Wednesday, February 23, 2011


24th Feb.-
Today we will look at Ficus & Fig trees again inc. Berries with a focus
Thoughts: "In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous." -from: Aristotle. Seeing the Creator in Creation is a theme from many great Masters.
One can take shelter in the peace that mother nature showers - quietly on us.
Just sharing the experience....
I have been sharing this  nature watch & study with friends for some time on this  Blog. The idea was also to promote Awareness in this year 2011 - the year of Forests and Eco protection as declared by the UNO, which is a real need. 
As one friend so very aptly wrote to me quote:
"Greening is the only way forward". 
But, sadly enough  in a 1. 3 B population in India and esp in Cities , very few today know of them or how protect them.
Man needs Trees and Trees also need Man to care for them; Although, I personally believe that Trees do more good to Mankind-than the reverse.
Trying now a sharper  focus on the 3 very popular trees in Indian prakruti and samskruti- viz. the Peepul, Banyan & Oudamber. 
They all  come in the Category of :FICUS & FIGS
1. Ashwattha or Sacred Fig tree (Peepul (Pipal) , Bodhi, Bo, or Po, (Ficus religiosa)
2. Banyan Fig (Ficus benghalensis) and
3. Oudamber or Gular (Ficus racemosa) sometimes known as Ficus glomerata.

Ficus is a genus of about 800 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemi-epiphytes in the family Moraceae.  In the tropics, the Ficus is the most species-rich plant genus in a particular forest. Also, in Asia alone, as many as 70 or more species have been found to co-exist by study reports. 

FIGS -from sources.
Figs category  seem to have wide variety –
 I was familiar with only the Anjeer figs and that too esp in ice-creams, till I started this marvellous voyage of discovery into Trees and plants. Figs are of a wider variety like the Common Fig. The common names of Oudamber Figs is cluster fig, cluster tree, country fig, redwood fig, Indian fig, crattock and ju guo rong. are seen all across India and revered. 


                                     BAKULA in Sanskrit (Mimusops)- medicinal bark , berries-

                                                                       Oudamber Figs
                                                                 Sacred Fig-Pipal
The Ashwattha (Pipal) is recorded in Hindu Shastra and covered in my earlier posts.

                                                             Ber fruit

The oldest living Pipal trees of known planting date is a Ficus regiliosa tree known as the Sri Maha Bodhi planted in the temple at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka by King Tissa in 288 BC. Thus links to Buddhism

The Common Fig tree (Ficus carica) is the first plant cited in the Bible. In Genesis 3:7 is described how Adam and Eva cover themselves with fig leaves when they discover that they are naked.

The fig fruit is also included in the list of food found in the Promised Land, according to the Thorah (Deut. 8). (They are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, dates (representing the honey).

In the deserts of Middle East Dates & Figs have been  survival food and are available and distributed to all-

There are three vegetative traits unique to figs.
a.All figs possess a white to yellowish sap (latex), some in copious quantities.
b.The twig has paired stipules or a circular stipule scar if the stipules have fallen off.
c.the lateral veins at the base of the leaf are steep, that is they form a tighter angle with the midrib than the other lateral veins, a feature referred to as a "tri-veined".
Many other kinds of figs and berries are often mixed in groups and amost allare edibloe or used for medicinal value and eaten by birds, primates & bats  and few others.

Figs comprise a large genus, Ficus, of deciduous and evergreen tropical and subtropical trees, shrubs, and vines belonging to the mulberry family, Moraceae
Figs and Ficus plants are two terms for the same types of plants. 
 The term ficus is used to refer to fig trees. 
The distinction between figs and ficus trees is used for classification.

Ficus is the scientific name of a genus of plants, which contains all of the species of figs within it. 

The classification names help distinguish between individual species and larger groups of related plants and organisms. Studies indicate about such 800 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemi-epiphytes in the family Moraceae.

Collectively known as Figs, they of the tropical origin and few in the warm temperate zone. The so-called Common Fig (F. carica) is a temperate species from the Middle East and southern Europe, which has been widely cultivated from ancient times for its fruit, also referred to as figs. The fruit of most other species are also edible though they are usually of only local economic importance or eaten as bush food. However, they are extremely important food resources for wildlife.

Figs have religious and cultural importance in worship and for their many practical and medicinal uses. 
There is no clear evidence from older fossils of Ficus trees, but a  molecular clock study and carbon dating process estimates ( indicates) that Ficus is a very ancient genus; maybe even millions of years old. Readers choice to decide. 
However to me, it is without doubt an Ancient Tree genus and about 800 kinds are recorded  over the world with so many legends and folk lore even attached.

Tree Fossils in Mohenjadaro excavations also confirm the Ficus is an old genus- possibly from a previous era. But hard to place.Obviously Ficus genus trees grew before Continents came apart -----thus:
Something to think about in the midst of all strife and turmoil & respect Trees.



"Ephipyte"plants -inc Banyan & Pipal

23rd Feb 2011.

An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant (such as a tree) non-parasitically or sometimes upon some other object (such as a building or a wall and derives its moisture and nutrients from Photosynthesis -thro the the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it.

Typical pic taken of a "Ephipyte" seen and photographed in my compound and on the wall- see pics.

 Wild plant -grows near a wet patch

 A plant grown on a 2nd floor window ledge----

Bird dropping leave seeds intact for many months in cracks and crevices in walls and ledges on roofs and one day the seed starts to germinate and a Plant appears; unchecked it just grows and can even cause cracks in the wall. 
The above pic taken of 2nd floor window ledge -where it has grown into a fairly large plant.   

Ficus Genus trees start this way and grow as Giants which are in this category inc the mighty Banyan & Pipal Tree.
The term epiphytic is derived  from the Greek epi- (meaning 'upon') and phyton (meaning 'plant').Epiphytic plants are sometimes called "air plants" because they do not root in soil.

Epiphytic organisms usually derive only physical support and not nutrition from their host, though they may sometimes damage the host.The nutrition is provided by Photosynthesis and from the moisture in the air - 
They also include Mosses -eg in pics taken below at San Thome Chennai.

Marvel of Nature in God's Creation -
The term Epiphyte --most commonly refers to higher plants, but epiphytic bacteria, fungi (epiphytic fungi), algae, lichens, mosses, and ferns exist as well. However, there are many aquatic species of algae, including seaweeds, that are epiphytes on other aquatic plants (seaweeds or aquatic angiosperms). The best-known epiphytic plants include mosses, orchids, and bromeliads such as Spanish moss (of the genus Tillandsia), but epiphytic plants may be found in every major group of the plant kingdom. 89% of epiphyte species (about 24,000) are flowering plants. The second largest group are the leptosporangiate ferns, with about 2800 species (10% of epiphytes). In fact, about one third of all ferns are epiphytes.[2] The third largest group is clubmosses, with 190 species, followed by a handful of species in each of the spikemosses, other ferns, Gnetales, and cycads.[3]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Pongam Tree -Indian beech

21st Feb 2011.

The Indian beech tree:

Pongam Tree -Indian beech, of one species is seen in abundance in Chennai and has a rich, greenish lime coloured hue. It is a  hardy, shade giving  tree, with  medicinal values that deserves more attention. I have  in fact three trees it in my location; Two full grown and one medium height.What struck me the most, is that it has a sort of Trifoliate leaf -3 leaves on a stem.--See 3rd photo as it some what looks like a Bilwa-except that  the leaves have a colour of a lighter greenish/lime mix, and leaves are much thinner.  
They all give shade and look nice with fresh green leaves in February. 
See 4 photos taken of tree and  leaves on 21st Feb and of Tree in Greenways Lane near my residence

 PHOTOS: Taken on 21st Feb 2011.
Pongamia pinnata is a hardy tropical tree, resistant against heat and sunlight.  
Thanks to the large  root system, it is also tolerant against drought.  
Thus  it grows on sandy or rocky soils, including limestone, but in cultivation, it can be successfully grown in nearly all kinds of soil as well as salty soils.
In Tamil is known by several names inc: Pongam, Pongamia; also for Puna oil.
In the North in most states it is known best as `Karanj` (or `Papar` or `Kanji`).
 `Unne` in Malayalam and `Pungu` in Telugu.
It is also said to be called  `Karum Tree` or `Poonga Oil Tree` in English
Scientific name: Pongamia pinnata, P. glabra.
Family: Leguminiceae.
NOTE:  This name `Pongamia` is said to have been derived from the Tamil name,
`Pinnata` that refers to the pinnate leaves.
Other names in Tamil heard include `Ponga`, `Dalkaramcha`, `Pongam` and `Punku`.

Pongamia glabragenus Pongamia, Pongamia 

Plant parts used--Roots, leaf, flower, seeds, fruit

USAGE: Oil used for Rheumatism; also as a Insecticidal, antifeedant, repellent


Botanical source : Indian beech, evergreen Asiatic tree having glossy pinnate leaves and racemose creamy-white scented flowers; used as a shade tree. Is a tall perennial woody plant having a main trunk and branches forming a distinct elevated crown; includes both gymnosperms and angiosperms.

Indian Beech Tree Pongamia pinnata (other vernacular names: Honge Tree, Pongam Tree, Panigrahi) is a deciduous tree, about 15–25 meters tall, belonging to the family Fabaceae. It has a big top with many small flowers in white, pink or violet. Its origin is India, but is widely grown in South-East Asia. It is often grown in dry areas and is often used for landscaping purposes as windbreaker or for shade. The bark is used to make twines or ropes, and the black gum has been used in the past to treat wounds caused by poisonous fish.Its root nodules promote nitrogen fixation, a symbiotic process by which gaseous nitrogen (N2) from the air is converted into NH4+ (a form of nitrogen available to the plant). Thus, it can be used for fertilization of soil that is poor in nutrients. Although the whole plant is toxic, the juice from the plant, as well as the oil, is antiseptic. The seed oil is used as lamp oil, in soap making, as a lubricant, and the producing of bio-disease.

Sadly enough the Pongam Trees were planted on our road by us years ago with EXXNORA help- remain unnoticed. We need to respect this Tree better. 
Have started to do this.





The Sterculia Tree or Red cluster fruit " Kurrajong". in fruit in Feb 2011

20th Feb 2011.
Updated 25th Jan 2011.
The Sterculia Tree was in bloom and bearing fruit--"Red Clusters" in Feb. in Chennai on Greenways Rd. R.A.Puram and also near JK Foundation; also seen in  T'Nagar -Chennai.
It is red in colour and stands out on the branches as a fruit-as it dries it changes to a dark brown colour as seen in the next few pics and and finally the seed ( nuts) are exposed and seen. It seems, this tree flowers only at a particular time of the year. 
But, I was quite unable to identify this tree in my  tree reference book or other resources. 
Hence, sought assistance from the PWD, South Office--who confirmed it as: 
"Sterculia quadrifida", from Australia mainly; It also is called the Peanut Tree, or Red-fruited Kurrajong there.Many such trees seen in south Chennai.
The fruit although called Peanut is a misnomer but I learnt today that in San Thome where there are several such trees with fruits-and now with dry nuts (see picture taken today)  it has been eaten (apparently  mistaken as a Badam type nut) . In any case it is edible.

Gives shade and  inter-twined with reddish Bougainvilla adds beauty to a road- 
Natures simple joys & beauty reaches out-touches us the most  in the Spring Season.
Refer Australian site given below for details
3 Pics I have taken on 12th Feb are of the Tree at long range  are below: 

Pic is taken on the main road near our house-Feb 2011.This tree was a mystery to me in my study; --- seemed like an Indian Beech -type.
Learnt this variety gives red cluster fruit only once a year at this time. grows in the rain forests, vine thickets and gallery forests of coastal Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales.
AMAZING--- This is grown in Chennai--

FROM REF:,peanut_tree.html
Medium tree, 6-18m, found in dry rainforests from Richmond River NSW to nthn Australia and PNG.
Leaves are simple, alternate in pseudo-whorls, 5 12cm, shiny bright green with long petioles.
Flower is inconspicuous, creamy-white and lemon-scented, Nov - Jan.
Fruit is a large, eye-catching red capsule with about 8 shiny black seeds.
Handsome, ornamental tree, deciduous in cooler areas. Requires good drainage
Edible raw or roasted seeds taste similar to peanuts.
Fresh seeds germinate easily and quickly, sometimes within 3 days.
Used by Aborigines in N Australia to treat wounds and stings.

Sterculia quadrifida -

Peanut Tree
Sterculia quadrifida - fruit - Paul Donatiu © 2002

Alternative common names for this species include Kuman, Orange-fruited Kurrajong, Orange-fruited Sterculia, Red-fruited Kurrajong, Smooth-seeded Kurrajong, White Crowsfoot and Small-flowered Kurrajong.
The tree grows to-10 metres and has a spreading deciduous canopy. The bark is a light grey and the leaves are dark green and broad egg-shaped or sometimes heart-shaped at the base. The flowers, which are greenish-yellow and are borne in small clusters in the upper axils, occur from November to January (summer in Australia).
Seed pods are orange outside and orange or red inside when ripe. 

These pods contain up to 8 black seeds that are edible and taste like raw peanuts.
The bark is used by Aboriginal people in their traditional weaving techniques to make baskets and other products.-

Saturday, February 19, 2011

African Tulip Tree in Chennai-

19th Feb 2011.
African Tulip Trees in Chennai- 
(called Patadi in Tamil, Rugtoora in Hindi and Rudra Palash in Bengal

 Life has some surprises and so it is with Nature Study too.The real surprise was the African Tulip Tree with flowers in bloom seen at Adyar Corner, near Gandhi Nagar on 18th Feb 2011, Chennai -(just behind Adyar Bakery); two trees too.

Just last week had sighted and learnt about the Sterculia Tree bearing red cluster fruit near my area last week. See next blog post. 
Earlier it was the Kigelia -the Sausage Tree in earlier blog post.
Three imported varieties and  all doing well in the hot climate of Chennai.

I realised we have imported many beautiful flowering trees that  give shade and add  brilliant colours with their Red flowers to the locality like Stercuilia also, but the African Tulip is simple the most dazzling colour seen and they all seem to  thrive well, despite our hot climate in Chennai. On the same quiet residential Krishnamchari Rd.
I found on Feb 18th 2011, the Banyan, BiIwa, Butterfly tree and some more trees -
all well maintained here .
Wonder who planted them ?
Bless them.

Brilliant Red colours -simply enchanting----Many had fallen down from the tree and were all strewn on the ground -I picked a few and came home delighted; Was quite elated and felt like a kid-
My wife & Family were also amazed- had never seen them like this before--
Trees & Flowers are Gods Gift to Man -
we need to just  respect and  care for them

18th Magh Poornima, Friday-   
OFFERED TO the Divine Mother.
Om Shree Prakruti Namaha
Namaskaromi -


Moonlight and Flowers -in "Chandni" .

19th Feb 2011.
Flowers at Spring time-- Magh Poornimanight
The Moon's effect on Mind has also inspired poets, lovers and all to go abs crazy on the this which Musicians took up also;A classic eg was Moonlight & Shadows---immortaliosed by Los Indios Tabajaras--
 the famed Guitar duo of 60s  from Brazil (from a South America-Indian tribe )  Or Moon Light & Roses ...sung by so many. Moons effect on MInd has been also  proven and most of all in peaks and lows of Full&New Moon Time -Whatver may be the case---  the fact is --it arouses a lot of sentimental emotion with music &poetry with its sheer beauty of the cool moonlight-"Chandni" . 
So, for a change, tried an experimental Moonlight photography. The sequence is of the Moon just rising above my Bougainvilla on my house frontage. Last pic is same bouganvilla blossoms in daylight-

Magh Poornima time is great with my Garden back drop.
I am an amateur ( poor )photographer esp with the digital settings.
I use a KODAK  Easy Share camera-after nearly 30 yrs of working with a Yashica and earlier Minolta hi-matic still camera, from my Seafaring days.They both served well and gave me good pics -(better ones really !! ) Hope to learn more about Digital & Handy Cams etc as I go along -on my Nature study mission.Great pastime too and enchanting. --
esp as we age and spare time on hand ;add in music & poetry too.
TR -

Foto info

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Indian Coral tree-Mandara

INDIAN CORAL TREE-`Erythrina Indica`
I realised the beauty of the Indian Coral Tree-esp the beautiful leaves, when I observed it in Semmozi Park Chennai; then started a search and to my complete surprise found it was grown in my late parents flat compound- in Kilpauk Chennai. Although the varieties differ slightly, we identified it with some basic characteristics of leaves, red flowers, its  height and trunk. My brother then clarified that locals refer to it as `Kalyana Murungai` in Tamil ; then two more names for it were also noted viz `Maruka` or `Mulu Murungu`.
In Hindi, known as `Mandara`, `Panjira`, `Dholdhak`, `Pangri`, `Pharad` or `Dadap`.
In Bengal it is said to be called  `Palita Mundar` and `Rakta Mandar`.
It is considered to be one of India`s own trees that grow wild along the seaside and in some inland districts of deciduous forests. In spring time esp from Feb to March, the `Coral Tree` has rich and red blooms.
The normal height of this tree is about 18 m except sometimes just about 7.5 varieties differ.
This is obviously popular as a garden or park tree because it is really beautiful, starts flowering from the height of only 3 or 4 m.and the large  Green leaves add so much to the scene... really  beautiful.
The  photos taken will tell it.
At Chennai Semmozi Park (Old Drive in Woodlands)

Thanks to the latin botanical name Erythrina Indica on the  tag, I was able to study the tree in detail.
I also decided to  add photos taken at "Guru Prasad" -my late Parents Flat-inset below:.

My brother who lives here was also  teling me that flocks of Parrots used to visit the tree, even though this tree has no scent.The flowers of the tree are popular with many birds;  Crows, Mynahs, Babblers, Parakeets and  bees and wasps -who help in the fertilisation of flowers  by their attention and visits.

Mandara Flowers are bright Red in colour and have a special place in our in Pushpanjali -

Ref.  Shree Satyanarayana  Pushpa-Patra Pooja and Alankara
The wonders and the beauty in Gods Creation are so many.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nagalingam -Nag-Champe Tree and Flowers

Nagalingam tree with Flowers in Bloom -sheer beauty of Mother Nature.
The pics were taken just after  Vasant Panchami, on 13th Feb and it is just 4 weeks away to Shree MahaShivratri-- It is a marvel of Mother Nature that she heralds the season and Shivratri with the symbolic flowers -now in tiny buds and just starting to bloom.
These trees are grown extensively in Shiva temples in India.
Also in some schools and parks- It is called the 'nagalingam' tree in Tamil.
The flowers are also called 'Shivalinga flowers', 'Nagalinga Pushpa' in Kannada, 'Nagamalli flowers' or 'Mallikarjuna flowers' in Telugu. It is considered a sacred tree among Hindus because the flower resembles a naga i.e.a sacred snake on the central large shiva lingam and numerous shivalingams around.

All the photos below were taken on 13th Feb 2011 at Old Woodlands Drive In--
now the Semozzi Park 

 Om Namaha Shivayah.
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
from-William Blake

Both the fruit and the flower grow from stalks which sprout from the trunk of the tree. Cannonball Tree flowers are found on thick tangled extrusions that grow on the trunk of the tree; these are found just below the foliage branches.
Tiny buds appear -showing that soon flowers with fragrance will be on the Tree.

QUOTE"  There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.--
UNQUOTE from Linda Hogan.

Botanical Name : Couroupita guianensis
Family : Lecythidaceae
Hindi : Nagalinga नागलिंग , Tope gola तोप गोला
Kannada : Lingada mara, Nagalingam
Marathi : Sivalingam
Tamil : நாகலிங்கம் Naagalingam
Malayalam: Nagalingam.

 -OM Namaha Shivayah-