What do we ‘see’ when we travel away from our home cities? Over the past few years, I have made it a point to look out for plants and flowers of that particular place, especially when overseas. This made my visit to the Scandinavian countries a double delight as I was able to enjoy the flora of the temperate region – which for me had been limited to books and electronic screens so far!
I had a small field guide to help identify the trees and I cannot express my joy at recognising a tree!!
Here is a road outside our Helsinki hotel that struck me for two reasons, one is obviously the golden carpet of yellowing autumn leaves and the second is the white bark. Moving a little closer, the white almost looked like paint! I did not need any reference to know that these were Birches. They belong the family Betulaceae and the genus Betula.
These are mostly deciduous trees which means they shed their leaves in winter. All seemed to have straight trunks. This was most obvious in the countryside, as the scene outside the window was blur of vertical white lines!!
View from the bus window
An article I read online, mentions that during the World War II, Birch wood was used to build the Hercules H4 which was a strategic airlift flying airboat. The aircraft is called “Spruce Goose” and is on display at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum at McMinnville in Oregon. Wow!!
Which trees have you spotted in your travels – for work or leisure? 🙂
I am participating in Parul’s #ThursdayTreeLove25. Head over to seen some wonderful trees from around the world…
I had only read about this tree and for a long time, it remained just that.. a tree that would need a special effort to see… Finally it was a trip to (hopefully) see tigers, that let me see and admire the Sal. Its botanical name is Shorea robusta and belongs to the Diptocarpaceae family. Special effort because the Sal only grows in northern parts of India.
I saw the Sal forest during my trip to the Corbett National Park. In fact, the road to the Dhikala guest house is dramatic as it passes through these towering trees. It was early summer, and the time was right for fresh foliage to break out. Clothed in glorious shades of green, the Sal lived up to the image that was created in my mind.
An indigenous species, it is a handsome tree and the canopy casts dense cooling shadows.
Sal Flowering. Image Credit Rahul Rao
The Sal does face some threats, forest fires being a major one. Natural events like lightening too can damage trees. Infact there is landmark in the Dhikala zone called Mota Sal, which is the remant stump of a Sal that was struck down by lightening during a major storm… The stump still is quite awesome and my image does not do justice to its size…
Have you seen the Sal? Do make it a point to admire this glorious species whenever you get the opportunity!
This is a Boswellia serrata of the Burseraceae family (locally called Salai). In the above image, the golden glow is due to the morning sunlight on its fading (hence golden yellow) leaves in the autumn. The hills in Pune have many Salai and its easily recognised by its peeling pale coloured bark. It blossoms in January though the flowers are not very conspicuous. The tree exudes an oleo-gum-resin which is said to have medicinal properties, as is the tree bark.
Here is the same tree in the monsoon – isn’t it a glorious transformation??
The following image shows the peeling bark. If you can zoom in, its possible to see a greenish layer beneath the yellowish papery peel.
Fall colours in the colder climates are a much sought after touristy delight, one that is high on my wish list. The deciduous trees in my city also display changing leaf colours in the autumn which are just as beautiful.
Have you noticed leaves turning golden in November every year?
This massive apparently dry tree is none other than the Baobab (Adansonia digitata) of the Bombacaceae family. It simply demanded attention and the three of us holding hands together to form a chain could not completely encircle its girth!
Its startling feature is a thick trunk and combined with the palmate leaves, identification is fairly simple. The trunk stores water and the tree loses all its leaves during the dry seasons. The flowers are white and bell shaped and bloom at night. They are most likely to be bat-pollinated.
Baobabs are found in several parts of the world. I have spotted three in Pune but the photo above is from a place called Menavali near Wai in Maharashtra.
The tree can grow to be really really old and the hollow massive trunk of one such tree in Zimbabwe is said to be able to shelter 40 people! Whoa!!
In his book ‘Videshi Vruksha’, Prof SD Mahajan mentions a Baobab in Hyderabad that has a diameter of 5 m and is referred to as ‘हाथियों का पेड”. There is grove of several Baobab trees near Mandu in Madhya Pradesh as well.
In fact, the Baobab finds a mention in the list of Baobab species in the Landmark Trees of India. Though an introduced species in our country, it seems to have flourished here to the extent that it seems like an indigenous species.
Here is an image of an old Baobab in Pune that grows in the Savitribai Phule Pune University. The tree had collapsed since the trunk was hollowed by some infestion but as you can see, it had not died… The image is not very clear, but it does give a general idea.
Have you seen a Baobab tree? Is there one growing in your city?
Walking along the almost pristine beach at Elephant Island near Port Blair, my path was blocked by this massive gnarled tree. Its bare whitish bark exuded a strange beauty that competed fiercely with the blue hues of the sea. The thickness and length of its trunk suggested it had seen several summers. While the locals did not seem to know its name, it could have been Manilkara littoralis or the Sea Mohua but this is just a guess… The beach had several such specimens that I later found, the effects of the Tsunami perhaps?? It continues to awe despite having fallen….
One of the local names of the Sea Mohua is Andaman Bullet Wood. The name Mohua first reminded me of the familiar Mahua and both these belong to the same family Sapotaceae (Chikoo family).
Here is another image of the same tree (trees) on another beach. It gives an idea of how they tower over us!