Nature The trees are dressed in their springtime best in a riot of colours. K. Jeshi drives around the city enjoying the view
As you zip past the busy Trichy Road in the month of March, you cannot ignore the riot of colours on the trees. They streak the air in golden yellows, fiery reds, delicate mauves, and many hues of pink. These blooms officially herald the arrival of spring. Adding to the pleasure is a cool breeze with a whiff of fragrances of the resplendent blossoms. “After the trees have shed their leaves in winter, the ilai udhir kaalam , it is time for spring or the vasantha kaalam …,” says C. Subesh Ranjith Kumar, assistant professor, Horticulture department of TNAU. Spring brings with it a fresh burst of flowers across the country from February and it lasts till June, when the South West Monsoon begins. The flowering season has references in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata . In the North, Holi celebrates the advent of spring. In Punjab, they call it Basanti when the fields are filled with light-yellow mustard flowers.
Closer home, it is Ugadi and veppam poo . The festivities are incomplete without veppam poo rasam and a veppam soppu delicacy. And, the golden yellow Kani Konnah marks the celebration of Vishu Kani. “Our ancestors have designed festivals based on the flowering patterns,” says P. Vincent, an organic farmer, who blogs regularly on environment related matters.
Apart from beautifying the city roads, the flowering trees also have other uses. “The rain tree or thoongu vaagai has small pink flowers and it sheds its leaves entirely during the winter. The leaves can be used as organic manure. The copper pod tree with yellow flowers attracts insects and honey bees. Pongamia Pinnata ( pungai) with its small white flowers is considered the best bio-diesel plant, as its seeds are suitable for biodiesel production,” he adds.
Environmentalist Yoganathan, who is a bus conductor, remembers the chill breeze and the intoxicating fragrance of brown vaagai flowers that once welcomed him on the first leg of his bus trip from Marudhamalai to Vadakovai.
“That was 10 years ago, not anymore. We have more vehicles, higher temperatures and a changed pattern in rainfall,” he regrets. But he speaks of the Spathodea Campanulata or the African tulip tree with bright red flowers that still blossom near the Women’s Polytechnic, Bharathiar Road. The flowers provide nectar for honey bees and subsequently pollination happens, he says. “Plumeria, called variously as chamba, and velarali, blooms in yellow, white, and pink, in various parts of the city.”
Yoganathan says how the boulevard of trees between Kavundampalayam to Thudiyalur, acted as a protective shield as they absorbed the polluted air and effluents from the iron workshops there. Now the trees have been cut down to widen the roads and many people in the area suffer from respiratory problems. “It is a pleasant experience to walk on the road when the gulmohar is in full bloom,” says R. Selvi, a Zoology teacher at Kadri Mills School.
“The bright red flowers make me happy. I forget my worries and it refreshes my mind,” she adds and recounts how as a child she made greeting cards with dried yellow konrai flowers. “At our campus, children play with the long white maramalli flowers that carpet the soil, purple sun birds perch on the tree…spring brings happiness and contentment.”
N.I. Jalaluddin, president of the Nature conservation Society, recalls enjoying spring with its trees with red, purple and yellow flowers dotting the arterial R.S. Puram Road, Avanashi Road, Trichy Road and Mettupalayam Road.
“Driving on Pollachi Road and Satyamangalam road is like experiencing AC with a whiff of the fragrant flowers. In the last three years, 7,500 trees have been cut in the city,” he says sadly.