Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vegetable Vampire and Avian Usurper

This is a 50 year old jewel box made from sandalwood. A similar box would now cost around 10,000 rupees. The box is still fragrant , but the boxes now available in the market are usually fake. Sandalwood has become a rarity in its own native land.
This is a sandalwood tree in my garden, which is embraced tightly by the Goosefoot vine. The vine is not the vegetable vampire, but it is the Sandalwood tree that is the vampire!
The roots of the Sandalwood Santalum album make contact with the host plant, here my neighbour's coconut tree, and penetrate the tissue of the host tree,s roots. Much of the nutrition is drawn this way. My neighbour, being an engineer, is unaware of this fact, and has not complained to me of the small size of the coconuts he gets from the tree!
These tiny purple flowers of the Sandalwood become dark berries, much loved by the birds. But it is the Koel, the Indian cuckoo, who has claimed territorial rights to this tree. He helps in scattering the seeds, and I find the seedlings all over my garden.
You can see the black silhouette of the koel in the tree in this picture. He does not build a nest, but his wife lays her egg stealthily in the nest of crows on the top of my tall teak tree. The crows look after the egg and the nestling after it hatches. The koel keeps a constant watch over the nest and guards it against intruders by screaming loudly. He also wakes me up every day at 2.30 in the morning!
You can see better pictures of the Koel here.


  1. What an interesting post! Didn't know that about Sandalwood! Terrific captures as well! Enjoy your day!


  2. Read this post as avidly as I used to read the Princess and the Dragon fairy tales in my childhood! I know the koel is called the Indian Nightingale, but does it *have* to tune its throat at unearthly hours?:) Nice pics of the bird in the link.

  3. Wonderful post and I loved the title! That sandalwood box is beautiful...clicked to see the details. Interesting reading about the tree/koel connection. I'd only known about the smell and none of the 'vampire characteristics' of the tree!!

  4. A wonderful, informative post about your world which is so different than mine! I like that both the sandalwood tree and the koel bird are opportunistic.

  5. Oh wow, that's how a sandalwood tree looks like. I use a lot of sandalwood incense during prayers. I like the scent.

  6. That's amazing lotusleaf - I had no idea that sandalwood behaved like that!