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SPREADING CROWN The Rain Tree
SPREADING CROWN The Rain Tree

The Rain Tree provides ample shade and presents a magnificent spectacle

The Rain Tree's spreading crown forms a green carpet against a blue sky. The carpet is dotted with pink puffs of flowers. Viewed from above, it presents a magnificent spectacle. The Rain Tree (Samanea saman - family Legunimaceae-mimosoceae) is so called because it literally rains. You experience droplets of water sprayed on yourself when you walk beneath the tree. The cause of the showers is now known. Multitudes of cicadas feeding on the leaves discharge this rain. Vernacular names of the tree, the world over, refer to this peculiar attribute - mazhai maram in Tamil, hujan-hujan in Malay and pani mara in Singalese. Saman is its native name in Brazil. The tree was brought to India via Ceylon.These large trees, either single or in a cluster, look majestic and make splendid avenue species. They grow up to a height of 90 feet and virtually dwarf buildings in the vicinity. Their fast-spreading roots could cause damage to structures.The stout branches on a sturdy trunk exhibit great symmetry. The thick, leathery foliage basically comprises stalk-less leaflets of bi-pinnate-lyrate long leaves with pulvinous petioles. The gorgeous crown of a single tree provides ample shade, covering an area of 2,000 sq. ft.In sunshine, the leaflets spread out horizontally, not permitting sunbeams to pass through. But at night, or during the rainy season or when the weather is dull, the leaflets fold up against each other and swivel sideways. This sleeping habit, characteristic of the tree, has earned it the name thoongu moonji maram in Tamil.The tree is deciduous and sheds leaves for a brief period. Tender parrot green leaves grow fast and fill the crown. The globose, silken pink white flowers dot the tree all over in April-May, followed by fruits of pods in May-June. Each flower stalk bears florets, one central and several surrounding it, forming a circlet. The circlet may have 20 florets, each with a tubular calyx and yellow-lobed trumpet. Bunches of long stamens, half pink and half white, protrude.Propagation is by seeds, which are found embedded in the brown sugary pulp of the pods. The trees needs watering for three to four years when they may attain a height of 10 feet. Fencing is needed to keep cattle away. However, being fast growing trees, they soon grow beyond the reach of cattle.J. MANGALARAJ JOHNSON

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