Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Portia Tree-Openair Cafe for Birds

I have been writing on nature watch and trees in this Blog-and also other docs. inc FB,  but I have never used such an unusual title and readers may be wondering what is behind it. 
Here are the facts:

"Thespesia"  in botany and -Poovarasu in Tamil and Malayalam has an interesting name in English – the Portia tree I was amazed at the name and the idea came from a recent tree watch experience. Last week I had posted a note on my morning walk covering the delightful scene of watching squirrels, mynas, babblers, crows; I forgot to mention two mongooses too. Obviously, a mother and a tiny one all coming from the vast Adyar estaury - sanctuary and feeding at the base of 3 trees in the neighbouring vacant plot. It was  a nice sight to behold and I was wondering what actually the 3 trees offered viz., Thespesia, Neem and the third one is still yet to be identified as it is difficult to connect some local trees. 

The study took me across to the horticulture dept of Chennai with the assistance of my Lab Staff. In fact the PORTIA -aka Thespesia tree was identified when I had taken leaf samples with a few berries for study by an officer of the State Govt. Dept of Horticutural who was very kind enough to also provide a handout sheet. Learnt so much today

It is a matter of interest that some of these trees of India are seen in far and distant lands viz. Pacific Islands and in particular Hawaii - Tahiti and PitCairn Island where it was in fact planted in sacred groves. In these Pacific islands it is called the Milo tree and valued for the wood but sadly over-logged and now depleted.The wood was used for boat building by islanders and even more surprisingly for making drums earlier.
Essentially the tree is grown and  used for shade in earlier times and regrettably much of the pacific island trees were lost in over logging. On the Pit Cairn Island, the wood was used for making curios also.  

In Chennai it is used to make a Thavil – Carnatic music drum and really left me wondering.
Again another interesting point is in Sri Lanka, the flowers of the Portia tree is sold on Remembrance Day to aid ex-servicemen.
Coming back to the open air cafĂ© for Birds , it was a joy to watch from the 5th floor terrace of Shanthi Apts. Adjacent to my house, behind a corner flat and partly hidden. The photos are taken are at a very close range from the 5th Floor (Terrace). The tree is actually in the corner of a group of flats and the fruit and flower are only seen at the higher levels. Unless one goes very close it is not likely to be seen as the height of the tree has crossed 4 floors.  

The fruit of the tree resemble tiny figs but are not suited for human consumption and is considered to be toxic to mammals and humans but obviously birds are able to digest this. (I am still studying this as the 3rd tree in the vicinity with black dry berries) are all strewn on the ground and along with neem fruits and tender shoots and flowers provide food for birds both on the ground and on the tree top.

A wonderful experience  in tree watch and I never thought a simple study in the morning would take me across to several parts of the globe up to the Pacific islands just observing  a tree.
Marvels of Nature continued-

Tree Watch -musing

Tree Watch -musing
dt 20th May, 2012
My routine daily in the morning walk includes Tree Watch-care -and starts with Watering the Garden and the Jambu & Gul Mohar saplings planted last January -which now are abt 5 ft high-(Jambu grows slowly) Gul is 8ft . 
Stopped to observe :
The Old Tamarind , wild berry and neem tree in next vacant plot is a veritable playground and morning Open air Cafe for sweet ripe tamarind for Squirrels- Mynahs- Babblers-Crows and the lone Cuckoo on a branch was at peace (was not chased ) and his Cuckoo cry was oft repeated---
The adjacent trees had wild berries and many tender morsels for all as they pecked off the ground and fed.
No one was quarrelling -silently feeding -in thankful appreciation for what they received
Watched silently with appreciation--Peace reigned.
Dear God, what all we have to learn from the morning and Nature.
pic -adjacent vacant plot-