold is setting in, it is a welcome sight to see flowers with the colours of campfire. This wayside flower resembles the Shrimp plant.
The lantana comes in lovely combination of colours

The Fire Bush, Woodfordia fruticosa is common in the forests of the Western Ghats.

Butterflies flock to the Blood Flower, Asclepia currasavica.