Faceoff amid a flower shower
It’s the time of year when the blue sky hangs cloudless overhead, and all of humanity grumbles about the heat. And yet there is song and dance in nature. And a wondrous background is provided for some spectacular trees to bloom.
Mumbai has always been celebrated for its wealth of tree varieties — not to be confused with number any more, sadly.
We have sacrificed much of our green heritage to our growing need for various kinds of infrastructure. It is an unfortunate part of the urban process, but needs a mature looking into.
It is the loss of tree quality that is alarming to me. Our indigenous varieties are fast losing out to flimsy, ecologically incongruous exotics. Let’s look at one such pair, an indigenous and an exotic, both now in bloom.
No two trees are more contrasting of colour panache and mohar. The former is an indigenous tree also known as the Golden Shower or Indian Laburnum. The curtains of sheer gold that drape it when in bloom bear a subtle shimmer.
Its flowers and seed pods attract insects, mammals and birds. There are fine specimens all over Mumbai. And there is the street in South Mumbai named after this tree, never mind that for many years the tree has all but vanished from it.
Contrast this story with that of the Gulmohar, a native of Madagascar but extensively introduced around the world. In Mumbai this tree has more than widespread across the built-up zones; it even lights up the face of an entire hillock in the recreational zone of the national park.
It enjoys such splendid alternate names as Flamboyant, Royal Poinciana and Flame Tree, and is regarded as one of the most beautiful trees in the world when in bloom. It attracts nary a creature, save an occasional carpenter bee or sunbird.
But it’s a shower and a survivor, more a Mumbaiite now than the soft-spoken Amaltas. You probably have a Gulmohar on your street; and it has likely been months since you saw a Laburnum Many people seem to prefer
And that worries me, because what we need are more Amaltas. It’s all very well for the stars to shine in Bollywood or even the corporate world, but in Nature, balance is crucial. The Gulmohar does not do its bit to maintain an ecological balance, and for that reason, I am sad to say, it will never belong, no matter now popular or attractive.
Will it take over anyway? Well, Nature doesn’t get much of a say in the planning of our metropolis, does it?
The Gulmohar is a flashy fellow, but the Amaltas (above left) is a son of the soil.