Crimson canopy

During my recent visit to Bengaluru, my attention was drawn to a tree in full bloom at the end of the road in the locality where I was staying. Its crown was laden with crimson red flowers and on the ground was a beautiful carpet of flowers surrounding the tree. On studying its characteristics, it was found to be the African Tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) of the family Bignoniaceae. This family is known for its excellent cross-section of ornamental trees, shrubs and climbers with beautiful flowers. It contains 800 species of which 25 have originated in India. Incidentally, it includes a few forest trees that yield timber of moderate quality.

The tree remains dull and prosaic till June, and blossoms by mid-July. It is in full bloom until winter. The flowers are deciduous and the leaves are opposite, imparipinnately compound (leaves in which there is a lone terminal leaflet) and ovate.

The tree has acclimatised itself both to medium elevations and plains. Mainly propagated by seeds and cuttings, the African Tulip is commonly seen in Valparai and Top Slip in the Anamalai mountain range and Burliar on the way to Ooty. Its seeds can be sown directly in polythene containers of size 25cm x 13cm carrying farm yard manure, sand and red earth in the ratio of 1:1:3 and made somewhat slushy. The seeds germinate in 10 days. The seedlings are carefully watered to avoid root rot due to excessive moisture. The sapling becomes ready in the course of eight to ten months. With regard to vegetative propagation, cuttings of pencil thickness carrying sufficient number of active buds are selected from a tree and planted in the same manner. The cuttings are watered twice daily for a period of six months and thereafter once daily or whenever the soil has lost moisture. This can be examined by kneading the soil between the thumb and forefinger. The establishment of the rooted cuttings is facilitated by planting them in May or June.

For planting in house compounds, pits the size of a 30cm cube are opened and filled with red earth to half their depth and packed with a kilogram of well rotten farm yard manure and watered well. The pits should be made ready a month in advance. With the onset of monsoon, cuttings or saplings are planted in the above pits and covered with the soil available.

The sapling is watered, if necessary, once daily for a period of 30 days, and on alternate days thereafter till it grows to a height of one metre. Thereafter watering it once in three days will suffice. When it reaches a height of two or three metres, nitrogen, phosphorus and muriate of potash (10-15gm each) are applied in liquid form. This will accelerate growth.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 4:24:01 AM |

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